Food additives are compounds used in order to improve food palatability, texture, and shelf life. Despite a significant effort to assure safety of use, toxicological analysis of these substances, generally, rely on their direct toxicity to target organs (liver and kidney) or their genotoxic effects. Much less attention is paid to the effects of these compounds on cells of the immune system. This is of relevance given that metabolic dysregulation and obesity have a strong immune-mediated component. Obese individuals present a state of chronic low-grade inflammation that contributes to the establishment of insulin resistance and other metabolic abnormalities known as the metabolic syndrome. Obesity and metabolic syndrome are currently recognized as worldwide epidemics that pose a profound socioeconomic impact and represent a concern to public health. Cells of the immune system contribute to both the maintenance of "lean homeostasis" and the metabolic dysregulation observed in obese individuals. Although much attention has been drawn in the past decades to obesity and metabolic syndrome as a result of ingesting highly processed food containing large amounts of fat and simple sugars, mounting evidence suggest that food additives may also be important contributors to metabolic derangement. Herein, we review pieces of evidence from the literature showing that food additives have relevant effects on cells of the immune system that could contribute to immune-mediated metabolic dysregulation. Considering their potential to predispose individuals to develop obesity and metabolic syndrome, their use should be taken with caution or maybe revisited.
Keywords: citrate; food additives; immunometabolism; metabolic syndrome; metainflammation; microbiota; type 2 diabetes.