Titanium dioxide particles from the diet: involvement in the genesis of inflammatory bowel diseases and colorectal cancer

Part Fibre Toxicol. 2021 Jul 30;18(1):26. doi: 10.1186/s12989-021-00421-2.


The gastrointestinal tract is a complex interface between the external environment and the immune system. Its ability to control uptake across the mucosa and to protect the body from damage of harmful substances from the lumen is defined as the intestinal barrier function (IBF). The IBF involves four elements: the intestinal microbiota, the mucus layer, the epithelium and the immune system. Its dysfunction is linked with human diseases including inflammatory, metabolic, infectious, autoimmune and neurologic disorders. Most of these diseases are complex and involve genetic, psychological and environmental factors. Over the past 10 years, many genetic polymorphisms predisposing to inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) have been identified. Yet, it is now clear that they are insufficient to explain the onset of these chronic diseases. Although it has been evidenced that some environmental factors such as cigarette smoking or carbohydrate intake are associated with IBD, other environmental factors also present potential health risks such as ingestion of food additives introduced in the human diet, including those composed of mineral particles, by altering the four elements of the intestinal barrier function. The aim of this review is to provide a critical opinion on the potential of TiO2 particles, especially when used as a food additive, to alter the four elements of the intestinal barrier function, and consequently to evaluate if this additive would likely play a role in the development and/or exacerbation of IBD.

Keywords: Cancer; Food additive; Gastrointestinal tract; Inflammation; Ingestion; Intestine; TiO2; Toxicity.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Colorectal Neoplasms* / chemically induced
  • Colorectal Neoplasms* / genetics
  • Diet / adverse effects
  • Humans
  • Inflammatory Bowel Diseases* / chemically induced
  • Inflammatory Bowel Diseases* / genetics
  • Intestinal Mucosa
  • Titanium


  • titanium dioxide
  • Titanium