Carboxymethyl Cellulose as a Food Emulsifier: Are Its Days Numbered?

Polymers (Basel). 2023 May 22;15(10):2408. doi: 10.3390/polym15102408.


Carboxymethyl cellulose use in industry is ubiquitous. Though it is recognized as safe by the EFSA and FDA, newer works have raised concerns related to its safety, as in vivo studies showed evidence of gut dysbiosis associated with CMC's presence. Herein lies the question, is CMC a gut pro-inflammatory compound? As no work addressed this question, we sought to understand whether CMC was pro-inflammatory through the immunomodulation of GI tract epithelial cells. The results showed that while CMC was not cytotoxic up to 25 mg/mL towards Caco-2, HT29-MTX and Hep G2 cells, it had an overall pro-inflammatory behavior. In a Caco-2 monolayer, CMC by itself increased IL-6, IL-8 and TNF-α secretion, with the latter increasing by 1924%, and with these increases being 9.7 times superior to the one obtained for the IL-1β pro-inflammation control. In co-culture models, an increase in secretion in the apical side, particularly for IL-6 (692% increase), was observed, and when RAW 264.7 was added, data showed a more complex scenario as stimulation of pro-inflammatory (IL-6, MCP-1 and TNF-α) and anti-inflammatory (IL-10 and IFN-β) cytokines in the basal side was observed. Considering these results, CMC may exert a pro-inflammatory effect in the intestinal lumen, and despite more studies being required, the incorporation of CMC in foodstuffs must be carefully considered in the future to minimize potential GI tract dysbiosis.

Keywords: IL-6; IL-8; TNF-α; carboxymethyl cellulose; co-culture inflammation model; gut inflammation.