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Sean Cate
Sean Cate
February 18, 2024 ·  3 min read

Common Food Additive May be Affecting Your Gut Health, Study

There are a ton of food preservatives out there, but a popular one, a group dubbed “lantibiotics,” has a few tricks up its sleeve. These compounds, part of the “bacteriocin” family, are used in the food industry for their ability to fight off bacteria and keep our food fresh for longer.1 Ingredients-wise, these guys are the unsung heroes of some of our favorite processed foods. But recent research is suggesting that while lantibiotics might be great at preserving, they could also be causing some trouble in our gut.2

Gut Health and Food Preservatives

Ever wonder why your cheese lasts so long in the fridge? You can thank lantibiotics for that. These little compounds, particularly one called nisin, are added to all sorts of food products, from cheese to sausage to dipping sauces. They come from bacteria found in cow’s milk, making them a somewhat natural addition to our food supply.

A group of researchers from the University of Chicago, led by Dr. Zhenrun Zhang, aimed to see how lantibiotics, particularly nisin, affected bacteria living in our gut. These bacteria play a crucial role in keeping our digestive system running smoothly and our immune system in top shape.

What they discovered is that lantibiotics target both the bad bacteria and the good ones. This means that while they’re busy keeping our food safe, they might be throwing off the delicate balance of bacteria in our gut.

Lantibiotics aren’t the only food preservatives causing a stir. The food industry is full of all sorts of chemicals designed to enhance taste, appearance, and shelf life.3 While these additives might make our food look and taste better, there’s growing concern about the impact on our gut microbiota (the good bacteria living in our digestive system).

Studies have shown that certain food preservatives, like artificial sweeteners, disrupt the balance of our gut bacteria. And when that balance gets thrown off, it can lead to all sorts of health issues, from digestive problems to having a weakened immunity.

What You Can Do

So, what’s a health-conscious consumer to do? For starters, stay informed about what’s going into your food. Take a closer look at the ingredient label and learn about the food preservatives you’re consuming. If you like eating it and don’t know what the ingredients is, find out or stop consuming it. Also, don’t be afraid to ask questions, there are phone numbers for food manufacturers and regulatory agencies for a reason. Take advantage of the resources available to you.

It’s also crucial to choose unprocessed foods whenever possible. Although it isn’t necessarily possible to completely avoid preservatives, deciding to have fresh fruits, vegetables, and lean proteins instead can go a long way for your gut.

While lantibiotics and other food preservatives play a role in keeping our food safe and tasty, their impact on gut health is a mixed bag. More research is needed to fully understand how these compounds affect us, but it is clear that good and bad bacteria are being targeted. Staying informed, eating a balanced diet, and listening to your body are your best bets for maintaining good gut health. 

Read More: 9 Foods Containing Additives to Look Out For


  1. Common food preservative has unexpected effects on the gut microbiome..” Biological Sciences. Matt Wood. February 2, 2024.
  2. A common food additive may be interfering with our gut health, study finds.” CT News. Mitchell Consky. February 4, 2024.
  3. The Impact of Food Additives on the Abundance and Composition of Gut Microbiota.” NCBI. Xuewei Zhou,Kaina Qiao,Huimin Wu and Yuyu Zhang. Janaury 7, 2023.