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Could a Popular Food Additive Raise the Risk for Obesity and Diabetes?

Researchers from the Hotamışlıgil Lab and the Sabri Ülker Center at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, Brigham and Women's Hospital, and Sheba Medical Center in Israel have shown that propionate, a short-chain fatty acid and common food additive in baked goods and artificial flavoring, induces hyperglycemia, weight gain, and insulin resistance.


Consumption of propionate appears to increase levels of several hormones that are associated with risk of diabetes and obesity. This study, which combined data from a randomized placebo-controlled trial in humans and mouse studies, indicated that propionate can trigger a cascade of metabolic events that leads to insulin resistance and hyperinsulinemia—a condition marked by excessive levels of insulin. The findings also showed that in mice, chronic exposure to propionate resulted in weight gain and insulin resistance.


The study was published online on April 24, 2019 in Science Translational Medicine.


For inquiries, contact: sabriulkercenter@hsph.harvard.edu

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