Polysorbate 60, 65, and 80
Emulsifier: Baked goods, frozen desserts, imitation cream.
Polysorbate 60 is short for polyoxyethylene-(20)- sorbitan monostearate. It and its close relatives, polysorbate 65 and 80, work the same way as mono- and diglycerides, but smaller amounts are needed. They keep baked goods from going stale, keep dill oil dissolved in bottled dill pickles, help coffee whiteners dissolve in coffee, and prevent oil from separating out of artificial whipped cream. A 2015 study of polysorbate 80 and another emulsifier (carboxymethylcellulose) in mice found that both affected gut bacteria and triggered inflammation and other changes in the gut, as well as obesity and metabolic syndrome. In mice that were predisposed to colitis, the emulsifiers promoted the disease. It is possible that polysorbates and other emulsifiers act like detergents to disrupt the mucous layer that lines the gut, and that the results of this study may apply to other emulsifiers as well. Research needs to be done to determine long-term effects of these and other emulsifiers at levels that people consume.