Food Preservative Found to Transiently Effect Gut Microbiome


Researchers in the food science department at UMass Amherst reported results of recent study conducted on mice with one of the preservative compounds, food-grade epsilon (ε)-polylysine

Antimicrobial compounds added to preserve food during storage are believed to be non-toxic to the consumer. Food scientists and microbiologists are majorly focused on less-studied inhabitants, which may number as many as human cells and the prebiotic foods. Microbes in the gut make molecules and compounds that help the body or help some of the hundreds of other beneficial members of the community. However, potential interactions of these food preservatives on the gut microbes are unclear. The study was published in the Nature Springer journal, Science of Food in January 2019.

Furthermore, it was found that the polylysine compound temporarily perturbed the diversity of microbes in the mouse gut. Although this change was transient and over the 15-week study period, the mouse gut microbiome resolved and returned to conditions similar to those at the start of the study. The mouse gut microbiomes differed by the animals’ gender, Sela notes, the observed treatment changes to the antimicrobial ε-polylysine were experienced the same regardless of gender. As a part of the study, Sela and UMass Amherst co-authors Hang Xiao and Julian McClements divided 40 female and 40 male mice into four groups of 10 animals each. They fed 10 female and 10 male mice the food-grade biopolymer ε-polylysine as found in food preservatives, while control groups of 10 animals each received food without the additives.

Two other groups were administrated with ε-polylysine plus pectin or ε-polylysine plus maltodextrin, common food additives that might be expected to interact with the ε-polylysine. As the authors explain, both ε-polylysine and pectin are not dissolved or absorbed in the upper gastro-intestinal tract and may interact with resident microbial communities there. For their analysis of gut microbiota, the researchers sampled mouse fecal pellets at three points: baseline, five weeks. and nine weeks. The work was supported by the USDA’s National Research Initiative and its National Institute for Food and Agriculture.


About Author

Latisha Diaz is a general assignment reporter at Plains Gazette. She has covered sports, entertainment and many other beats in his journalism career, and has lived in City Houston for more than 8 years. Latisha has appeared periodically on national television shows and has been published in (among others) The National Post, Politico, The Atlantic, Harper’s,, Vice and