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Is Microcrystalline Cellulose Bad For You?

Microcrystalline cellulose is an additive in the cellulose family, called E460. It is an excipient extracted from vegetable fiber, widely used in the food and pharmaceutical industries. What are its characteristics? What is it for? Does its consumption pose a danger to human health? Is microcrystalline cellulose bad for you?

  1. –  What is microcrystalline cellulose?
  2. –  What is it used for?
  3. –  Does it present toxicity to humans?
  4. –  To sum up
  5. –  In conclusion

What is microcrystalline cellulose?

Microcrystalline cellulose, also known as ” cellulose gel  “, is a derivative of cellulose, a carbohydrate made up of a macromolecule of D-glucose, which is polymerized into a long chain from 15 to 15,000.
The cellulose with the number E460 is made up of two food additives:
  • the microcrystalline cellulose called E460  ;
  • the powdered cellulose, called E460.

Microcrystalline cellulose, labeled E460, is obtained after purification and partial depolymerization of natural cellulose, present in the pulps of fibrous plant material strain.

The natural cellulose is first separated from the lignin and hemicellulose (other components of the plant cell wall). Then it is necessary to use acid hydrolysis for removing the amorphous part of the cellulose so that it remains only the crystalline polymer.

Is cotton which is most rich in cellulose (about 90% content), followed by the timber (40 to 50% content) and corn.

What is it for ?

Microcrystalline cellulose can fulfill several functions in the food and pharmaceutical industries:

  • an absorbent: to transform a liquid (water or oil) into a gel;
  • an anti-caking agent: to limit the agglutination of the particles;
  • an emulsifier: to obtain or maintain a uniform mixture;
  • thickener: to increase the viscosity of the product;
  • a tablet disintegrator ;
  • stabilizer: to maintain a uniform dispersion of the particles;
  • binder and a diluent: to shape the shape and hardness of the tablets and capsules;
  • additive support: support for any food additive.

This excipient can be added to:

  • a wide range of categories of foodstuffs 3, except baby food;
  • the food additive 4(for a function other than an additive medium);
  • the food enzymes  ;
  • the food flavorings  ;
  • the nutrients (vitamins, minerals and other substances added for nutritional or physiological).

Does it present toxicity for Humans?

Digestible or not?

Natural cellulose is not digestible by humans. But so that it can be assimilated, the microcrystalline cellulose is extracted so that it is free from all-natural characteristics. It is therefore no longer natural, but rather of natural origin. Some manufacturers even classify it as a synthetic excipient.

It should be noted that this additive is not absorbed in the human body: what has been ingested is completely excreted in the feces.

What are its side effects on health?

The French Association for Anti-Cancer Therapeutic Research (ARTAC) considers this additive as possibly carcinogenic. But it should not be taken into account. All other reports cite it as harmless. microcrystalline cellulose allergy can be a problem according to research however there has been no firm research to comfirm this.

The tests performed in vitro in mice have shown no genotoxic effects. In fact, it does not cause any metabolic reaction, hence the absence of harmful effects for the body.

Manufacturers are only required to add only the minimum amount sufficient for each product since in high doses, microcrystalline cellulose can cause microcrystalline cellulose bloating and diarrhea.

What is his daily acceptable dose (ADI)?

With the various foods, food supplements and drugs containing microcrystalline cellulose on the market, it may be that its consumption is significant.

But this should not be a problem: the consumption of this substance has no effect on the human body. According to the Annex to Commission Regulation No. 1129/2011 EU Commission 5, the maximum amount follows the principle of the quantum satis, therefore no limit is imposed.

In the United States, microcrystalline cellulose consumption is about 2 to 10 g per day.

What about the quality of the plants?

The plants used to obtain microcrystalline cellulose may be of questionable quality. Indeed, in Europe, it is sometimes approved to use:

  • of transgenic cotton  ;
  • the GM maize.

Is it authorized for organic food?

In the United States, microcrystalline cellulose is an authorized synthetic additive. But in Europe, EU regulations prohibit its use in the organic sector, unless it only serves as a carrier for additives.

to summarize

  • It is a molecule of natural origin, considered to be synthetic.
  • The vegetable fibers used to extract it are sometimes of poor quality.
  • This substance is not authorized in organic food, nor in preparations for infants and young children.
  • The amount consumed is entirely eliminated in the feces, without being transformed during its passage through the body. This generally explains its harmlessness to health.
  • No maximum consumption limit is imposed.

In conclusion

We can consider microcrystalline cellulose as a healthy excipient. In addition, it does not expose to the risk of overdose.

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