Why is cellulose harmful to our body?

Defused hamburgers

Wally Yokoyama's research team from the US Department of Agriculture fed one group of hamsters with very fatty food and another group with very low-fat food for four weeks. While the hamsters from the second group remained healthy, those on the high-fat diet developed what is known as insulin resistance. This is a precursor to diabetes. It is characterized by the fact that the body cells only react less to insulin. As the researchers found in further experiments, despite a high-fat diet, the hamsters do not become insulin-resistant if HPMC is added to their food. The scientists do not yet know the exact effect of HPMC. In addition to delaying the absorption of dietary fats, the substance could also improve their transport into the fat-storing tissue, for example.

HPMC is a water-soluble variant of what is known as cellulose, one of the main components of dietary fiber. The pharmaceutical and food industries have been using HPMC for around 50 years. There, the tasteless and odorless substance serves as a binding agent for medicines or ensures the desired consistency for certain foods, for example sauces and glazes. In order for HPMC to develop its positive effects on health, the industry has to add a larger proportion of this substance to food than before, say the researchers. The optimal dosage still has to be determined in further experiments. They consider harmful side effects to be unlikely, since HPMC is considered to be harmless to health in today's quantities.

Further studies have yet to show whether the substance also has a positive effect on the metabolism in humans. If this is confirmed, Yokoyama estimates that it could be available to the food industry within a year or two. Nevertheless, the bite into the hamburger is not without a guilty conscience: HPMC cannot protect against obesity.

ddp / Wissenschaft.de? Sonja Huhndorf
March 16, 2005

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