Food ingredients under the microscope

At least one additive — a preservative called propionate — could be linked to diabetes and obesity.

Scientists are giving food additives and other ingredients more scrutiny these days, thanks to new technology that allows them to get an up-close view of how individual molecules affect the body. And they are already discovering some surprising information that could change what you put on your plate in the future.

Consider propionate, or propionic acid, a naturally oc-curring fatty acid and a common preservative found in everything from bread and animal feeds to pudding and cheese. A study published online April 24 by Science Translational Medicine found that this ingredient may disrupt the metabolism, triggering the body to produce excess glucose (blood sugar), which could lead to diabetes and obesity.

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