In an article published on April 9, 2018, news provider ScienceDaily informed about a new study investigating the effects of ingested zinc oxide (ZnO) nanoparticles on the digestive tract. The study was first published on February 20, 2018 in the peer-reviewed journal Food & Function and conducted by Fabiola Moreno-Olivas and colleagues from Binghamton University, U.S., and the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
ZnO nanoparticles are used in the coating of cans for certain foods due to their antimicrobial properties and to prevent staining of sulfur-producing foods. The researchers used mass spectrometry to estimate the migration of ZnO nanoparticles in canned corn, tuna, asparagus, and chicken. The levels found in the food were 100 times higher than the daily dietary allowance of zinc. The researchers then tested the effect of the determined ZnO levels on intestinal cells. They found that ZnO nanoparticles “tend to settle onto the cells representing the gastrointestinal tract and cause remodeling or loss of the microvilli, which are tiny projections on the surface of the intestinal absorptive cells that help to increase the surface area available for absorption,” Gretchen Mahler, the study’s senior author, explained. Loss of surface area can lead to decreased nutrient absorption. Further, Mahler and colleagues observed decreases in iron and glucose transport consistent with observed changes in gene expression for their transporters.
The researchers are now also studying the effects of ZnO nanoparticle ingestion in an animal model with chickens. “We have seen that our cell culture results are similar to results found in animals and that the gut microbial populations are affected,” Mahler noted. She concluded that “understanding how [nanoparticles] affect gut function is an important area of study for consumer safety.”
Binghamton University (April 9, 2018). “Food packaging could be negatively affecting nutrient absorption in your body.” ScienceDaily
Moreno-Olivas, F., et al. (2018). “ZnO nanoparticles affect intestinal function in an in vitro model.” Food & Function 9:1475-1491.