Dietary emulsifiers consumption alters anxiety-like and social-related behaviors in mice in a sex-dependent manner

Mary K Holder, Nicole V Peters, Jack Whylings, Christopher T Fields, Andrew T Gewirtz, Benoit Chassaing, Geert J de Vries
Scientific Reports 2019 January 17, 9 (1): 172
Dietary emulsifiers carboxylmethylcellulose (CMC) and polysorbate 80 (P80) alter the composition of the intestinal microbiota and induce chronic low-grade inflammation, ultimately leading to metabolic dysregulations in mice. As both gut microbiota and intestinal health can influence social and anxiety-like behaviors, we investigated whether emulsifier consumption would detrimentally influence behavior. We confirmed that emulsifier exposure induced chronic intestinal inflammation, increased adiposity, and altered gut microbiota composition in both male and female mice, although the specific microboal taxa altered following emulsifier consumption occurred in a sex-dependent manner. Importantly, emulsifier treatment altered anxiety-like behaviors in males and reduced social behavior in females. It also changed expression of neuropeptides implicated in the modulation of feeding as well as social and anxiety-related behaviors. Multivariate analyses revealed that CMC and P80 produced distinct clustering of physiological, neural, and behavioral effects in male and female mice, suggesting that emulsifier treatment leads to a syndrome of sex-dependent changes in microbiota, physiology, and behavior. This study reveals that these commonly used food additives may potentially negatively impact anxiety-related and social behaviors and may do so via different mechanisms in males and females.

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