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Nanoparticles from diet supplement drinks reach environment, could sicken you

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Nanoparticles from dietary supplement drinks likely to reach environment, say scientists in a new study, "Characterization of Nanomaterials in Metal Colloid-Containing Dietary Supplement Drinks and Assessment of Their Potential Interactions after Ingestion," published online June 2, 2014 in the journal ACS Sustainable Chemistry & Engineering (American Chemical Society). It's a report on dietary supplement drinks containing nanoparticles. Nanoparticles are becoming ubiquitous in food packaging, personal care products and are even being added to food directly. But the health and environmental effects of these tiny additives have remained largely unknown. You may wish to check out the articles, "A link between nanoparticles and Alzheimer's disease" and "Silver nanoparticles can cause cellular changes." Other uses for silver nanoparticles include deodorants, food packaging, and other uses. Scientists are researching to see whether nanoparticles are related to various forms of cancer, Alzheimer's and Parkinson's disease, says that article. Only the smallest particles seemed to be able to enter the cells.

As additives to food and drinks, nanoparticles can prevent caking, deliver nutrients and prevent bacterial growth. One article, "Silver nanoparticles can cause cellular changes," explains that researchers found nanoparticles caused the formation of more so-called free radicals which are oxygen compounds produced naturally in the body as a result of energy metabolism. But they can do harm if the amount increases. The big issue for researchers is to find out what nanoparticles in food, shampoos, clothing, and deodorants or in other packaged goods are doing to your health as well as the environment. You also may wish to see another article, "Exposure to Nanosilver Causes Cancer, Alzheimer's and Parkinson's Study."

The new study now suggests that nanomaterials in food and drinks could interfere with digestive cells and lead to the release of the potentially harmful substances to the environment

In the new study published online June 2, 2014 in the journal ACS Sustainable Chemistry & Engineering, Robert Reed and colleagues note that food and drink manufacturers use nanoparticles in and on their products for many reasons, according to the June 18, 2014 news release, "Nanoparticles from dietary supplement drinks likely to reach environment, say scientists." In packaging, nanoparticles can provide strength, control how much air gets in and out, and keep unwanted microbes at bay.

As additives to food and drinks, nanoparticles can prevent caking, deliver nutrients and prevent bacterial growth. But as nanoparticles increase in use, so do concerns over their health and environmental effects.

Consumers might absorb some of these materials through their skin, and inhale and ingest them

What doesn't get digested is passed in urine and feces to the sewage system. A handful of initial studies on nanomaterials suggest that they could be harmful, but Reed's team wanted to take a closer look.

They tested the effects of eight commercial drinks containing nano-size metal or metal-like particles on human intestinal cells in the lab. The drinks changed the normal organization and decreased the number of microvilli, finger-like projections on the cells that help digest food.

In humans, if such an effect occurs as the drinks pass through the gastrointestinal tract, these materials could lead to poor digestion or diarrhea, they say. The researchers' analysis of sewage waste containing these particles suggests that much of the nanomaterials from these products are likely making their way back into surface water, where they could potentially cause health problems for aquatic life.

The authors acknowledge funding from the National Science Foundation. The American Chemical Society is a nonprofit organization chartered by the U.S. Congress. With more than 161,000 members, ACS is the world's largest scientific society and a global leader in providing access to chemistry-related research through its multiple databases, peer-reviewed journals and scientific conferences. Its main offices are in Washington, D.C., and Columbus, Ohio.


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