By Allergen Bureau

The Link Between Food Additive E551 and Coeliac Disease 

A new study has revealed that the food additive E551, also known as silicon dioxide, could potentially foster the development of coeliac disease by reducing oral tolerance to dietary proteins.  

E551, a food additive currently considered safe for consumption, is utilised as an anti-caking agent in various dry and powdered foods and is present in over 2,600 processed foods worldwide. In many cases, its use as a processing aid means it does not appear in the ingredients list on final product packaging. 

The research, conducted by collaborating groups from INRAE and McMaster University, exposed mice to E551 for three months, resulting in decreased oral tolerance to dietary proteins and heightened intestinal inflammation, particularly in mice expressing the coeliac disease risk gene. 

The findings raise concerns about the safety of E551, which is composed of nanoparticles, suggesting that chronic exposure via dietary sources may contribute to the rising prevalence of coeliac disease, especially in genetically predisposed individuals.  

This research is the first to suggest the potential adverse effects of this food additive, highlighting the need for further investigation and underscoring the importance of incorporating such concerns into human risk assessments. 

Reference: Lamas B. et al. 2024. Evaluating the Effects of Chronic Oral Exposure to the Food Additive Silicon Dioxide on Oral Tolerance Induction and Food Sensitivities in Mice. Environmental Health Perspectives. Vol. 132(2) DOI: 10.1289/EHP12758

See also the INRAE media release for further details about the study findings.