Throughout our lives, we are frequently exposed to microplastics. However, a new study has revealed that those suffering from inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) tend to have more microplastics in their stools than those without the condition.
The small-scale study identified a link between microplastics and IBD. While it wasn’t found to be a cause of IBD, further research is required to determine why levels are higher in IBD patients. Here, we will look at what the study found and how microplastics impact our health.
What the latest study revealed
The small Chinese study included a total of 102 participants. Faecal samples were taken from 52 participants with IBD and 50 healthy participants. It was discovered that those with IBD had an average of 1.5 times more microplastics in their faeces than healthy participants. It was also revealed that IBD patients had smaller particles present. Both groups mostly had polyamide and polyethylene terephthalate particles in their stools. These are known to come from textiles, food packaging, food containers, and plastic bottles.
Findings also showed that those with more severe IBD had an increased amount of microplastics in their faeces. However, the researchers aren’t sure whether IBD patients have more microplastics in their bodies due to consuming more, or whether the disease creates them. Additional research will need to be carried out to determine the cause.
Addressing the need for additional research, the director of public health for the World Health Organization, Dr. Maria Neira, states:
“We urgently need to know more about the impact of microplastics because they are everywhere, including in our drinking water. Based on the limited information we have, microplastics in drinking water don’t appear to cause a health risk, but we need to find out more.”
What are microplastics?
Microplastics are tiny pieces of plastic that typically measure under 5mm. They are contained in everything from our drinking water to the cosmetics we use.
All microplastics are man-made, though they are sometimes caused by sunlight and other natural processes. The sunlight can cause the plastic to become brittle, making it easier for tiny particles to break off. In some cases, microplastics are as small as fragments of dust.
Due to the fact they are everywhere, it is unsurprising that we all have some level of them in our bodies. The question is why those with conditions such as IBD, tend to have more of them in their system.
Could microplastics be a cause of IBD?
At the moment there is no evidence to suggest microplastics are a cause of IBD or any other condition. However, further research is required now that a link has been identified. Larger studies will need to be carried out to determine the root cause of additional levels in some patients.