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Is DATEM Bad For You?

Also Known As: diacetyl tartaric acid ester of mono- and diglycerides, E472e



Short answer

Although the FDA has determined that DATEM is safe for consumption, studies from some sources are concluding that DATEM should be avoided. DATEM has been linked to heart fibrosis and adrenal overgrowth in lab animals. There may also be an increased risk of developing "leaky gut syndrome."



Long answer

DATEM is an acronym that stands for Diacetyl Tartaric Acid Esters of Monoglycerides. Some sources site that it is derived mainly from plant sources but some state that it comes from soybean oil or ethanol.  It is a white powder that is an “ester” which by strict definition means “a compound made by replacing the hydrogen of an acid by an alkyl or other organic group. Many naturally occurring fats and essential oils are esters of fatty acids.”

DATEM can predominantly be found in processed bread products. DATEM is used as an emulsifier or dough conditioner, meaning that it helps to create the kind of texture consumers expect from their bread and helps the bread to have a more uniform shape. DATEM has the ability to bind with gluten to create a strong bond that gives elasticity to products and extends their shelf life. Gluten is the protein component of wheat, rye and barley and one of the most consumed ingredients in the world. DATEM is also found in coffee creamers, ice cream, salad dressings and many soups.  DATEM is present predominately in gluten based products, therefore individuals that are gluten sensitive, gluten intolerant or have celiac disease need to avoid these products.  DATEM itself is gluten free but checking the ingredient label is important to see if the overall product itself is gluten free. 

One of the most concerning aspect of DATEM may be that finding specific information about the ingredient is very difficult. The exact process for creating DATEM is hazy and most people have never even heard of it; however, it can make up 0.375 to 0.5% of the weight of flour used in commercial baking.

The lack of information about DATEM (and the absence of studies concerning the safety of the ingredient) means that potential side effects are still unclear. One study, conducted in 2002, tested the possible toxicity of DATEM on rats. The study showed that “heart fibrosis and adrenal overgrowth” were found in the rats that were exposed to DATEM.  There are also health care professionals that have voiced their opinion about DATEM being linked to increased intestinal permeability or “leaky gut syndrome.”

While the 2002 rat study is obviously concerning, the FDA has still deemed DATEM “generally recognized as safe” according to their standards. However, many companies that are focused on providing only safe and healthy foods to customers, like Whole Foods, have blocked products containing DATEM.

Interestingly, some individuals who have found that they have a reaction to certain processed foods, especially bread products, may be reacting to the chemicals found in those products rather than the gluten that many blame. For those who experience what they think may be a sensitivity to gluten (which can include symptoms like irritated skin, itching, nausea, abdominal pain, aches, fatigue, and headaches) may find it helpful to examine whether the chemicals (including those in DATEM) found in processed foods are to blame. It is common sense that if you want to live a very healthy clean life then sticking with non-processed organic products is the way to go. This includes regular ingestion of organic fruits and vegetables. 

Possible long-term side effects

  • heart fibrosis and adrenal overgrowth (found in animal studies)

Commonly found in

  • crusty breads
  • biscuits
  • coffee whiteners
  • salsa con queso
  • ice cream
  • salad dressings
  • soups

Ingredients to be aware of

  • small amounts of glycerol
  • small amounts of fatty acids
  • may contain animal fats (not harmful, but a concern for those avoiding animal products)
  • soybean oil (gmo)

Thank you for your feedback!

Written by Dr. Becky Maes
Published on: 03-06-2016
Last updated: 11-28-2023

Thank you for your feedback!

Written by Dr. Becky Maes
Published on: 03-06-2016
Last updated: 11-28-2023

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