What Is HPMC?
E464, (HPMC - Hydroxypropyl Methyl Cellulose) is a modified cellulose made from plant fibres and is used to enhance the texture of Lo-Dough. Nutritionally it counts as 100% soluble fibre and is considered completely non-toxic and food safe to levels much higher than those used in Lo-Dough. Being a source of fibre, it passes through the body and some evidence suggests it could even play a role in healthy digestion.
Since it is used as an additive it has been assigned an E number. Vitamin C (found in a vast number of other products) is also used as an additive and has an E number too. It is important to be aware that only a handful of E numbers have a particularly bad reputation and they are usually colourings or artificial flavours. Many E numbers are naturally occurring substances - even oxygen has an E number (E948).
Here's more info on the top 10 E numbers to avoid - notice how HPMC is not mentioned at all!
Additionally, here's a great article by Stefan Gates on E numbers and their association with foods that are bad for you. Spoiler alert - It's the trans-fats and the sugar that are bad for you, not the E numbers.
Why Is HPMC In Lo-Dough?
It is used in Lo-Dough as a texture enhancer. It is actually a near-universal addition to gluten-free bread products (you will see it listed as a stabiliser in the ingredient list of these products) and is used to recreate the texture and feel that gluten provides.
One common concern is that it is found in non-food products - paint, eye drops, medicine (again, as a stabiliser). For the record, so is water. Like water, HPMC's existence in non-food products doesn't automatically discount it from being used in perfectly safe, edible products. Crucially, it has been approved as a food additive by both the EU and the FDA.
HPMC & Heavy Metals
There are a few blogs and sites pushing scare stories regarding the heavy metals found in HPMC. The heavy metals present in our HPMC are tested and certified at a level of under 10 parts per million. This is significantly below the threshold of what might be considered unsafe for human consumption. Again, it's worth noting that heavy metals are all around us and when consumed in small doses, are perfectly safe - our bodies naturally filter them out. They are found in fish, greens, brown rice and more. To clarify, we are not saying that the consumption of heavy metals is a particularly good thing, just that any form of panic or hysteria regarding the consumption of minuscule amounts of them is not helpful. For example - there is more mercury in fresh tuna than there is in HPMC. That is the very same tuna that is prized in Japanese cuisine - a country which had the second highest life expectancy in the world in 2018.
HPMC - The Good News
Since its approval as a food additive by the FDA and the EU, there have even been some studies (see below) that even suggest that HPMC can aid digestion and weight loss. Admittedly, these studies shouldn't be read in isolation and more work needs to be done on this as a whole, but the results appear to show that HPMC could be an effective weight loss aid (Note, this is not why we use HPMC in our product, just a potentially positive by-product).
At Lo-Dough, we pride ourselves on sourcing high-quality ingredients and being honest and transparent about their use. We have certificates of analysis for each and every component part of Lo-Dough and we treat matters of food safety with the utmost seriousness.