A thickening agent or thickener is a substance that can increase the viscosity of a liquid without substantially changing its other properties. Edible thickeners are commonly used to thicken sauces and soups without altering their taste; thickeners are also used in paints, inks, explosives, and cosmetics. Thickeners may also improve the suspension of other ingredients or emulsions which increases the stability of the product. Thickening agents are often regulated as food additives and as cosmetics and personal hygiene product ingredients. Some thickening agents are gelling agents (gellants), forming a gel, dissolving in the liquid phase as a colloid mixture that forms a weakly cohesive internal structure. Others act as mechanical thixotropic additives with discrete particles adhering or interlocking to resist strain. Thickening agents can also be used when medical condition such as dysphagia cause individuals difficulty when swallowing. Thickened liquids play a vital role in reducing risk of aspiration for dysphagia patients.