Scientists have been warning against the use of carrageenan for more than 40 years, but they may finally have the proof to break their findings through to the mainstream. Both in-vitro human cell studies and animal studies seem to prove that carrageenan is inextricably linked to gastrointestinal ulcers, tumors and inflammation that may lead to cancer and diabetes. There are now more than 3,800 research papers that show carrageenan inducing some sort of inflammation.
Is Food Grade Carrageenan Safe?
Even "food grade" carrageenan, carrageenan that is supposedly tested for adverse effects to humans when consumed, has been shown to be harmful. The chemical bonds that are found in carrageenan are unique to seaweed and gum - there is no other product like it in nature.
Carrageenan in the Lab
Food-grade carrageenan is processed with an alkali to be included as a texturizer in ice cream, yogurt and many other everyday foodstuffs. It could be quite telling that carrageenan that is processed with an acid becomes dangerously inflammatory, and is actually used as a purposeful inflammation agent in animal labs to test anti-inflammation drugs. This degraded carrageenan is not allowed in food, but its ability to cause such serious reactions have raised questions about carrageenan in any state being safe when ingested into the human body.
What is Carrageenan Actually Used For?
Carrageenan has no nutritional value, nor does it add any flavor to food. It is included strictly as a thickener or texturizer, especially in foods that are labelled low fat or as a replacement for dairy. It is also used as a coagulant for beverages that naturally separate, including chocolate milk and some nutritional supplement shakes.
Carrageenan is also widely used in processed deli meat, especially preprocessed chicken. In many cases, carrageenan is injected into chicken to help maintain its look.
Carrageenan and Organic Foods
Carrageenan can be included in foods that are labelled organic by the USDA. The foods to look out for include frozen pizzas and nutrient supplement bars. If you have pets, you may want to look out for carrageenan that is included in some variations of canned pet food, including organic pet food.
What Can Carrageenan Do to the Body?
If consumed on a regular basis, carrageenan can cause annoying conditions such as belly bloat or more serious conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis or arteriosclerosis. Studies in mice have linked carrageenan to many precursor symptoms for diabetes as well.
Because carrageenan is not always on the ingredient label, you may need to contact the company directly to confirm or deny its use in a product. You can also go to http://cornucopia.org to look for substitute products if you find that your favorite foods have carrageenan in them.
As of today, no government regulation prohibits the use of carrageenan in any food.