Crista’s back today with a topic that has caused a good amount of controversy – one of which I’ve heard conflicting reports. Carrageenan is not harmful and carrageenan is harmful, so which is it!?! Well, your questions will be answered today and you can decide for yourself. Take it away Crista!
An ingredient that is stirring up quite a bit of controversy is carrageenan. Carrageenan is a common food additive that is extracted from Chondrus crispus, a red seaweed commonly known as Irish moss. Carrageenan is used as a thickener and emulsifier to improve the texture of many different foods and products, including those that are organic certified. Just a few products that contain carrageenan include ice cream, half & half, cream, cottage cheese, chocolate milk, hemp milk, rice milk, almond milk, soy milk, cheesecake, processed meats, salad dressings, hot dogs, frozen desserts, apple cider, jellies, prepared sauces, pies, frozen dinners, soups, puddings, condiments, tooth pastes, and baby formulas. Some companies actually hide it on their labels by claiming that it is part of another ingredient (Charis Hollistic Center).
So, what makes carrageenan so dangerous? Some animal studies have linked degraded forms of it, which are typically not found in foods, to ulcerations and cancers of the gastrointestinal tract. Undegraded carrageenan, which are found in foods, have been linked to malignancies and other stomach problems. Exposure to carrageenan has also been proven to cause inflammation. Inflammation is the root cause of many serious diseases including heart disease, Alzheimer’s Disease, Parkinson’s diseases, and cancer. Drug investigators actually used carrageenan to cause inflammation in tissues in order to test the anti-inflammatory properties of new drugs. It has also been found to cause colitis (inflammation of the large intestine/colon) and anaphylaxis (a life threatening allergic reaction) in humans. Another disturbing fact is that when laboratory mice are exposed to low concentrations of carrageenan for just 18 days, they develop profound glucose intolerance and impaired insulin action, both of which can lead to diabetes (Dr. Weil).
After research has found so many disturbing links, how is it still allowed to be added to our food? All we can do for now is try to steer clear of carrageenan. The Cornucopia Institute created a Buying Guide to help you shop for carrageenan-free products. Check it out and be sure to check your labels!
Do you try to avoid food products that contain carrageenan?