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Carrageenan - What is it and should you be concerned?




WHAT IS CARRAGEENAN?

Carrageenan is a thickener and emulsifier derived from Chondrus Crispus, a type of red seaweed, also known as Irish Moss. It helps to thicken a product as well as help a product mix well ie: oil / water. If you're not a label reader, you might want to start.


WHERE CAN IT BE FOUND?

Carrageenan can be found in many personal care products as well as food and drink.

It is not banned in Canada. The formula percentages can be found here:


Some examples are:

  • Shampoos

  • Conditioners

  • Creams

  • Lotions

  • Moisturizers

  • Toothpaste

  • Air fresheners

  • Pet foods

  • Coffee creamers

  • Whipping creams

  • Yogurts

  • Squeezable yogurts

  • Ice cream

  • Chocolate Milk

  • Milk

  • Some chewable vitamins

  • Some diet drinks

  • Canned soups

  • Frozen pizzas

  • Microwavable dinners

  • Deli meats

  • Sauces

  • Some baby foods and infant formulas (While Canada allows it in small percentages, the EU has prohibited its use in these products)


As you can see, Carrageenan is an ingredient that is found in many items we buy on a weekly basis. Try looking through your fridge, pantry and bathroom for the ingredients in your products.


WHY SHOULD WE BE CONCERNED?

Carrageenan has scientists concerned because it has been linked to the following adverse health effects:


  • Intestinal inflammation

  • links to colon / colorectal cancer

  • it is carcinogenic

  • linked to ulcers

  • linked to gut tumours

  • linked to interference with insulin



Research shows that consumption and use of carrageenan can pose health risks as written as far back as 1980 in The Lancet - one of the leading medical journals.

James Watt and R. Marcus wrote that "there is a need for extreme caution in the use of carrageenan or carrageenan-like products as food additives in our diet"

The Lancet 315(8168)602-603


In 2015 The Journal of Biological Chemistry 290(17)10764-10774 published that "Inflammation induced by exposure to the common food additive carrageenan leads to insulin resistance".


If you research online within well respected publications you will find a plethora of information. It can be confusing as many online articles claim that it has no adverse health effects. How do we know what's true? Follow the money.


Who's funding the research? Do they have a financial interest it producing carrageenan?


THE DISTINCTION

It's also important to know that if carrageenan is used a processing aid, it's often not listed on the product label. It can be used to clarify beer.


When carrageenan is processed with acid, it creates 'degraded carrageenan' which is harmful. It's called Poligeenan and not approved.

When carrageenan is processed with an alkaline substance, it is then a food-grade extract. But how do we trust which has been used?


Even when processed within guidelines and used within guidelines, scientists are concerned with how it interacts with our stomach acid.

People with IBS, Crohns, and allergies might be affected by carrageenan.


While some of us will shrug off the occasional use of carrageenan, we need to be mindful of all the foods we eat and all the products we use on a daily, weekly, monthly and yearly basis. It adds up. Advocating for ourselves is important, as there are plenty of big companies out there that don't really prioritize our health over profits.


OTHER NAMES FOR CARRAGEENAN

-PES (Processed Eucheuma Seaweed)

-Carrageenan Gum

-Chondrus

-Carrageenin

-Irish Moss ( Extract or Gelose )

-Vegetable Gelatin


ALTERNATIVES TO CARRAGEENAN

-Guar Gum

-Xanthan Gum

-Locust Bean Gum

-Alginate

-Gum Arabic


While this blog post is not a scientific publication, there are plenty of reputable science based and properly funded research publications out there to give you sufficient information in order for you to come to your own conclusion on how to proceed.


Personally, I won't even buy pet food with carrageenan in it and it's interesting that the cans I do buy have "no carrageenan" on the label. Food for thought !


Stay healthy




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