Carrageenan is an ingredient found in many processed foods. Often processed dairy products (like yogurt or ice cream), some processed meats, and in other things, like milk substitutes (soy milk). It's in lots of other foods too. Basically it is common in processed food so most people are consuming it. It's always listed in the ingredients although if one of the ingredients is condensed milk then it probably has carrageenan in it too.
Joanne Tobacman is a leading proponent of the theory that carrageenan is a cause of a range of cancers (especially gastrointestinal ones) and other illnesses like Irritable Bowel Syndrome. Search "carrageenan Tobacman" in Google Scholar and you'll find a lot of relevant studies she has been involved in.
It's really alarming, but the establishment says that carrageenan is completely safe. The degraded form, poligeenan, is the one that is considered dangerous, but Tobacman says that the digestive process (stomach acids, gut bacteria) degrades carrageenan into this more dangerous form.
Carrageenan is an ingredient extracted from red seaweeds. It is a vegetarian alternative (along with xanthum gum and agar) to gelatin, an animal ingredient made from hooves and bones of cattle and pigs.
I wonder what your opinions are...I've kind of become really interested in this topic because I am an ex-vegan and when I was vegan every day I had soy milk every day and that is made with carrageenan and I never knew about the concerns about it. But I also see brands of dairy yogurt that are made with carrageenan and some that are made with gelatin. Should we tell people that if they consume yogurt or any other food which might have carrageenan, they should try to get the kind without carrageenan?
Definitely. I wrote an article about this a while ago: http://www.urgeschmack.de/carrageen/ There are a few quotations and links in English there.
http://fanaticcook.blogspot.com had a great post about it and this one is kind of like the jackpot of studies on this subject: http://ehp.niehs.nih.gov/members/2001/109p983-994tobacman/tobacman-full.html
In Germany, we just "lost" the last big manufacturer of whole cream without carrageenan. Where their product description previously boasted with pride that they don't use carrageenan because of health complications, it now says...nothing. There are only few small regional brands left without any crap in them.
As for myself, I decided to buy some more raw milk and skim it for cream. By the away: Whipping cream stiff is easier without carrageenan.
Carrageenan and guar gum are both ingredients that I take pains to avoid. I find that they seem to stop up my bowels, especially guar gum, but neither has good results. :/
It's tough to find coconut milk without guar gum, but it is possible. Legumes and I don't get along at all anyway, and guar gum is from a bean.
I'm deeply suspicious of both additives, and I've often wondered how many Atkins-style low carbers give up their beloved HWC because of issues that are actually caused by carrageenan.
A graduate student in Harvard's History of Science department wrote this paper on carrageenan in 2008:
It's worth reading and shows the tug of war between science and industry. Based on studies in recent years, it's best to avoid it. In reference to a paleo-like diet (SCD), there's some more notes on it here: ILLEGAL LIST: CARRAGEENAN
I'm still dealing with leaky gut problems and bacterial overgrowth so I'm currently taking loads of probiotics in supplement form.
I recently tried Dr. Ohhira's Essential Formulas probiotic because it's very popular and a lot of people report very good results with it. If you take a look at the ingredients, you'll see it has carrageenan in it.
I'm not 100% sure that this is the reason why, but my problem became much worse with that probiotic and as soon as I stopped taking it I was better. Note that I'm not talking about a die-off symptom of something like that, but rather gut irritation and burning.
So the take home message for my money is to stay far away from that ingredient.
Having Cancer, I am always looking for Carageenan-free products. Carageenan and Refined Sugar (Cane,Corn,'Granulated') are dangerous for Cancer Patients because Cancer loves Sugar and the Carageenan is a CELLULAR irritant and not confined to the gut. I love icecream and have found NONE that do not have in excess of 5gm sugar/tbsp. An average dish of the lowest sugar product, then, has about as much sugar as a 12oz. Coca-Cola/Pepsi...unacceptable except for one thing: the food industry is working hard to make everyone sick. Pharmaceuticals are designed to TREAT diseases without cure, and the net effect is a slow-acting kind of Genocide.
The talking-point logic of industry proponents studiously and meticulously avoids discussion of the most obvious answer to the question of why this is happening: Money. The Food Industries are a monopoly for city dwellers; the profits from selling processed food products are therefor enormous. Pharmaceutical Manufacturers would produce themselves out of the market if their "medicines" cured the diseases that they now maintain. How much profit from these two corporate behemoths ends up in Wall Street is anybody's guess, but, cessation of investment would result in a "Big Bear" market, or crash. This has resulted in an enhanced economic/social stratification...the quick and the dead.
Green foods, especially organic ones are the diet. Nauseating, revolting and worse than chemo, but, "It's the diet"
i find it alarming they are now saying that carrageenan inhibits hpv, which is known cause of many cancers from the genital into the digestive areas. it seems they would want to sneak this into all our food now to try and keep people safe from hpv exposure... and somehow, it seems to be proven to actually help prevent infection and is being put into lubricants and what not now. this is insane to me. if its good for fighting hpv why is it horrible for so many other things? its bad. i hate all these things.
Q. What is Carrageenan?
... A. Carrageenan is a naturally-occurring seaweed extract. It is widely used in foods and non-foods to improve texture and stability. Common uses include meat and poultry, dairy products, canned pet food, cosmetics and toothpaste. Q. Why the controversy? A. Self-appointed consumer watchdogs have produced numerous web pages filled with words condemning carrageenan as an unsafe food additive for human consumption. However, in 70+ years of carrageenan being used in processed foods, not a single substantiated claim of an acute or chronic disease has been reported as arising from carrageenan consumption. On a more science-based footing, food regulatory agencies in the US, the EU, and in the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization/World Health Organization (FAO/WHO) repeatedly review and continue to approve carrageenan as a safe food additive. Q. What has led up to this misrepresentation of the safety of an important food stabilizer, gelling agent and thickener? A. It clearly has to be attributed to the research of Dr. Joanne Tobacman, an Associate Prof at the University of Illinois in Chicago. She and a group of molecular biologists have accused carrageenan of being a potential inflammatory agent as a conclusion from laboratory experiments with cells of the digestive tract. It requires a lot of unproven assumptions to even suggest that consumption of carrageenan in the human diet causes inflammatory diseases of the digestive tract. The objectivity of the Chicago research is also flawed by the fact that Dr Tobacman has tried to have carrageenan declared an unsafe food additive on weak technical arguments that she broadcast widely a decade before the University of Chicago research began.
Q. What brings poligeenan into a discussion of carrageenan? A. Poligeenan (“degraded carrageenan” in pre-1988 scientific and regulatory publications) is a possible carcinogen to humans; carrageenan is not. The only relationship between carrageenan and poligeenan is that the former is the starting material to make the latter. Poligeenan is not a component of carrageenan and cannot be produced in the digestive tract from carrageenan-containing foods. Q. What are the differences between poligeenan and carrageenan? A. The production process for poligeenan requires treating carrageenan with strong acid at high temp (about that of boiling water) for 6 hours or more. These severe processing conditions convert the long chains of carrageenan to much shorter ones: ten to one hundred times shorter. In scientific terms the molecular weight of poligeenan is 10,000 to 20,000; whereas that of carrageenan is 200,000 to 800,000. Concern has been raised about the amount of material in carrageenan with molecular weight less than 50,000. The actual amount (well under 1%) cannot even be detected accurately with current technology. Certainly it presents no threat to human health. Q. What is the importance of these molecular weight differences? A. Poligeenan contains a fraction of material low enough in molecular weight that it can penetrate the walls of the digestive tract and enter the blood stream. The molecular weight of carrageenan is high enough that this penetration is impossible. Animal feeding studies starting in the 1960s have demonstrated that once the low molecular weight fraction of poligeenan enters the blood stream in large enough amounts, pre-cancerous lesions begin to form. These lesions are not observed in animals fed with a food containing carrageenan.
Q. Does carrageenan get absorbed in the digestive track? A. Carrageenan passes through the digestive system intact, much like food fiber. In fact, carrageenan is a combination of soluble and insoluble nutritional fiber, though its use level in foods is so low as not to be a significant source of fiber in the diet. Summary Carrageenan has been proven completely safe for consumption. Poligeenan is not a component of carrageenan. Closing Remarks The consumer watchdogs with their blogs and websites would do far more service to consumers by researching their sources and present only what can be substantiated by good science. Unfortunately we are in an era of media frenzy that rewards controversy. Additional information available: On June 11th, 2008, Dr. Joanne Tobacman petitioned the FDA to revoke the current regulations permitting use of carrageenan as a food additive. On June 11th, 2012 the FDA denied her petition, categorically addressing and ultimately dismissing all of her claims; their rebuttal supported by the results of several in-depth, scientific studies. If you would like to read the full petition and FDA response, they can be accessed at http://www.regulations.gov/#!searchResults;rpp=25;po=0;s=FDA-2008-P-0347
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