Ok, so over the past couple of weeks, I’ve been receive a ton of questions relating to a little known product called carrageenan. Several of you have been wondering if its really safe for you as it seems to be getting a bad wrap out there especially that it is used in healthy/certified USDA products. I mean, anything with the USDA symbol is suppose to be the best and healthiest, right? Well, lets take a closer look!
What Is Carrageenan?
Ah and here we are, so what exactly is this stuff? Well, simply put carrageenan is a seaweed-derived ingredient, manufacturers use this additive to thicken and emulsify everything from cottage cheese to juice. Since seaweed is a low-allergy, non-animal derived source, natural and organic companies tend to favor it. Perhaps the most notorious source of this thickener is non-dairy milks, everything from hazelnut milk to oat milk. But it also commonly appears in everything from cottage cheese to frozen pizzas, coconut milk and ice cream.
Harmful Side Effects?
Although derived from a natural source, carrageenan appears to reek havoc particularly to the digestive system, triggering an immune response similar to that your body has when invaded by pathogens like Salmonella. The result: “Carrageenan predictably causes inflammation, which can lead to ulcerations and bleeding,” explains veteran carrageenan researcher Joanne Tobacman, MD, associate professor of clinical medicine at the University of Illinois School of Medicine at Chicago.
She says the food ingredient irritates by activating an immune response that dials up inflammation. Her previous work showed a concerning connection between carrageenan and gastrointestinal cancer in lab animals, and she’s involved with ongoing research funded through the National Institutes of Health that is investigating carrageenan’s effect on ulcerative colitis and other diseases like diabetes. The concern over food-grade carrageenan isn’t new. Beginning in the 1960s, researchers started linking the ingredient to gastrointestinal disease in lab animals, including ulcerative colitis, intestinal lesions, as well as colon cancer.
How To Avoid Carrageenan?
When you start reading labels, you’ll be amazed at the number of products that contain carrageenan! Most infant formulas do, as well as most store-bought milk alternatives. Many creams, creamers and dairy products also contain carrageenan. Listed below are some ways to avoiding this in your daily diet.
- Here is a Shopping Guide that can help you select brands of food that are made without the addition of carrageenan.
- Sign the FDA petition to remove carrageenan from our food supply.
- Know where you are getting your food from and don’t be afraid to ask questions!
Over and over we are seeing conflict of interest from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), not to mention other regulating groups. Sadly, we all know that money talks, and the interests of other individuals and group entities have prevailed over the general health of our population and communities as a whole. It is so important that we ask questions, demand change, and recreate a healthy food culture.
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