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Is carrageenan unhealthy?Carrageenan is a common food/non-food additive that derived its name from Irish Moss seaweed(ChondrusCrispus). This non-nutritive additive is produced from seaweeds and/or algae and isused primarily as a thickening agent to hold compounds together, for instance, in toothpastes,non-dairy milks, ice creams, soups, sauces, and even in pet food. Even though carrageenan hasbeen used for 100s of years, studies are still being conducted on the safety of its use.Iscarrageenan safe for us to use in our everyday lives, for consuming and non-food uses?In 2001, a study was conducted to see how carrageenan reacts in the body after consumption.Although this study was performed on animals, scientists predict the negative findings couldpossibly equate to the metabolism of humans. Scientists found that the exposure to carrageenanproduced “colonic ulcerations” and gastrointestinal problems in animals that may have been dueto the acid hydrolysis reaction inside the stomach or the interaction with intestinal bacteria.Unfortunately, it is unknown how much of the additive it took to produce these harmful effects butthe scientists suggest the consumption of carrageenan should be reevaluated nonetheless.What I personally find interesting is that carrageenan is found primarily in processed foods whichcontain a hefty amount of refined carbohydrates, sugars, and very little nutritional valuewhatsoever. It makes me wonder if scientific studies used 100% carrageenan for their testsubjects or if they used foods that contained them. Perhaps there is a negative synergistic effectwhen one consumes the additive in over-processed foods.Personally, my intake of carrageenan is somewhat moderate. For instance, my largest source ofcarrageenan probably comes from the store-bought almond milk that I drink. I predict that theadditive is used in such a fashion so that the ingredients used in making the nondairy milk canchemically stay together. Furthermore, I have never experienced any gastrointestinalcomplications after drinking almond milk or any other food that contains it. I hardly consumeprocessed foods, where carrageenan is prominently found. Perhaps I just am not eating enoughcarrageenan to show any negative effects, such as those found in certain scientific researchstudies.According to a well-known scientific researcher, Joanne K. Tobacman, M.D., now associateprofessor of clinical medicine at the University of Illinois College of Medicine, carrageenan wasonce used to cause inflammation in the body so that anti-inflammatory drugs can be usedafterwards to test their effectiveness. Tobacman also found that laboratory mice that were fed
low concentrations of carrageenan for about two and a half weeks developed intolerance toglucose and also had impaired insulin action. This, in turn, was concluded to cause diabetes. Thearticle ends with Dr. Weil saying, “I recommend avoiding regular consumption of foods containingcarrageenan… especially important advice for persons with inflammatory bowel disease.”In closing, carrageenan still needs to be studied upon for its safety. The best way one can makesure carrageenan isn’t harmful for them is to observe how they feel after consuming food orusing a product that contains it.Sources: Weil, Andrew. "Dr. Weil." http://www.drweil.com/drw/u/id/QAA44833 Miller, Becky. "Livestrong.com." http://www.livestrong.com/article/446385-what-has- carrageenan-in-it/ "Cyber Colloids." http://www.cybercolloids.net/library/carrageenan/introduction- carrageenan-structure "Chemistry Daily." http://www.chemistrydaily.com/chemistry/Carrageenan JK, Tobacman. "NCBI." http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11675262