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Is Carrageenan Bad For You?



Short answer

Yes, carrageenan is bad for you. It contains no nutritional value, and although it comes from what seems like a healthy food, can lead to a variety of health issues.



Long answer

Carrageenan is a polysaccharide extract from red seaweeds – seems pretty good, right? Seaweed and kelp are considered healthy foods, so why isn’t this?

The food industry uses this substance in many foods to thicken and stabilize foods, even organic products. It acts to keep many liquid products from separating in their packages. It is commonly found in yogurt, chocolate, soy milk and ice cream. Various other milk products including nutritional shakes, along with some frozen dinners, soup and broths, and even some baby formulas also contain the substance.

Not only does carrageenan not have any nutritional value, but your body doesn’t even know how to digest it. In fact, it is so foreign to your body that your immune system reacts to its presence by causing an inflammatory reaction that can further lead to gastrointestinal ulcers and bleeding. Studies began linking carrageenan to ulcerative colitis, gastrointestinal ulcers, and colon cancer over 50 years ago.

Chronic inflammation is possible if consuming this substance regularly, especially along with other inflammatory foods. Chronic inflammation can greatly increase the risk of degenerative brain diseases, heart disease, gut dysbiosis, Candida overgrowth, poor brain health, diabetes, and cancer. Diabetes becomes a risk even with low levels of consumption as it interferes with insulin and promotes glucose intolerance.

Carrageenan was introduced as a food additive in the 1990s when it was approved by the USDA’s National Organic Standards Board. A review was performed by NOSB in April 2016 and they are expected to vote in November 2016 regarding whether or not it should continue to be used in organic foods. The initial approval was found to be based on biased misinformation by corporate scientists and manufacturer lobbying. As of 2012, knowledge of the potential health concerns of consuming carrageenan has been widely known by the organic food industry.

Outside of the food industry, carrageenan is often used in the formulation of medications. It has been used in a variety of medications with reported benefits of decreased pain and swelling, and use as a bulk laxative.

Possible short-term side effects

  • digestive stress

Possible long-term side effects

  • inflammation
  • gut dysbiosis
  • degenerative brain disease
  • diabetes
  • ulcerative colitis
  • colon cancer

Commonly found in

  • organic products
  • yogurt
  • milk products
  • frozen dinner meals
  • soups and broths
  • baby formula
  • ice cream

Thank you for your feedback!

Written by Kristin Brown, DC, MS
Published on: 07-02-2016
Last updated: 12-10-2016

Thank you for your feedback!

Written by Kristin Brown, DC, MS
Published on: 07-02-2016
Last updated: 12-10-2016

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