I had never heard of carrageenan until this morning. Yesterday a friend of mine mentioned that she had read about an additive in dairy products that causes inflammation. This morning she shot me an e-mail with the name of the additive – carrageenan. Enter google.

Yipes, that was my first reaction as I started to do some reading about carrageenan. Now that I’ve done some reading my final feeling about carrageenan is DOUBLE YIPES!

Here is a statement about carrageenan by Ray Peat. You can read his whole article here

In the 1940s, carrageenan, a polysaccharide made from a type of seaweed, was recognized as a dangerous allergen. Since then it has become a standard laboratory material to use to produce in-flammatory tumors (granulomas), immunodeficiency, arthritis, and other in-flammations. It has also become an increasingly common material in the food industry. Articles are often written to praise its usefulness and to claim that it doesn’t produce cancer in healthy animals. Its presence in food, like that of the polyester imitation fat, microcrystalline cellulose, and many other polymers used to stabilize emulsions or to increase smoothness, is often justified by the doctrine that these molecules are too large to be absorbed. There are two points that are deliberately ignored by the food-safety regulators, 1) these materials can interact dangerously with intestinal bacteria, and 2) they can be absorbed, in the process called “persorption.”

emphasis mine

Here is some information from an article at The Cornucopia Institute. Check out the whole article here.

1) exposure to carrageenan causes inflammation which is harmful

2) the amount of carrageenan consumed in the human diet is sufficient to cause inflammation

3) both undegraded and degraded carrageenan cause inflammation.

Carrageenan has been used in thousands of biological experiments over several decades, because it predictably causes inflammation. Inflammation is well-known to be the basis for many human diseases and is associated with over 100 human diseases, including inflammatory bowel disease, rheumatoid arthritis, and arteriosclerosis, and inflammation is also linked to cancer.

emphasis mine

The article I liked the most was over at RoyalTemptations.com. It gave a nice description of what carrageenan is and why it is used in food. The article also focused on dairy products which is what started this whole post on carrageenan.

As I mentioned above, carrageenan is an additive. It’s a bad additive. How do we avoid additives? Avoid processed, refined foods. Eat whole, natural, organic foods. Seems simple enough, right? Well, read your labels carefully. If you are buying dairy products, even organic dairy products read the label. Carrageenan is added to food to make it more palatable creating a smoother texture and therefore a better “mouthfeel”. While carrageenan is used commonly in non-organic food and drinks it is also sometimes found in organic, “natural” foods.

Here’s a quote from the RoyalTemptations blog post with a list of carrageenan-free foods:

While some organic products do contain carrageenan, organic standards prohibit the use of harmful ingredients like high-fructose corn syrup, petroleum-based fake food dyes, and artificial flavors, along with other harmful ingredients that have been linked to heart damage, ADHD, and other health problems. Still, if you’d like to avoid carrageenan in organic foods, simply read the label or choose from some of these carrageenan-free organic picks below.

Organic Foods Free of Carrageenan:

Chocolate Milk
• Castle Rock Organic Farms
• Crystal Ball Farms
• Strafford Organic Creamery
• Trickling Springs Creamery

Cottage Cheese
• Nancy’s
• Organic Valley

Cream
• Organic Valley (pasteurized only…ultrapasteurized contains carrageenan)
• Butterworks Farm
• Strauss Family Creamery

Ice Cream
• Stonyfield
• Green & Black’s Organic
• Julie’s (except mint fudge, mocha fudge and peanut butter fudge)
• Alden’s

Yogurt
• Seven Stars
• Stonyfield (all brands except caramel Oikos and Squeezers)
• Horizon (all except Tuberz)
• Wallaby

Soymilk
• EdenSoy
• Westsoy

It’s great that I, and now you know something about one of those funny, hard to pronounce words found on food labels. It’s scary and sad to think about just how many of those “words” there are. From the sounds of it, carrageenan has been known as a dangerous allergen for over 60 years but it’s still in our food. What else don’t we know? I can’t think about that too hard or I’ll have to crawl right back into bed, way under the covers, never to be heard from again.

Eat Well, Feel Good, Have Fun (and read your labels!)

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