The word Carrageenan may not ring a bell to you but this ingredient is actually in almost everything that you eat. It is an additive that can be found in yogurt, tofu, turkey cold-cuts, milk, coconut milk etc. The heavy use carrageenan was a non-issue at first until some health practitioners started crying foul over the possible bad effects of carrageenan intake to our health. If you try searching carrageenan in the internet then you will easily see a lot of negative articles and write-ups about this food additive. The only problem with this is that there is no definitive conclusion on why carrageenan is bad for one’s health. All of the statements are pure assumptions and hypothetical which make them baseless.
Getting to Know Carrageenan
Carrageenan is derived from seaweeds or red algae and is then processed through an alkaline procedure to come up with the end product which is used as a food ingredient. This practice can be traced all the way back in the 1930’s when carrageenan was first introduced to food manufacturing companies. The carrageenan is mainly known for its anti-inflammatory characteristics that is why its degraded form is used for reducing inflammation among animals who need treatment and as well as drug trials.
There are generally two uses for carrageenan: 1) is as conventional medicine and 2) as a food additive.
Due to its anti-inflammatory properties then it has been widely used as an ingredient in most medicinal solutions to treat regular colds, digestive problems, intestinal problems and organ soreness. Its anti-inflammatory property can help reduce pain and swelling in most health issues. The acidic form of carrageenan is also used as a laxative in order to treat cases of peptic ulcer.
As a food additive, it is not used in order to add a distinct flavor or nutrients to the food but instead it is used as a binder and thickening agent to stabilize different food products including healthcare products such as the regular toothpaste. The carrageenan has a chemical structure that is helpful in this department so that food manufacturers and pharmaceuticals would not have problems in keeping their products whole and intact.
Possible Health Risks and Side Effects brought upon by Carrageenan Intake or Usage
- Large bowel ulceration
- Fetal toxicity
- Birth defects
- Ulcerative colitis
- Glucose intolerance
- Insulin intolerance
- Colorectal cancer
- Liver cancer
- Immunity suppression
There are a lot more health risks and diseases that can be correlated to carageenan as a food additive and as a medicinal ingredient but the ones mentioned above are the most popular ones. Although health advocates and researchers continue to push the negativity surrounding carrageenan then I guess it would be stupid of us to right away jump into the bandwagon until further explanation or proof is shown against it. Here are a few things that you can also consider about carrageenan.
Is Carrageenan bad here?
There are different forms of carrageenan such as the degraded, undergraded and including its acidic form. In order to conclude that carrageenan is harmful to our health then which form should be put to research considering food and healthcare products use different forms of carrageenan? If a certain form of carrageenan is proven to be harmful then is it safe to generalize that carrageenan itself in any forms is dangerous to our health? As we see, there are a lot of flaws to the idea of categorizing carrageenan as bad or not. If we have been using this ingredient for several decades now then I don’t think it is that bad considering how far we’ve come.