Should You Be Concerned About Carrageenan?

verdungal Community Member April 15, 2010
  • Carrageenan is a food additive which has caused a lot of controversy and confusion, It is in a lot of brands of soy milk, and I wanted to get the facts after reading a magazine article stating there was a concern of ulcers; possibly cancer; suppresses immunity; inflammatory bowel disease and allergies.

     

    Carrageenan is a gelatin-type substance derived from a red seaweed often called Irish Moss. It is used in products to give them more substance and texture

    to make them thick and creamy. Sounds safe enough. But studies and many people's personal experiences indicate otherwise.

     

    There are two types of carrageen, undegraded (food grade) and degraded (hydrolyzed with acid). which cannot be used in food.

     

    As a starting point, I checked out some research done by America carrageenan expert, Joanne Tobacman, who teaches clinical internal medicine at the University of Iowa College of Medicine. She has found that there is evidence of human trials that might show carrageenan to be a danger for human consumption.

     

    Dr. Tobacman shared studies that demonstrate that digestive enzymes and bacterial action convert high weight carrageenans to dangerous low molecular weight carrageenans and poligeenans in the human gut. These carrageenans have been linked to various human cancers and digestive disorders. Again, Tobacman's evidence and conclusions are based upon human tissue samples, not animal studies.

     

    In her 1997 publication , Tobacman studied the effect of carrageenan on the growth of cultured human mammary epithelial cells over a two week period. She found that extremely low doses of carrageenan disrupted the internal cellular architecture of healthy breast tissue, leading her to conclude: "The widely used food additive, carrageenan has marked effects on the growth and characteristics of human mammary myoepithelial cells in tissue cultures at concentrations much less than those frequently used in food products to improve solubility."

     

    In another website, I have found evidence of a man who has been suffering with
    Dyshidrotic Eczema and digestive problems for almost 15 years .

     

    Recently, he had managed to get his skin and stomach under control. Then all of a sudden he had a major outbreak from only one new thing that he added to his normal foods, which was a new flavor of coffee creamer. The good thing about this was it had only a dozen or so ingredients so it was easy to compare to foods he had been eating for quite some time with no reaction and eliminate the common ingredients. One ingredient stood out - CARRAGEENAN.

    It is in Soy Milk, almost all dairy products, cheeses , jellies and jams, cherry pies,

    toothpastes, prescription pills, and a myriad of other things. In some cases, it is also called AGAR and for most people, it is harmless and causes no problems for them. For others the stomach acid is a little stronger than other people and so their stomach breaks the molecule down further, allowing it to be passed into the blood when it normally wouldn't be, and as a result it turns into a carcinogen that the body attacks with an immune response, which in my case is inflamation of the digestive tracks and then inflamation of the skin.


  • The tricky thing that other people need to be aware of is that this ingredient is not listed on every product that it might be included in, especially chocolate.

    He also found that several different chocolates cause similar yet milder problems, and it wasn't until he contacted companies and demanded that they find out what additional products might have been used but aren't listed (because of loopholes in the laws) that he found this same ingredient used as a thickening agent in chocolate processing.

     

    I'm sharing this information to alert others to warn them about what kind of "natural" substances can also be harmful (carrageenan is made from Irish moss, or seaweed so it appeals to vegetarians and is used in many vegetarian foods ;like Tofu) and how to keep track of what you eat in a journal every single day for every thing you eat and drink.

     

    Write down all of the ingredients or keep wrappers and boxes. Immediately following an outbreak, look over the ingredients in the last 24 hours and compare them to everything else that has been safely consumed to find the ingredients that are upsetting the body. There is so much information available online, you just have to know where to look and find it.

     

    Even though I have never personally experienced any negative effects of carrageenan that I know of, evidence seems to show that carageenan is a harmful food additive. What I learned about carrageenan is enough to convince me to avoid it as much as possible!

14 Comments
  • jun9liz
    Sep. 20, 2014

    My, then, 8 year old daughter was given a seaweed cracker from a friend who had recently been in Japan. By the time she got home she was restless, wheezing, dizzy, and had a headache, her heart was racing, and she felt like vomiting. We decided then and there she was highly allergic to seaweed. Fast forward nearly ten years, and she is fighting a constant battle...

    RHMLucky777

    Read More

    My, then, 8 year old daughter was given a seaweed cracker from a friend who had recently been in Japan. By the time she got home she was restless, wheezing, dizzy, and had a headache, her heart was racing, and she felt like vomiting. We decided then and there she was highly allergic to seaweed. Fast forward nearly ten years, and she is fighting a constant battle with weight gain, abdominal cramps that put her in tears, diarrhea that can and does strike at any given moment, sleep shifts so that now she is practically an insomniac, headaches and flu symptoms without being a flu, and constant stomach pain. She has only ever felt good when she would eat Knorr's Alfredo, she feels full, no pain, no cramping, and her sleep nearly goes back to "normal". She has been diagnosed as PTSD, IBS, Near Chron's, lactose intollerant, Leaky Gut, gall bladder disfunction, and several others that have never been truely accurate. Then our "Aha!" moment of connecting carrageenan (red seaweed) to her previous allergic reaction. Since we have started getting rid of everything we can find in our house with carrageenan in it she has begun losing the horrible symptoms of all those and returning to a more normal state, even to losing weight (without really trying). Insidious stuff indeed.

  • Sue hood
    Sep. 20, 2014
    I recently suffered a severe allergic reaction, after eating a white Magnum ice cream. I very rarely eat ice cream, but had bought some as a treat for my granddaughters. I ate one myself and the next day developed a very itchy rash all over my body. I took an anti histamine but unfortunately, this had no effect. My G.P. prescribed a very strong anti histamine....
    RHMLucky777
    Read More
    I recently suffered a severe allergic reaction, after eating a white Magnum ice cream. I very rarely eat ice cream, but had bought some as a treat for my granddaughters. I ate one myself and the next day developed a very itchy rash all over my body. I took an anti histamine but unfortunately, this had no effect. My G.P. prescribed a very strong anti histamine. It took over a week for my skin to begin to improve, and two weeks before it was back to normal. When I checked the ingredients, I found an additive called carrageenan, which I have since learned to be an allergen. Two days ago I bought a tub of vanilla ice cream, once again as a treat for my grandchildren. I didn't have any myself, except for licking the spoon after serving it up. Low and behold, the next day, I awoke with a very angry itchy rash on my arms, breasts and stomach. I checked the ingredients, and once again found the ingredient, carrageenan! I am in no doubt whatsoever, that this ingredient was responsible for my allergic reaction. I am very concerned and believe strongly, that this ingredient should no be added to any food!
    • italiangm
      Sep. 21, 2014

      You might consider trying a small amount of premium ice cream w/o carrageenan to see if no symptoms occur.

  • Anonymous
    Madeleine O'Broin
    Sep. 12, 2013

    It has taken me a long while to figure out it is carrageen in such drinks as chocolate milk shakes that are on the chilled shelf - its not fresh drinks.  Yesterday I bought an iced coffee and had a severe digestive reaction and when I checked the ingredients (hard to do sometimes in a supermarket if one uses reading glasses) there it was - carrageen. ...

    RHMLucky777

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    It has taken me a long while to figure out it is carrageen in such drinks as chocolate milk shakes that are on the chilled shelf - its not fresh drinks.  Yesterday I bought an iced coffee and had a severe digestive reaction and when I checked the ingredients (hard to do sometimes in a supermarket if one uses reading glasses) there it was - carrageen.  I am going to make sure that I check any ready drink from chilled shelves as I spent the whole evening feeling very uncomfortable with extreme wind.  I hope this comment will help other people.

  • Anonymous
    CornucopiaInsti...
    Apr. 28, 2012

    Research suggests that the food ingredient carrageenan contains degraded carrageenan, which negatively impacts gastrointestinal health and is recognized as a possible human carcinogen. Yet it is a common ingredient in foods, including organic foods. While it is unlikely that the government will take action to protect our health and remove carrageenan from conventional...

    RHMLucky777

    Read More

    Research suggests that the food ingredient carrageenan contains degraded carrageenan, which negatively impacts gastrointestinal health and is recognized as a possible human carcinogen. Yet it is a common ingredient in foods, including organic foods. While it is unlikely that the government will take action to protect our health and remove carrageenan from conventional foods, we do have a chance to see carrageenan removed from certified organic foods. At the end of May, the USDA's National Organic Standards Board will be voting on whether carrageenan should be removed from the list of approved ingredients in organic foods. If you agree that organic foods should be free from potentially harmful ingredients like carrageenan, please send a comment to the USDA. The more comments they receive, the more likely they are to vote to remove carrageenan (the carrageenan industry will fight tooth and nail to keep it on the list of approved ingredients). An action alert, with instructions for submitting a comment to the USDA, is available at http://www.cornucopia.org/tell-the-usda-to-remove-carrageenan-from-organic-foods/.

  • Anonymous
    melanie mccaskey
    Dec. 16, 2011

    I have a senstivity to carageenan and TBHQ.  After years of digestive problems and a process of elimination I figured out it was carageenan and TBHQ.  I avoid these two additives and life is good for me.  I try to eat all natural foods and brands I know don't use carageenan and TBHQ.  I have never had a doctor verify this but if I avoid...

    RHMLucky777

    Read More

    I have a senstivity to carageenan and TBHQ.  After years of digestive problems and a process of elimination I figured out it was carageenan and TBHQ.  I avoid these two additives and life is good for me.  I try to eat all natural foods and brands I know don't use carageenan and TBHQ.  I have never had a doctor verify this but if I avoid foods with these additives I don't need a doctor.

    • Anonymous
      CornucopiaInsti...
      Apr. 28, 2012

      Research suggests that the food ingredient carrageenan contains degraded carrageenan, which negatively impacts gastrointestinal health and is recognized as a possible human carcinogen. Yet it is a common ingredient in foods, including organic foods. While it is unlikely that the government will take action to protect our health and remove carrageenan from conventional...

      RHMLucky777

      Read More

      Research suggests that the food ingredient carrageenan contains degraded carrageenan, which negatively impacts gastrointestinal health and is recognized as a possible human carcinogen. Yet it is a common ingredient in foods, including organic foods. While it is unlikely that the government will take action to protect our health and remove carrageenan from conventional foods, we do have a chance to see carrageenan removed from certified organic foods. At the end of May, the USDA's National Organic Standards Board will be voting on whether carrageenan should be removed from the list of approved ingredients in organic foods. If you agree that organic foods should be free from potentially harmful ingredients like carrageenan, please send a comment to the USDA. The more comments they receive, the more likely they are to vote to remove carrageenan (the carrageenan industry will fight tooth and nail to keep it on the list of approved ingredients). An action alert, with instructions for submitting a comment to the USDA, is available at http://www.cornucopia.org/tell-the-usda-to-remove-carrageenan-from-organic-foods/.

  • Anon
    May. 19, 2011

    Carrageenan expert???? NOT! The article was pure speculation.

    Samuel Cohen, M.D., Ph.D. (Chairman of the Department of Pathology/Microbiology, Medical School at the University of Nebraska) and Dr. Nobuyuki Ito (Professor Emeritus, Nagoya City University Medical School, Japan). Dr. Cohen and Dr. Ito, both well-known and respected cancer researchers performed...

    RHMLucky777

    Read More

    Carrageenan expert???? NOT! The article was pure speculation.

    Samuel Cohen, M.D., Ph.D. (Chairman of the Department of Pathology/Microbiology, Medical School at the University of Nebraska) and Dr. Nobuyuki Ito (Professor Emeritus, Nagoya City University Medical School, Japan). Dr. Cohen and Dr. Ito, both well-known and respected cancer researchers performed a scientifically critical literature review and prepared a response that evaluated and rebutted the claims of carcinogenicity made in the article.

     

    All of the information that disproves the article is a decade old and easily accessible.

    • Anonymous
      J
      Jun. 27, 2011

      I have also seen articles about test results which show that carageenan is harmless but A)  I experience significant discomfort from carageenan within an hour or two at most after ingesting something with it in it (even when I am unaware ahead of time that it was there) and B)  all the articles I have read that "prove" that it is safe were tested...

      RHMLucky777

      Read More

      I have also seen articles about test results which show that carageenan is harmless but A)  I experience significant discomfort from carageenan within an hour or two at most after ingesting something with it in it (even when I am unaware ahead of time that it was there) and B)  all the articles I have read that "prove" that it is safe were tested on animals, not human cells like Tobacman's tests.

    • Anonymous
      Sue
      Apr. 11, 2013

      Whether or not the reseach stands up to scrutiny is not important. What IS important is a lot of people are having very significant allergic reactions to carageenan and they are trying to find more information about it. Just because its been used forever doesn't mean it's safe. Any fool knowd that you can't just assume these things...

  • Anonymous
    anonymous
    Sep. 06, 2010

    This might seem strange but I am pretty sure my cat is very allergic to carrageenan.  I have tried over many years to find a food that he can eat without getting severe IBD symptoms.  After discovering he can eat plain meat with no issues and working backwards I suspect both carrageenan and perhaps even psyllium, which are both used as additives,...

    RHMLucky777

    Read More

    This might seem strange but I am pretty sure my cat is very allergic to carrageenan.  I have tried over many years to find a food that he can eat without getting severe IBD symptoms.  After discovering he can eat plain meat with no issues and working backwards I suspect both carrageenan and perhaps even psyllium, which are both used as additives, really set him off.  It is basically impossible to find a commercial cat food without these two products.

  • Anonymous
    yell0wpanda
    Sep. 04, 2010

    I was recently diagnosed with ulcerative colitis (an IBD).  I'm on medication that has brought my flare under control.  However, three things made me have symptoms: slim fast shakes, ovaltine and Swiss Miss diet hot chocolate.  These things have 3 ingredients in common.  One, non fat milk, I can drink by itself and be fine.  Cocoa isn't...

    RHMLucky777

    Read More

    I was recently diagnosed with ulcerative colitis (an IBD).  I'm on medication that has brought my flare under control.  However, three things made me have symptoms: slim fast shakes, ovaltine and Swiss Miss diet hot chocolate.  These things have 3 ingredients in common.  One, non fat milk, I can drink by itself and be fine.  Cocoa isn't the problem because I can eat chocolate in other forms.  This leaves carrageenan.  This process of elimination makes my suspect I have an allergy (or at least sensitivity) to carrageenan.

  • Anonymous
    anonymous
    Aug. 19, 2010

    I am highly, highly allergic to Carageenan.  It took years to figure this out through process of elimination.  The problem still is that so many food processors hide it in their products without including it on the label.  I know, my immune system is like a blood hound in finding it in my system.  The first alarm is a little itch that ultimately...

    RHMLucky777

    Read More

    I am highly, highly allergic to Carageenan.  It took years to figure this out through process of elimination.  The problem still is that so many food processors hide it in their products without including it on the label.  I know, my immune system is like a blood hound in finding it in my system.  The first alarm is a little itch that ultimately leads to a boil that is so very painful.  My head aches and my body aches as if I were catching the flu.  Sometimes it is incapacitating.  The boil comes to a head and after it is fully drained, only then do I get relief.  The doctors have cultured the discharge and said its only Staph.   Sometimes I need antibiotics to get over it because another boil can pop up right next to the old one.  Guess what, it runs in families too.  So its information you want to share with them so those with the same condition don't suffer alone for years trying to figure out what the cause is.  I wish this issue would get more exposure so that something would be done to abolish this ingredient altogether.  I guess not until more people are affected will it be properly addressed.  Thank you for this article.  I don't feel so alone.

    • smiley
      Mar. 15, 2012

      I get those boils as well (in very annoying places) and have had to go through a month of antibiotics. Suddenly it was back. Why? I was out here doing research. I compared the ingredients of the things that seems to cause it (slim fast, instant breakfast, and now this specific brand of frozen yogart). The ingredients they have in common were cocoa...

      RHMLucky777

      Read More

      I get those boils as well (in very annoying places) and have had to go through a month of antibiotics. Suddenly it was back. Why? I was out here doing research. I compared the ingredients of the things that seems to cause it (slim fast, instant breakfast, and now this specific brand of frozen yogart). The ingredients they have in common were cocoa (but I can eat chococate with no problem), maltodextrin (which I found is in Splenda which doesn't give me a problem) and this carageenan. When I read your reply I had an AH-HA moment. I will now avoid this ingredient. Thank you for your post. It was most helpful.