New research shows that carrageenan, a natural additive that many food manufacturers add to their products that might be causing intestinal problems for many. The ingredient has been shown to cause gut irritation, inflammation and in some extreme cases, cancer. The additive is used to help make foods such as ice cream, chocolate, soymilk and yogurt taste creamier and fuller.
Carrageenan is made out of red seaweed, and it’s often used to help prevent ingredients from separating. In fact, it is found in many products that people often consume thinking it will help them to be healthier. Frozen dinners, commercial broths, and soups also contain this ingredient.
According to Charlotte Vallaeys, the director of Cornucopia Institute’s Farm and Food policy, Carrageenan has absolutely no value nutritionally. Cornucopia Institute is a group that promotes farming for the family. The group is critical of the approved use of carrageenan in organic foods and recently; they launched a petition to urge the FDA to ban the ingredient from being added to foods.
What makes this product so frightening is that it appears to be destructive to digestive systems. Essentially, carrageenan triggers immune responses that are similar to what happens when the body has been invaded by something like Salmonella.
Carrageenan researcher, Joanne Tobacman, MD and a University of Illinois School of Medicine, Chicago associate professor says, “Carrageenan predictably causes inflammation, which can lead to ulcerations and bleeding.” According to Tobacman, this ingredient is causes irritation by triggering a response in the immune system that turns up inflammation.
She has done studies that show a disturbing connection between gastrointestinal cancer and carrageenan in lab animals, and she’s currently working on research that has been funded by the National Institutes of Health that is taking a deeper look at the effect that carrageenan has on ulcerative colitis, as well as other illnesses such as diabetes.
It should be noted that worries of the safety over carrageenan in food is nothing new. As far back as the 1960’s, researchers began to find links between this additive and issues such as colon cancer, lesions on the intestines and ulcerative colitis in lab animals.
Carrageenan can be cut from the diet in many ways. Experts suggest taking these steps to begin with:
- Concerned consumers can check with the Cornucopia Institute for a carrageenan-free product listing. Some companies including So Delicious, Oregon Ice Cream, Eden Foods and Stonyfield Farm are working to change the formulas of their products that contain this additive.
- It’s also a good idea to check labels. Legally, carrageenan must be listed as an ingredient in foods, so consumers can eliminate foods that contain it simply by reading the ingredient labels of foods.
Those who are interested can sign the Carrageenan Petition to the FDA and let the Food and Drug Administration know that carrageenan is not an ingredient that they want included in the foods that they eat.