You may be wondering what carrageenan is. If you read labels, you may have noticed carrageenan listed as an ingredient in common packaged foods such as milks (both vegan and regular milk), ice creams, yogurt, sour cream, baby formula, other dairy and dairy alternatives, deli meats etc. It is important to read labels and choose items WITHOUT carrageenan.
Carrageenan is one of the most common food additives. It is a compound extracted from red seaweed used to thicken, stabilize, and improve the texture of processed foods. This includes frozen, liquid, and solid foods in BOTH organic and non-organic foods!
Any kind of compound extracted from its natural state and then added to foods can pose a threat to our bodies and our health because it is not what nature intended. Just as with pharmaceuticals, when we remove extracts from plants the checks, balances, and other cofactors that play a role in their metabolism are eliminated, thus posing a threat to how the body integrates and degrades it.
Though many of the studies have been done on animals because it is challenging to monitor humans without invasive procedures, some human cells taken from surgeries have been exposed to carrageenan and studied.
4 Reasons to Avoid Carrageenan as it is linked to:
- Elevated inflammation in the body. Studies link carrageenan to inflammation in the stomach, intestines, and joints. Inflammation anywhere in the body can result in systemic, full-body inflammation, which is not good for our health.
- Elevated sugar levels in the body by inhibiting insulin signaling. Insulin is the hormone in the body that regulates blood sugar levels. By inhibiting the proper function of insulin, carrageenan predisposes the body to elevated sugar levels, which can predispose the body to diabetes and other symptoms.
- Intestinal ulcers at doses over 5%. The FDA currently approves the use of carrageenan in foods based on toxicology studies that used small doses. But the reality is many people may be consuming more than the “safe” dose.
- Diarrhea, soft stools, and poor absorption of nutrients.
If you’ve been having an upset stomach or loose stools you may want to examine the labels of the food in your refrigerator and cabinets.
Even if you’re completely healthy, prevention is important too! Be sure to avoid carrageenan at all costs and begin reading labels. Luckily brands exist that don't use carrageenan.
- Bhattacharyya S1, Feferman L2, Tobacman JK. Carrageenan Inhibits Insulin Signaling through GRB10-Mediated Decrease in Phospho(Tyr)-IRS1 and through Inflammation-Induced Increase in Phospho(Ser307)-IRS1. J Biol Chem. 2015 Mar 17. pii: jbc.M114.630053. [Epub ahead of print]
- Weiner ML1. Food additive carrageenan: Part II: A critical review of carrageenan in vivo safety studies. Crit Rev Toxicol. 2014 Mar;44(3):244-69. doi: 10.3109/10408444.2013.861798. Epub 2014 Jan 28.
- Borthakur A1, Bhattacharyya S, Anbazhagan AN, Kumar A, Dudeja PK, Tobacman JK. Prolongation of carrageenan-induced inflammation in human colonic epithelial cells by activation of an NFκB-BCL10 loop. Biochim Biophys Acta. 2012 Aug;1822(8):1300-7. doi: 10.1016/j.bbadis.2012.05.001. Epub 2012 May 8.
- Borthakur A1, Bhattacharyya S, Dudeja PK, Tobacman JK.Carrageenan induces interleukin-8 production through distinct Bcl10 pathway in normal human colonic epithelial cells. Am J Physiol Gastrointest Liver Physiol. 2007 Mar;292(3):G829-38. Epub 2006 Nov 9.