Today’s article is about carrageenan- something that is found in a lot of foods, but not a lot of people know about it. This food additive has been in the headlines a lot lately with many calling on the FDA to do further research on its use.
Carrageenan is derived from red algae, which is then processed through an alkaline procedure to produce a “natural” food ingredient. It is widely known for it’s inflammatory properties, meaning that it actually causes inflammation. It is used as a food additive, and it carries no nutritional value at all. Its unique chemical structure makes it useful as a binder, thickening agent and stabilizer. It has even made its way into many organic foods! A short list of products that contain it are: ice cream, yogurt, cottage cheese, almond milk, coconut milk, toothpaste, baby formula, deli meats and many, many more. This additive is also found in shoe polish, shampoo and air freshener gels.
Research has suggested that carrageenan can wreak havoc on your body, especially the digestive system. It triggers an immune response that is inflammatory. It has been linked to bloating, irritable bowel syndrome, colitis, intestinal lesions, abnormal colon glands and other colorectal conditions. It can even cause glucose intolerance, which leads to diabetes. The fact that it is inflammatory suggests that it can be linked to any other condition that is caused by chronic inflammation.
This is a reminder to always check your ingredient labels before buying food - and remember that the best foods don’t even have labels! Also, keep in mind that ingredients are not required by law to be listed on alcoholic beverages; carrageenan is commonly used to clarify beer, but would not be listed on the label.
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“Carrageenan - Food Ingredient Facts.” Food Ingredient Facts, 2017, www.foodingredientfacts.org/facts-on-food-ingredients/sources-of-food-ingredients/carrageenan/.
Pointer, Kathleen. “Should You Remove Carrageenan from Your Diet?” Healthline, Healthline Media, 20 Mar. 2017, www.healthline.com/health/food-nutrition/carrageenan.