Beware of Carrageenan

January 9, 2010 at 10:02 pm 7 comments

As a vegetarian and all-around nice person to animals, I used to buy alot of soymilk, specifically Silk, thinking I was being pretty healthy. It’s organic, it tastes good, they make that tasty eggnog version at christmas, but I was recently enlightened about a very dangerous additive found in most store bought soymilks—carrageenan.

A natural food additive derived from seaweed, carrageenan is a proven carcinogen and has been found to cause all sorts of digestive problems for people, and was shown to cause intestinal lesions in animals (which we are). Turns out, carrageenan is a cheap additive that big companies are using to save costs, and putting us at risk. It’s found in many things too, not just soymilk, so check your labels. You’ll find it in ice cream, chocolate milks like Nesquik, diet sodas, yogurt, cottage cheese, even beer. Oh, and carrageenan is even used to de-ice airplanes. YUM.

Here’s a link to the full study. And, here’s an excerpt:

Wakabayashi and associates (72) demonstrated the appearance of colonic tumors in 32% of rats fed 10% degraded carrageenan in the diet for less than 24 months. The lesions included squamous cell carcinomas, adenocarcinomas, and adenomas. With exposure to 5% degraded carrageenan in drinking water, there was a 100% incidence of colonic metaplasia after 15 months.

100 percent— That’s 10 in 10, people. I’m not experimenting with that. On the positive side, I’ve learned that it’s actually really easy to make your own soy and nut milks at home, and a lot cheaper too. Stay tuned for more on that. In the meantime, check labels and if you need to buy soy/rice/nut milks, choose one that’s carrageenan free, like West Soy.

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7 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Andrea  |  January 13, 2010 at 9:53 pm

    I just recently looked into this as we drink soymilk like crazy in our house. The carrageenan they are talking about in this study is degraded carrageenan. This is not the kind used in food, which is undegraded. Eden Foods has a great page describing this difference. http://www.edenfoods.com/articles/view.php?articles_id=82
    And I did check and Silk (which is what we drink as well) also uses the undegraded kind. The degraded carrageenan can not be used in food.
    Hope that eases your mind!

  • 2. growindie  |  January 14, 2010 at 2:19 am

    Actually, I encourage you to look a little deeper—-the manufacturers of these products are, of course, biased, and the FDA is notorious for approving ingredients that are later found to be dangerous (just look at their track record: http://health.msn.com/health-topics/articlepage.aspx?cp-documentid=100198246)

    Here is a study that shows that food grade carrageenan is converted to degraded carrageenan in the body:
    http://www.jstor.org/pss/3455192

    And, here are some personal stories of people who have had bad reactions to carrageenan: http://www.jstor.org/pss/3455192

    If you drink soymilk like crazy, I would encourage you to start making your own, so you don’t consume the chemicals or preservatives found in store-bought versions. Why experiment with your health?

  • 3. Grow Indie Test Kitchen: The Soyabella «  |  February 7, 2010 at 7:28 pm

    […] that whole carrageenan scare about store bought soymilk, I decided to take matters into my own hands and start making milks at home. Crazy you say? No, […]

  • 4. Rebecca  |  March 1, 2010 at 4:26 pm

    Food grade Carrageenan is absolutely NOT a carcinogen or toxic in any way. It is red seaweed, grown and cultivated in the Philippines and other places, and has been used for thousands of years. I have been researching this for various reasons, one of them is to create my own coffee creamer using raw honey, possibly coconut oil, (naturally pressed, organic), and other ingredients, to avoid using sugar. No matter what form it’s in- raw, organic, what ever, sugar can cause diabetes and other health problems.

    There are people that have reactions to foods and there may be some who have one to red seaweed. There are folks who are allergic to peanuts, milk, soy, fish, etc.

    I do not work for any chemical company or food company; I am a singer and I sell on eBay. I would encourage you all to have an attitude of gratitude rather than fear with regard to the unbelievable variety of nutritious food available to us. Read a bit about how people had to live in the middle ages, without the luxuries that even the most poor among us enjoy, today. They rarely lived past 40 or 50 and were constantly becoming ill from food borne pathogens and polluted water. Today, a large percentage of us are living into and even beyond our 80’s.

    I would even go as far to say that it is because of chemical companies- the ones who have helped create additives in food that protect us from food-borne illness, create vaccines that have literally wiped disease out in the western world and created the life saving drugs we can take, if needed.

    Yes, there have been chemicals that were found to be hazardous to our health but instead of assuming that “chemicals” are bad for you, consider that absolutely natural things can kill you too. Night shade & arsenic are completely natural and kill. If you were to eat the stalk of a tomato plant, it would either make you very sick or kill you. The DDT debacle was completely unproven hysteria that has resulted in millions of deaths in Africa and other 3rd world countries. So, while we all want to be healthy, we also need to be grateful to those who have provided incredible safety for our food.

  • 5. FlyingAvatar  |  April 26, 2010 at 1:08 am

    Degraded carrageenan aka poligeenan is not the carageenan used in food.

    Poligeenan is derived from carageenan, but is created for industrial purposes and it is not a food additive.

  • 6. Mark Kastel  |  May 1, 2012 at 5:58 pm

    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. BY MAY 3!

    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/

  • 7. Melody Morrell  |  March 20, 2013 at 6:57 pm

    The Cornucopia Institute just released a report compiling the scientific evidence linking the food additive carrageenan to gastrointestinal inflammation and disease. The press release and report are available here: http://www.cornucopia.org/ and http://www.cornucopia.org/carrageenan-2013/. They’re also asking people who cut carrageenan out of their diet and who noticed improvements in their gastrointestinal health to fill out an online questionnaire (http://www.cornucopia.org/carrageenan-questionnaire/), which is designed to assist medical researchers in better understanding the impact of carrageenan on public health.

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