Dr Andrew Weil has addressed the question of carrageenan, a “natural” food additive in many foods. There now appears to be alot of evidence that it is NOT harmless.

So READ YOUR LABELS: so many of those processed “milks” nut milk, soy milk rice milk etc have carrageenan (and/or guar gum) in them… and also yoghurt, ice cream cottage cheese…

A few quotes:

“Over the years Dr. Tobacman has published 18 peer-reviewed studies that address the biological effects of carrageenan and is convinced that it is harmful to human health [ malignancies and stomach problems]

Dr. Tobacman also told the board that in the past, drug investigators actually used carrageenan to cause inflammation in tissues in order to test the anti-inflammatory properties of new drugs. And she reported further that when laboratory mice are exposed to low concentrations of carrageenan for 18 days, they develop “profound” glucose intolerance and impaired insulin action, both of which can lead to diabetes.” – Dr Andrew Weil

Here is the whole article:

Is Carrageenan Safe? – Ask Dr. Weil.




    Q. What is Carrageenan??

    A. Carrageenan is a naturally-occurring seaweed extract. It is widely used in foods and non-foods to improve texture and stability. Common uses include meat and poultry, dairy products, canned pet food, cosmetics and toothpaste.
    Q. Why the controversy?
    A. Self-appointed consumer watchdogs have produced numerous web pages filled with words condemning carrageenan as an unsafe food additive for human consumption. However, in 70+ years of carrageenan being used in processed foods, not a single substantiated claim of an acute or chronic disease has been reported as arising from carrageenan consumption. On a more science-based footing, food regulatory agencies in the US, the EU, and in the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization/World Health Organization (FAO/WHO) repeatedly review and continue to approve carrageenan as a safe food additive.
    Q. What has led up to this misrepresentation of the safety of an important food stabilizer, gelling agent and thickener?
    A. It clearly has to be attributed to the research of Dr. Joanne Tobacman, an Associate Prof at the University of Illinois in Chicago. She and a group of molecular biologists have accused carrageenan of being a potential inflammatory agent as a conclusion from laboratory experiments with cells of the digestive tract. It requires a lot of unproven assumptions to even suggest that consumption of carrageenan in the human diet causes inflammatory diseases of the digestive tract. The objectivity of the Chicago research is also flawed by the fact that Dr Tobacman has tried to have carrageenan declared an unsafe food additive on weak technical arguments that she broadcast widely a decade before the University of Chicago research began.

    Q. What brings poligeenan into a discussion of carrageenan?
    A. Poligeenan (“degraded carrageenan” in pre-1988 scientific and regulatory publications) is a possible carcinogen to humans; carrageenan is not. The only relationship between carrageenan and poligeenan is that the former is the starting material to make the latter. Poligeenan is not a component of carrageenan and cannot be produced in the digestive tract from carrageenan-containing foods.
    Q. What are the differences between poligeenan and carrageenan?
    A. The production process for poligeenan requires treating carrageenan with strong acid at high temp (about that of boiling water) for 6 hours or more. These severe processing conditions convert the long chains of carrageenan to much shorter ones: ten to one hundred times shorter. In scientific terms the molecular weight of poligeenan is 10,000 to 20,000; whereas that of carrageenan is 200,000 to 800,000. Concern has been raised about the amount of material in carrageenan with molecular weight less than 50,000. The actual amount (well under 1%) cannot even be detected accurately with current technology. Certainly it presents no threat to human health.
    Q. What is the importance of these molecular weight differences?
    A. Poligeenan contains a fraction of material low enough in molecular weight that it can penetrate the walls of the digestive tract and enter the blood stream. The molecular weight of carrageenan is high enough that this penetration is impossible. Animal feeding studies starting in the 1960s have demonstrated that once the low molecular weight fraction of poligeenan enters the blood stream in large enough amounts, pre-cancerous lesions begin to form. These lesions are not observed in animals fed with a food containing carrageenan.

    Q. Does carrageenan get absorbed in the digestive track?
    A. Carrageenan passes through the digestive system intact, much like food fiber. In fact, carrageenan is a combination of soluble and insoluble nutritional fiber, though its use level in foods is so low as not to be a significant source of fiber in the diet.
    Carrageenan has been proven completely safe for consumption. Poligeenan is not a component of carrageenan.
    Closing Remarks
    The consumer watchdogs with their blogs and websites would do far more service to consumers by researching their sources and present only what can be substantiated by good science. Unfortunately we are in an era of media frenzy that rewards controversy.
    Additional information available:
    On June 11th, 2008, Dr. Joanne Tobacman petitioned the FDA to revoke the current regulations permitting use of carrageenan as a food additive.
    On June 11th, 2012 the FDA denied her petition, categorically addressing and ultimately dismissing all of her claims; their rebuttal supported by the results of several in-depth, scientific studies.
    If you would like to read the full petition and FDA response, they can be accessed at http://www.regulations.gov/#!searchResults;rpp=25;po=0;s=FDA-2008-P-0347

  2. Well I am very surprised and a little touched that the World’s Largest Independent Supplier of Carrageenan has decided to respond to my little post. Hell, most of my friends don’t even know my blog is here yet. It’s touching to think that they must believe that people like me, who are only interested in people’s health are some kind of a threat to their profits. I know Michael Pollan probably receives death threats from the factory farms but “World’s Largest Independent Supplier of Carrageenan”(sic) that’s kind of hilarious in so many ways.
    I guess it all boils down to who you get your information from and who you choose to align with. On the subject of carrageenan, I’m feeling aligned with Dr Andrew Weil (even though he is not perfect) and with a a molecular biologist. I’m not feeling at all aligned with the World’s Largest Independent Supplier of Carrageenan (sic). You can use the word “prove” as much as you like (in a legalistic way without acknowledging scientific process) and you can buy out any parts of the FDA that are still for sale. But I really think you are wasting your time replying with your cut and paste on my little blog, my peeps aren’t interested in factory processed so-called food and we are not interested in made-up controversies. It’s much easier to just eat real food. That’s a fundamental principle of our values. Why eat processed factory made food-like-substances when you enjoy preparing and eating real food? And when you live as one of the priviledged few who can actually choose what and how you eat and spend your money…

    So I’m going to approve this comment, not in the interests of “balanced journalism” but because it makes me feel powerful. I’m feel my personal power in a way that the cleaning products commercials can never come close to making me feel.

    1. You have a right to think what ever you want, as do the rest of us. As for myself, if I felt that carrageenan was harmful I wouldn’t let my family consume it and I wouldn’t be working for a company that sells it. I can assure you that I personally am not getting rich off this product and that I have read everything I can get my hands on regarding in, good and bad, and I choose to believe the hard science not the hype.

  3. Debbie aka Debbie Young works for Ingredient Solutions Inc., the world’s largest independent supplier of carrageenan, FYI. She goes around to every blog she can find, even chat forums, where carrageenan is being discussed, then posts her company’s FAQ talking points on carrageenan. My favorite part is where she calls us all “self appointed consumer watchdogs”…I hope to GOD we are all self-appointed watchdogs of what these megacorporations are putting in our food!! Shouldn’t we all be wary of tons of added processed ingredients? Shouldn’t we all have critical thinking skills and apply those to what we are putting in our bodies???

    1. HI Melissa how sweet to have a comment from the GP. Its obvious from the way Debbie writes that she is either 1) a paid “troll” for the company or 2) completely deluded. She says she works for a company that sells it and “is not getting rich” and that just suggests that her job is poorly paid trolling. My website is for people who make their own decisions about their health based on the available (quality) information. I left it up there because it made me laugh.

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