Harmful or Harmless: Carrageenan | Chris Kresser

Harmful or Harmless: Carrageenan

by Chris Kresser

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Carrageenan is found in non-dairy products such as almond milk and coconut milk. Yuri Arcurs/Hemera/Thinkstock

Carrageenan, a heavily discussed additive in the world of alternative health, is an indigestible polysaccharide that is extracted from red algae, and is most commonly used in food as a thickener or stabilizer. Carrageenan-containing seaweeds have been used for centuries in food preparations for their gelling properties, but the refined, isolated carrageenan found in modern processed foods has raised concerns in the health-conscious online community. (1)

Carrageenan is especially common in non-dairy milks such as almond milk and coconut milk, which means that some people who transition to a Paleo diet might actually be increasing their exposure if they use these products. I discussed carrageenan on a recent podcast, but today I want to give you a more detailed summary of the evidence.

Hold the almond milk… is carrageenan affecting your health?

There are a few distinct types of carrageenan that differ in their chemical properties, but the most important distinction is between degraded carrageenan and undegraded carrageenan. From a chemical standpoint, the difference between these two types is in their molecular weight. From a practical standpoint, undegraded carrageenan is approved for use in food products, while degraded carrageenan is not. (2) Although both substances are often referred to as ‘carrageenan,’ they have very different chemical properties and should really be treated as separate compounds. Degraded carrageenan is also called ‘poligeenan,’ which is how I will refer to it in the rest of this article to avoid any confusion.

Animal studies

Most of the carrageenan hysteria stems from animal studies that implicate carrageenan in the formation of ulcerations and cancerous lesions in the colon. A thorough review of the approximately 45 available animal studies on carrageenan was published in 2001, and at first glance, these studies seem alarming. However, it turns out that the majority of these animal experiments used poligeenan instead of carrageenan, and as I mentioned before, these are two separate compounds with different effects. Poligeenan is significantly more detrimental to the health of lab animals than carrageenan, so the lack of a clear designation between them has given carrageenan a worse reputation than it deserves.

One important difference is that while poligeenan can cause cancer on its own when given in high enough concentrations, undegraded carrageenan has only ever been shown to accelerate cancer formation when administered with a known carcinogen. (3) In other words, food-grade carrageenan has not been shown to cause cancer in animal models. That doesn’t necessarily mean carrageenan is in the clear when it comes to cancer, but contrary to popular belief, it is not a known carcinogen.

Additionally, poligeenan produces more severe ulceration and inflammation than carrageenan, and at lower concentrations. As an example, a study on rhesus monkeys using poligeenan at 0.5-2% resulted in diarrhea, hemorrhage, and ulcerations, while carrageenan at 1-3% resulted in no colonic changes. (4) (For reference, the concentration of carrageenan in processed food is usually between 0.01% and 1%.) (5)

However, carrageenan has produced intestinal damage in some animal studies. Observed effects in rats include epithelial cell loss, increased intestinal permeability, and diarrhea. (6) In guinea pigs, carrageenan at a 5% concentration in the diet caused ulcers in the colon, although a similar concentration in the diets of rats and hamsters resulted in no difference from controls. (7) In pigs, concentrations of carrageenan between .05 and .5% administered for 83 days resulted in abnormalities in the intestinal lining, but no ulcerations or tumors. (8) Still, a more recent rat study found no ulcerations or lesions in the colon after 90 days of carrageenan administration. (9) These studies suggest that the effects of carrageenan are highly species-dependent, which makes it more difficult to extrapolate these results to humans.

There are a few other important considerations when determining how applicable these results are to humans. Many of these experiments administered the carrageenan through the animals’ drinking water as opposed to their food, which tends to increase the severity of the resulting symptoms. Because carrageenan interacts with protein molecules, consuming it as part of a solid food is much less harmful than consuming it in water. Also, although many of the concentrations administered are comparable to concentrations found in processed foods, many experiments were conducted at concentrations much higher than humans would ever encounter on a normal diet. Remember, these studies are looking at carrageenan as a percentage of the entire diet, not just less than 1% of a small portion of the total diet, as is the case when using milk replacement products.

Human studies

Experimental evidence on the effects of carrageenan in humans is extremely limited, for obvious ethical reasons. However, a few in vitro experiments have been conducted on isolated human intestinal cells.

One study found that in intestinal epithelial tissue, carrageenan exposure increased the expression of two pro-inflammatory transcription factors. (10) This reaction appears to be protective of the intestinal tight junctions, because suppression of either of the inflammatory factors resulted in increased permeability of the isolated epithelial tissue. Unfortunately, it’s unclear whether they used food-grade carrageenan rather than poligeenan in this experiment.

Two similar studies that did use food-grade carrageenan also found that isolated intestinal epithelial tissue responded to carrageenan by up regulating inflammation. (11, 12) Another study on human intestinal epithelium found that undegraded carrageenan reduced the activity of many sulfatase enzymes, with potential negative ramifications for the function and vitality of the cell. (13)

Finally, another study found that exposing human intestinal epithelial cells to undegraded carrageenan in concentrations lower than what would be found in a typical diet caused increased cell death, reduced cell proliferation, and cell cycle arrest. (14)

These studies provide some support for the generalization of the animal studies to humans, implicating carrageenan in the potential for intestinal inflammation. However, it’s important to remember that not only were these studies in vitro (aka not in the human body), they also didn’t administer the carrageenan with any food, so the effects observed may differ significantly from what actually occurs when humans ingest carrageenan in a real-world setting.

Exposure to poligeenan

Because poligeenan can be produced from carrageenan, many researchers and laypeople have expressed concern that we might be exposed to poligeenan through contamination of the food supply. However, the most recent sources indicate that the poligeenan contamination level of food-grade carrageenan is less than 5%. (15)

Another encouraging data point in this situation is that while carrageenan is an extremely effective thickener and emulsifier at concentrations as low as .01%, poligeenan has no functional effect in food even at concentrations up to 10%. (16) Specific chemical processing is necessary for carrageenan to be degraded to poligeenan, and because poligeenan is of no use in the food industry, it seems unlikely that poligeenan would show up in appreciable quantities in processed foods.

Another concern is whether small percentages of ingested carrageenan are degraded to poligeenan in the digestive tract after consumption, either because of the acidic environment or because of intestinal bacteria. Some experimental evidence indicates that as much as 10-20% of carrageenan could be degraded to poligeenan during digestion, while other researchers (not surprisingly funded by the carrageenan industry) assert that carrageenan is stable throughout digestion. (17, 18) Regardless, the significant differences between poligeenan and carrageenan as evidenced by the reactions of lab animals make it pretty clear that even if some degradation does take place, carrageenan still doesn’t have the potential for harm that poligeenan does.

Conclusion

As with magnesium stearate and soy lecithin, carrageenan has been frequently portrayed as significantly more harmful than is supported by available evidence. Contrary to popular belief, it’s not a known carcinogen, and although some studies implicate carrageenan in ulceration and inflammation, some show no adverse effects.

However, I do still think caution is warranted. If I had to rank additives, I’d say carrageenan is a bit more concerning than the other two additives we’ve discussed so far because of its association with gut issues. Remember, in cases involving modern ingredients, the burden of proof should be on manufacturers to prove that they’re safe, rather than on consumers to prove that they’re harmful. Because the evidence isn’t conclusive either way, I recommend avoiding carrageenan, especially if you have a history of digestive problems.

Personally, I adhere to the “precautionary principle” for anything I eat; in other words, in the absence of proven safety, I choose to avoid foods that have questionable adverse effects. Carrageenan fits this description, as there’s still some doubt about its safety and no evidence has convinced me that there isn’t a potential for harm if consumed regularly.

Occasional exposure is likely nothing to worry about, but for most people reading this, avoiding carrageenan is probably as simple as making your own nut milk or coconut milk, so I would encourage you to give that a shot. Also, if you follow the links to those two posts, some commenters have shared brands of almond and coconut milk that don’t contain carrageenan (although watch out for other additives that may be present).

If anyone has any other brand recommendations or favorite non-dairy milk recipes, feel free to share in the comments!

427 Comments

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  1. I’m curious why Chris Kresser would even want to carry water for the carrageenan producers and food additive industries. We have a product (carrageenan) attached to a smoking gun (colitis, and possibly cancer).

    Why would we continue to use this dubious additive when so many other thickeners are available, with fewer side effects. Food producers could use the same stuff that you put in your gravy – corn starch.

    The gig is up on this ingredient as the responses above with links to products without carrageenan illustrates. No amount of “scientific” obfuscation will fix this product.

  2. If carrageenan is the last ingredient on the list of ingredients, is it still something to worry about?

    • Sure. It doesn’t state the concentration.

      Incidentally, I came here after finding carageenan listed as an ingredient in a whole raw chicken.

    • They use a lot of carrageenan in lunch meat ! Especially NAE meats !! It is used as a binder in the meats. Reading this worries me because I work with this a lot and it’s very fine gets in the air like baby powder !!

  3. Chris, please consider doing a follow-up article about carrageenan and MSG. The Truth in Labeling website, which is longstanding and reputable, provides extensive research about MSG, aka processed free glutamic acid, an excitotoxin.

    Carrageenan is also a source of MSG/processed free glutamic acid.

    Processed food manufacturers no longer use the term MSG: they now hide the stuff in 40 ingredients which are added to processed foods, including foods labeled as organic. Truth in Labeling has a list of these 40 or so names. Industry keeps adding to this list, so a consumer MUST keep up on research.

    In addition, many of these additives are legally allowed to be added to foods labeled as organic, under the USDA National Organic Program (NOP).

    Some are from GMO source. For example industrial citric acid (legally allowed in foods labeled as organic) is now being sourced from GMO (non-organic) corn – it does NOT come from citrus fruits! It is also a hidden source of MSG/processed free glutamic acid. This same citric acid may be used to wash fruits and vegetables and there is no way we have of knowing that has been done.

    The chemical MSG itself is being made, most often, by using GMO, Round-Up Ready sugar beets (!!!), through an industrial fermentation process.

    Here is the list of ingredients allowed to be added to organic foods by the USDA NOP regs. which also contain (an unknown percentage of) MSG/processed free glutamic acid:

    This list was cross-referenced with available lists of 40+ ingredients containing hidden processed free glutamic acid:

    -citric acid – produced by microbial fermentation of carbohydrate substances
    -carrageenan
    -enzymes
    -flavors
    -gellan gum
    -yeast (may include products like yeast autolysate, brewers yeast, nutritional yeast and so on)
    -acidified sodium chlorite—Secondary direct antimicrobial food treatment and indirect food contact surface sanitizing. Acidified with citric acid only
    -calcium citrate
    -xanthan gum
    -gelatin
    -gums – water extracted only (arabic; guar; locust bean; and carob bean)
    -starches, cornstarch
    -whey protein concentrate

    Please see:
    http://www.truthinlabeling.org/SourcesBrochure.pdf

    MSG list updated as of March, 2014: http://www.truthinlabeling.org/hiddensources.html

    Unblind My Mind: http://unblindmymind.org/wpsystem/wp-content/uploads/2013/04/Various_Ways_Free_Glutamate.pdf

    Battling the MSG Myth: http://www.msgmyth.com/Hidden_Names_for_MSG.pdf

    MSG Truth: http://msgtruth.org/avoid.htm

    Food Intolerance Network (AU, not US, source): http://fedup.com.au/images/stories/129MSGlist.pdf

    USDA National Organic Program (NOP): http://www.ecfr.gov/cgi-bin/text-idx?c=ecfr&SID=9874504b6f1025eb0e6b67cadf9d3b40&rgn=div6&view=text&node=7:3.1.1.9.32.7&idno=7#se7.3.205_1605

    http://www.ecfr.gov/cgi-bin/text-idx?c=ecfr&SID=9874504b6f1025eb0e6b67cadf9d3b40&rgn=div6&view=text&node=7:3.1.1.9.32.7&idno=7#se7.3.205_1606

    Laura

  4. This is very helpful to me I’m not over 18.. but I’m vegan and I am writing that chocolate milk essay… yeah… I’m obviously against it so I’m trying to ban it from my school. I need some help on trying to get it banned any ideas?

  5. Your concern that paleo people who drink plant milks may get too much carageenan made me laugh. It’s main use is in the dairy and meat industry.

    • Soy milk is where I got sick on it, so be aware it’s not just dairy and meat products that contain it.

      • Carrageenan is in almost anything that involves thickening agents in food. This article states that these experiments are irrelevant to humans, when so many people these days have irritable bowel syndrom, celiac and other digestive diseases. The experiment has already begun- carrageenan, xanthem gum and its other derivatives are not only being leaked into processed foods but also organic foods. This also includes *natural flavors and other modified foods.

    • The article source: International Food Additives Council (IFAC). Always question who funds a study or research. There are so many ways a study can be steered to highlight a desired result.

  6. Thank you to each of you for all your stories and information at 47 I was diagnosed with C.M.L. cancer of the bone morrow and My brother at age 56 was diagnosed with anal cancer he died 4 months later. what we had in common was our food source Milton Cream mother made with every thing every week. do I know if this is what cause our different cancer no but there is no other explanation Pork lard milk based bisquit weekly potatoe soup weekly with wilson or milnot cream. I’m now 58 still on chemo I do read the labels and stay away from Carrdegenns but I know I’m slipping I can no longer spell or think correctly I have been on a chemo target drug 11 years I’m starting to have so many issues I can only pray I get to see my granddaughters though High School. Yes I worked hard all my life in factories to have a better life for my family. I never expected to hear the words you are going to die you don’t have long if this drug doesn’t work for you. so far it has I’m truly blessed to be here this long I miss my brother terribly.My eyes are falling and my mind Take care each one of you watch every crumb you eat grow your own food with no chemicals Thanks for listening.

    • Try to drink organic green leaf smoothies three times a day. There are many websites that are spefically dealing with raw food intake to resolve even the worse cancer conditions. Cancer cells feed on carbohydrate and sugar . If you eliminate those , there is a good possibility that you can reverse the hillness. You must want to beat the beast at any cost and be strong in foñlowing this diet.

      • Max, is the “organic green leaf” smoothie a brand drink or made in blender at home? Thank you.

      • All cells feed off of carbohydrates, our bodies process everything into glucose that transports through our blood. There’s hypoglycemia (too much glucose) and hyperglycemia (too little), but even if you’re eating lettuce, your body breaks it down to sugar to make it available​ to all cells (cancer or otherwise). I’m not saying don’t eat well, just that your statement is misleading.

    • Those of us who live in apartments and/or in the city cannot grow our own food! Why don’t you think about that before posting such a stupid thing?!

      • Anyone can grow food anywhere. Even if it’s only a few herbs in a pot on a windowsill. You don’t need to have a farm in the country and acres of land to grow a few tomatoes or peppers. Anything is better than nothing.

  7. From my years of personal experience, I can say without a doubt… carrageenan is definitely harmful to humans!!
    Forty years ago, I was diagnosed with Crohn’s disease. When I was 29 my Crohn’s got so debilitating that I had to undergo surgery (bowel resection with 2 feet of intestines removed). After surgery I followed the diet I was given at the hospital, but my health was quickly deteriorating… I was headed towards more surgery. The diet and medication were not helping me at all. In desperation, I finally decided that I would try an elimination diet to see if I could determine whether any particular foods or ingredients were exacerbating the condition of my guts. After a long process, which took many months, I found that my two major triggers were… MSG and carrageenan. I had heard that MSG caused migraines in some people, but I didn’t know anything else about the food additive. I knew even less about carrageenan… I didn’t even know how to pronounce the word. Less than a year after eliminating these ingredients from my diet, I was not only finally able to gain a bit of weight, but I was also able to stop taking all medication. I’m now 63 and to this day, if I accidentally have any food with either MSG or carrageenan in it, I react within 10 to 15 minutes of ingesting it. Sometimes I’m affected for only 4 to 5 hours, other times my reaction can last a day or two, or even longer.

      • I am one who is very sensitive to MSG. My last major reaction was at an oriental restaurant. Within 30 minutes of eating I had a massive headache, nausea and I had nearly passed out. I have not had a reaction that severe since but a small thing like a snack bag of seasoned chips will give me a pretty bad headache that will last over 12 hours.
        I did not realize that mushrooms have MSG in them and I eat them all the time with no effect. Curious. Maybe it is just the difference between naturally occurring MSG and the quantity of refined MSG as a food additive.

      • Food scientist… thanks I didn’t know that mushrooms contain MSG. I’m able to eat mushrooms without any reaction. But, I will keep that in mind in case I react to them in the future.

    • My husband, in his 50s, started having trouble emptying his bladder when urinating. He was only getting an hour of sleep at a time each night because he had the constant need to try to empty his bladder. Trips to the bathroom gave no relief. About that time he was diagnosed with high blood pressure and diabetes. He has an enlarged prostate, but tests show no prostate cancer was present. He was getting so little sleep he was nodding off at traffic stops. He was miserable.
      The doctors were prescribing him meds to relieve the symptoms but would not address his sleep issues. (A study on otherwise healthy college students was conducted. They were put through a period of sleep depredation after which they all showed signs of high blood pressure and diabetes.)
      My husband and I spent more than a year testing different foods to see food sensitivity was causing his trouble urinating. We found the culprit to be carrageenen. (We did not test MSG. MSG had already been eliminated from our diets because of the immediate and debilitating headaches it gave me.) Within two days of eliminating carrageenen he was symptom free…. and sleeping through the night. Most people are probably not as sensitive as he is, due to his enlarged prostate, but the carrageenen caused enough inflammation for him to completely change his life.

    • I appreciate your testimony. Too often, people treat our situation as an anomaly or even worse… they treat us as if we are alarmists. Official studies do not support our experience. Carrageenen may not noticeably affect most people but for a good many people it may be the difference between a good quality of life and …. no life at all. Thank you

  8. Regarding Carrageenan, it is found in most canned pet foods and I was aware of the controversy however, fed it to my two cats due to the lack of Non-Carrageenan canned pet food. I have witnessed first hand the ravages carrageenan has on a body of a cat. Food grade un-degraded Carrageenan gets “degraded” in stomach acid under certain conditions. (My cat ate his toys apart, like pieces of feather etc., and Japanese beetles, irritating his digestive lining, creating a perfect host for Carrageenan Inflammation) As well, research and studies have found food grade un-degraded Carrageenan is contaminated with degraded Carrageenan more often than not.
    Carrageenan slowly killed my 2 year 10 month old cat, over a period of two years. Onset of loose stool, over time into diarrhea, vomiting, passing of bright bloody mucus, surgery to his intestine (10″ between small and large). Intestine ulcerated with large non-cancerous growth. Continued to be sick not recovering. Effected left eye, went blind in left eye with detached retina. Ended life when he could also no longer pass urine without great pain, and it was suspected he had developed diabetes although Vet did not test for it; TOO MANY OTHER TEST WERE IN MOTION. Cause: “Inflammation from unknown source”. Not Cancer, Not Infection, No disease. I kept him on anti-anxiety medication to cope with the chronic pain, control vomiting and encourage him to eat because the Vet told me he should “recover”.

    Google: MOUSE PAW EDEMA: A laboratory process that injects un-degraded carrageen into limbs of rodents to induce inflammation for screening anti-inflammatory drugs.
    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/3690058

    Thousands of dollars given to the Vet over two years time, of whom still defends “Carrageenan”! They get away with it because your government has approved this monster stuff, AND IT IS LUCRATIVE FOR THEIR CLINIC TO DO SO. There is a reason you see so many ads all over for IBD in humans. READ THE RESEARCH AVAILABLE IF YOU LOVE YOUR PET LIKE A FAMILY MEMBER. I WISH I KNEW THEN, WHAT I KNOW NOW AND YES, I MISS SWAYZE PROFOUNDLY.

    • Just so you are aware. The symptoms of your cat are identical to a strain of Coccidia (microscopic protozoa parasite) in the intestinal tract. (the one that looks like green, black & pink abalone under a microscope) Affects the lining of the intestine first then wrecks havoc on mainly kidneys, liver and finally lungs, but does affect other systems.
      Most vets ignore the intestinal tract or if they do a stool exam only look for 2 well- known varieties (oval egg shape and a black & white puzzle looking round) OR they centrifuge the sample which causes the oocysts to stick to the sides, giving a “false negative”.
      Im a vet tech.

    • Just curious. How did you narrow it down to this ingredient? And what brand or brands did you feed your kitty? This is why I am actually researching Caraneegenan because of the controversy over it in my cats food. My oldest cat Bella has been having some stools with blood in them. No other symptoms except that. But there are other controversial ingredients as well that I am suspicious of. I am trying to get her off the “crap” brands but she is a SUPER finicky and picky eater. Not to mention, even the premium brands carry this chemical. I’m slowing switching her from what she is on and trying to see if the bloody stools diminish. Please let me know if you have anything else to add. I am sorry for the loss of your kitty. I will definitely take into consideration. All to often we don’t take in account the realization or underestimate others stories until something crazy happens to ourselves and we have no other proof except our word. Thanks for sharing.

      • Hi Josie, I’ve also done a lot of research on carrageenan. After losing our beloved cat in April, we decided to adopt 4 cats, who needed a home, in June. We were told by the rescue that the best food for them is canned grain free foods. We feed our babies Performatrin Ultra and Weruva as they are grain free AND carrageenan free. If you research ‘carrageenan free cat food’ you’ll find even more brands. Best of luck, I hope your kitty finds one that she likes.

  9. Regarding Carrageenan, it is found in most canned pet foods and I was aware of the controversy however, fed it to my two cats due to the lack of Non-Carrageenan canned pet food. I have witnessed first hand the ravages carrageenan has on a body of a cat. Food grade un-degraded Carrageenan gets “degraded” in stomach acid under certain conditions. (My cat ate his toys apart, like pieces of feather etc., and Japanese beetles, irritating his digestive lining, creating a perfect host for Carrageenan Inflammation) As well, research and studies have found food grade un-degraded Carrageenan is contaminated with degraded Carrageenan more often than not.

    MOUSE PAW EDEMA: A laboratory process that injects un-degraded carrageen into limbs of rodents to induce inflammation for screening anti-inflammatory drugs.
    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/3690058

    Carrageenan slowly killed my 2 year 10 month old cat, over a period of two years. Onset of loose stool, over time into diarrhea, vomiting, passing of bright bloody mucus, surgery to his intestine (10″ between small and large). Intestine ulcerated with large non-cancerous growth. Continued to be sick not recovering. Effected left eye, went blind in left eye with detached retina. Ended life when he could also no longer pass urine without great pain, and it was suspected he had developed diabetes although Vet did not test for it; TOO MANY OTHER TEST WERE IN MOTION. Cause: “Inflammation from unknown source”. Not Cancer, Not Infection, No disease. I kept him on anti-anxiety medication to cope with the chronic pain, control vomiting and encourage him to eat because the Vet told me he should “recover”.

    Google: MOUSE PAW EDEMA: A laboratory process that injects un-degraded carrageen into limbs of rodents to induce inflammation for screening anti-inflammatory drugs.
    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/3690058

    Thousands of dollars given to the Vet over two years time, of whom still defends “Carrageenan”! They get away with it because your government has approved this monster stuff, AND IT IS LUCRATIVE FOR THEIR CLINIC TO DO SO. There is a reason you see so many ads all over for IBD in humans. READ THE RESEARCH AVAILABLE IF YOU LOVE YOUR PET LIKE A FAMILY MEMBER. I WISH I KNEW THEN, WHAT I KNOW NOW AND YES, I MISS SWAYZE PROFOUNDLY.

  10. about 6 yrs ago my son started having severe intestinal problems while away at college. We had several doctor visits and test and even an ER visit and they couldn’t figure out what was wrong. He had started to eat more healthy and had added many new things to his diet. He was so miserable he went back to his old way of eating. Four years later when my daughter graduated from college she too started having intestinal issues. Hers were worse than my sons. She started to notice that they usually occurred after stopping at Starbucks on her way to work. She started investigating and found out about Carrageenan. She always had almond milk in her coffee and the brand they use has it in it. She had always used a different brand without it before and had no problems. So she stopped getting the Almond milk and the morning problems stopped. BUT then she found out when she had pumpkin pie at her boyfriends house she had the problems again. It turned out Carrageenan was in the evaporated milk used in the pie. She has gotten sick from desserts, lunch meats, yogurts etc. Every time, she found that the product included Carageenan. It usually hits her within a half hour of ingesting and she is very sick for half a day. We don’t take any chances now. When we go out to eat she tries to avoid mayo, cream sour cream etc. If she wants something with one of those things we ask the chef to check the ingredients. Once in awhile some item slips by and she is sick. We can always tie it back specifically to Carrageenan. Also, after she made her discovery, my son started to take notice of stomach issues and we found that his were also related to the product. I don’t believe anyone who says it is safe. Unfortunately my children were test subjects on how safe it is and it failed.

    • yeah, i have a similar reaction after eating popcorn. apparently, most do NOT.
      i have an allergic type reaction when consuming cow-milk products. sometimes it is scary cuz among other skin and upper respiratory reactions my throat starts swelling. But again, it seems that many do NOT.
      Took years to figure out that peanuts / peanut butter caused a sore throat so severe i spent several months each year for 5 yrs only whispering, unable to talk normally or for long.
      Apparently, many do NOT have such a reaction to peanut products.
      every so often i try them again, forgetting or just HOPING, but the body quickly and violently reminds me …”NO! not this”
      each time, took years to figure out and while others merrily consume these products, i must avoid them or be ill.

      outside of essential nutrients to survive, humans are omnivores and can eat LOTS of stuff and find some nutritional value, but food is complex and with the valuable stuff comes undesireable compounds that result in side effects for many.

      Humans have a genetic diversity and phenotype diversity with different tolerances.
      some have a peanut or carageenan issue, some have cow-milk or pollen issue.

      • Just so you know: humans have the flat teeth of herbivores (think horses and hippos). Humans also have the long digestive tract of herbivores, not the short efficient tracts found in carnivores. Herbivores need the long digestive process to extrude plant nutrients.

      • While true, some people may have allergies to peanuts, shellfish, milk and pollen which is a completely different type of allergy. Pollen (usually pollen from flowers versus trees because that pollen is smooth) can cause allergies in the nose not from ingestion. Allergies to peanuts,milk etc. Is not the same as caranageenan. Caranageenan is not in its true form although it is made from red seaweed that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s safe. Again, this is completely different than an allergy to a shrimp or peanut. Also, as the other person brought to your attention. Humans are mainly herbivore’s not omnivore’s. We should not “practically eat everything”.

    • I agree that it is not a safe product. I have been having having indigestion problems and IBS past few years. Not knowing what was causing it. My skin was itching daily with no hives or rash. I have been to allergists , dermatologist and five different Doctors over past five years. My tests shows no allergies. I went through process of eliminating foods, than ingredients. Sure enough it was Carageenan additive that was causing my indigestion and itching. Coffee mate was my number one culprit. i now read labels and do not purchase anything with carageenan if I can avoid it. my skin itches after eating now, I go back and search out the ingredients. It’s always Carageenan.

    • I found out years ago that I would get an immediate headache after ingesting carrageenan. That is why I always had a migraine at Thanksgiving after having the pumpkin pie and whipped cream. I now use a carrageenan-free half and half to make pumpkin pies and use Cool-whip. It’s hard to find a heavy cream without carrageenan. I found if I accidentally ingested carrageenan, I could stop the headache after taking two aspirin immediately. I can feel the pressure in my temples start to relax if I take it soon enough. So I am never without aspirin. I can’t ingest microcrystalline cellulose either, which is in many pharmaceuticals. It must be made from carrageenan.

  11. I have been using Nature’s Plus Source of Life Garden Calcium for years. Just recently I noticed that they added carrageenan to its capsule. I’m in shock. I have been using their calcium because it is organic. And now, I won’t use it. The company has not answered my emails about why they changed formulas.
    Does anyone know of another calcium from organic algae that I can switch to?

    • I was able to get in touch with the manufacturer of Nature’s Plus Source of Life Garden Calcium. They reformulated their capsule so that they can be certified Non-GMO. Apparently the stuff that’s inside the capsule is organic but their capsule wasn’t and so the new capsule now has carrageenan instead of vegetable cellulose. The rep said their carrageenan is from Irish Moss which is the ‘good’ carrageenan. If this is so, why is it not stated on their label like the calcium (from certified organic AlgaeCal) is.

  12. I removed dairy & eggs from my diet approx 2 years ago, well except for cheese which I love. Only managed to cut that out 4+ months ago. I definitely miss that.
    I found an Organic coconut milk is a small higher end supermarket here in Muscat, Oman where I temporarily live. The ingredients looked great. I wrote to the manufacturer ‘Earths Finest’ to make enquiries re’ their methods of extraction of the milk/creme, temperatures used & lining of the can. The response was all good until the last part, where they say they ‘Sterilise’ the product at 91 deg C ! What a huge disappointment, I will need to continue my milk/creme making from desiccated (dried)coconut. 🙁

      • 91C (195.8F) or higher temp. is Ultra-pasturization (UHT). It kills any beneficial bacteria/enzymes in milk, etc., leaving it dead but shelf-stable for a long, looonngg time.

  13. Try CocoBliss organic coconut ice cream or make ur own milk, cheese etc. Coco Bliss is 100% natural and chemical free, just coconut milk and organic sweeteners etc.

  14. This article looks to mostly cover the carcinogen effect, but what about inflammation? Or did I miss that part? I read previously that it is given to induce inflammation- and since I don’t want even more inflammation in my body, I avoid it. I wasn’t even aware of the cancer connection.

    • Tammy, I’m with you where is the inflammation info? I found out through an elimination diet that carrageenan was causing my aches and pain. I’m not talking a little muscle soreness, I’m talking it’s hard to get up and walk sore. So, like mentioned above I found out the hard way that they use it to induce arthritic symptoms in mice to test anti inflammatory drugs. It’s a bummer because I already didn’t eat dairy so it kind of nixed even the alternative ice creams and even cappaccinos. I think a lot of people are getting misdiagnosed with certain joint and muscle disorders and much of it is related to the food. ?

      • Wow, I was wondering if anyone was having the joint pains. Thanks for sharing your experience as I have been on an elimination diet for many things and have only now been suspecting carageenan as a possible joint pain cause. I will look up what you have written about the labs using it to create arthritis pain in mice. There are many people who are okay with the “it’s arthritis” diagnosis, but I am not as I believe
        there is a cause and like you say, it is very likely could be in the food.

  15. I noticed I would feel sick to my stomach after drinking one of my favorite health drinks. I felt my stomach get hot, and my insides would feel like they’re burning up, and I started to realize it happened after I drank my favorite drink.

    I started researching alternatives to my favorite health drink and in the alternatives I found a discussion about carrageenan and that we shouldn’t eat or drink it because it caused inflammation. I grabbed my favorite health drink and sure enough, saw that carrageenan was one of the ingredients.

    I decided to experiment on myself (and I didn’t want to just throw out my favorite drink that I paid a decent amount of money… I didn’t want to just waste it, so I experimented.)

    I didn’t drink it for a week, no stomach problems. Then, while I had planned on experimenting with them, I was in a hurry and decided to grab one and drink it. Sure enough, I remembered the experiment I wanted to do when I suddenly felt my stomach getting angry at me. I wondered how I had never noticed it before.

    The next day after work I drank another one, and sure enough, immediately felt sick to my stomach.

    Anyway, its clear in my mind, that at least for me, CARRAGEENAN causes my stomach to get upset, makes me feel sick to my stomach and gives me digestive problems.

    • What WAS your favorite health drink?! I kept reading curious to find out but ya left me with the mystery! lol

      • I hear you a very high dollar probiotic called Dr. Ohhira’s professional formula has it in it and has messed a lot stomachs up I also think a lot of people can tolerate it like it’s nothing and others can’t.

    • Jem,
      you never answered the person who asked you
      what was the name of your “favorite drink”??
      We’d all be interested in knowing.

      Also, how do you know it was the carageenan in the drink specifically, that made your stomach sick?? Could have been anyone of the other ingredients, no??

  16. Given everything read here, what makes the most sense is to return to a completely natural diet where all ingredients are natural and therefore safe. Yes it is more work, but in the long run less than if it prevents one from becoming sick.

  17. I recently tried SoNice Barrista Blend and I just looked at it and it has Carrageenan in it. I checked my Almond milk Earth’s Own Vanilla Almond milk and it doesn’t have it in it but it does have Gellan gum so I’m going to make my own!

  18. Hey everyone! Is anyone else tired of people talking about carrageenan as if it is red meat, or cheese, or alcohol (products that REALLY cause big-time problems for many people. )

    I’ve been vegan for 23 years and have eaten carrageenan in some form almost daily. I have no stomach problems and I’m in great shape. I officially think this whole carrageenan thing has been blown out of proportion, as it pertains to the FOOD WE ACTUALLY EAT! No one is eating a big ‘ol bowl of plain carrageenan! RIGHT?

    I know I’m not alone in feeling this way, but when companies began replacing carrageenan, product quality suffered. Everything tastes “thinner”… No mouth-feel. Bolthouse Farms Soy Vanilla Chai is undrinkable compared to its old self. I can’t find any good-tasting nondairy mild anymore!

    How are we going to get people off dairy (a PROVEN inflammatory agent and murderous industry) and onto plant-based products if the quality is lacking? See the bigger picture?

    If the final “potential poligeenan” amount in a glass of soymilk is 0.006grams, I’m OK with that. I am!

    Anyone else willing to speak up for common sense here?

    The largest carrageenan producer is also the largest gellan producer (much more expensive ingredient), so I don’t think they are being hurt by this… Maybe even helped.

    Regardless, the 99.999% of the population who isn’t sensitive to carrageenan would like the hijacking of our delicious vegan foods to stop!

    • Ryan Howard, I suppose as long as it doesn’t bother you or make you sick, then we should all be forced to eat it? Some of us DO react very badly to it. I drank Silk Soy milk thinking it was a healthy alternative to regular milk for two years before it started negatively affecting me. I get severe stomach cramps, ocular migraines and other symptoms when I consume this garbage now. I have had to cut heavy cream, eggnog, ice cream, buttermilk and other dairy products containing carrageenan out of my diet and when I did, my symptoms went away. But I guess who cares if I get sick as long as you have a good mouth feel? If manufacturers want to include this junk in their products and people like you want to eat it, that’s fine with me. But also offer an alternative version of the product for those of us who have no choice in whether we eat it or not, because it makes us sick. Thankfully in recent years some manufacturers are offering some products without it. This year I found an organic eggnog I can drink that is free of it. I also found an organic chocolate milk that I can drink, if I want to pay 4 times the price of regular milk. I can only afford to buy that sparingly. Not everyone will be affected by carrageenan, but have some compassion for those of us who are and count yourself lucky that you aren’t. Yet.

      • Laurie, I’m fine with alternatives, but I couldn’t find one milk WITH carrageenan in it the other night at the store. It’s far superior in mouth feel, in my opinion.

        Again, I’ve been drinking this stuff for 23 years and no issues. I would like to be able to continue… But the fear mongering is high! Someone on this page blamed dizziness and stomach cramps on carrageenan in an ICED CUPPACINO DRINK instead of blaming caffeine. That’s nuts!

        And that people are worried about the carrageenan in processed meats instead OF THE MEAT is hilarious.

        One single researcher reviewing papers and a quackwatch-listed website (cornucopia) can change an industry, I assume.

        • I can agree that eggnog with carrageenan is thicker and has a better texture, but what good is that if I get sick drinking it? Milk itself isn’t the problem here, most milk alone does not contain carrageenan, it’s the products made from milk – heavy cream, buttermilk, eggnog, ice cream, etc – that contain it, as a thickener, I think. To give that mouth feel you value so highly. 🙂 Milk has been the only dairy product I could have until recently. I ended up buying an ice cream machine so I can make my own ice cream. I am looking into a way to make my own buttermilk as well. The limited selection in the store has forced me to be more self-reliant in making healthy foods.

          • I hate the smooth feel and texture (and taste depending) of thickening additives in ice cream. I love the delightful delicate way real ice cream in the mouth crumbles, breaks apart into quickly dissolving liquid. The process is fascinating. I’ve actually have had ice cream thick s glue that my mouth got tired. Gag.

            • I have to agree. I recently bought a carton of regular eggnog for my husband, who doesn’t like the taste of my organic brand, and it was so thick it was like drinking phlegm. Yuck.

            • I only eat Turkey Hill ice cream in the BROWN boxes. It is pure = no additives. I also stumbled across a pure ice cream at Aldi’s (a German company now doing business in the U.S.) It only comes in vanilla and chocolate, but it too has no additives. In fact, I’ve sort of fallen in love with many of Aldi’s products. It’s worth the trip, IMHO, to get so many ‘foreign’ but completely edible foods…

    • Just to be a giant pain in the arse Brian I’m going to tell you that yep, few people in Ireland eating big old bowls of Carrageen Moss seaweed jelly, where it’s the main ingredient. 😀 A new local business selling it in various flavours was set up by youngsters recently here and won an award. It’s a folk medicine here (high in iodine) and traditional dessert. I’ll be interested to discover if anyone gets IBS from it. I won’t be using it as part of my bowel cleaning diet now! As an aside, every US diet thread I read, SO many food additives! Why would it be added to cottage cheese?? I feel for you all with diet issues food shopping over there. I hope it doesn’t get like that here if TTIP goes through 🙁

      • Hi Anna, I live in the U.S. and have had severe ‘gut’ issues since I was a young child (I’m now 80 years old). One of my granddaughters was diagnosed with Crohn’s Disease and she got rid of it by going totally vegan. I could not do that after years of eating the way I did. After seeing several gastroenterologists and getting no help, I finally saw one who did a thorough exam and told me I had a lot of ‘allergies’ to many additives: HFCS, MSG, guar gum, carrageenan, etc. I literally became afraid to eat and went from 130 to 96 lbs. in a year. I discovered that it was much safer to order products from Ireland, England, Germany, etc., so now I pay the huge difference in price to get ‘purer’ products. It’s worth it. Here’s an example: I went to a barbeque recently and had some red potato salad (I stupidly thought it was homemade). It was store bought…that night I had a severe bout of cramps and diarrhea. It lasted for 3 days. I found out the stuff had carrageenan. This is just a confirmation of why I agree with you. We may be all built differently, but those of us who suffer have to be extra careful. I thank the European countries who have wised up, and say ‘bah, humbug’ to the U.S. manufacturers who are more interested in profits than making products that are harmful to some of us. Whatever happened to adding cornstarch as a thickener??? It probably costs more…

    • Hi, I just started taking omega 3s which I read it has carrageenan. Please tell me what’s the real harm if there is one. I really need to take this pills b/c I need some calcium in my joints. And no, am not a vegetarian. I am also Avery healthy man.

      • I have recently heard that magnesium will remove calcium deposits. The Mg need to be applied to the skin for fuller affect as Mg is not absorbed well by the gut. There are Mg skin sprays etc or bath in epsom salts regularly. Its also great for joint pain, esp. arthritis and muscle pain with exercise etc.

    • how lucky for you that you can go shopping and find foods that are vegan, even labeled as such. how lucky for you that you have that choice and it is made clear. i think i would just like the same choice. For example, plumping solutions for poultry often contain carrageenan, but it does not have to be labeled as such. carrageenan can be used in the beer making process, but does not have to be listed an an ingrediant. I sometimes have to find out if it is in a food by having violent reactions to it. that sucks. we are clear with food labeling of things that cause allergic reactions (i.e. may be crosscontaminated with peanuts and tree nuts at the factory).
      i dont wish to take your additives away, id just like a clearer choice to not ingest them.

    • Yes but the poli type is a known cancer causer. If you ingest a little every day eventually you end up with a lot of cancer causing something floating in your body. Add that to all the cancer causing crap we eat, drink and breathe….its a cancer fest here in America!

  19. Chris – I agree that the jury may still be out on this from a scientific point of view, but thank you for explaining all sides in an easy to understand manner. I appreciate the impartial tone to the explanations and that you do point out when some part is your own opinion. So hard to find these days. Thank you!

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