Not many topics in lifestyle exude as much emotion as meals. And at the actual food universe, the topic of carrageenan (pronounced “kar-uh–gee-nuhn”) is one which fosters a selection of feelings and confusion. We get questions each week regarding its security, and so I’ll share our view concerning this topic, in hopes of clearing some of this confusion.
So, What is Carrageenan?
Carrageenan is a frequent food additive based from a red sea weed, Chondrus crispus, also called Irish moss. It is your non-nutritive, indigestible plant ethanol which keeps ingredients from dividing, improves texture and provides volume and weight to processed foods and products. Many processed foods products, such as popular “organic” products use it as a thickener and emulsifier. These products comprise energy and chocolate bars, processed lunch meats, dairy options, including soy, almond and coconut milk, and also several organically labeled dairy products such as ice cream, yogurt, and cottage cream and whipping cream. Most concerning is how carrageenan is even utilized in the majority of commercial baby formulas (Please see our article on homemade baby formula.). It is also utilized in several vitamin supplements, so-called nutrient replacements, protein powders and toothpaste.
Carrageenan has two type, ungraded and degraded. The recognized important difference between the two forms is that the size of the molecules. Ungraded carrageenan is in food and supplements products, comprises larger molecules and can be problematic for the human body to consume, barring other elements. This form is present in food products, toothpaste and supplements. But, based on clinical researcher Joanne K. Tobacman, MD, associate professor of clinical medicine at the University of Illinois College of Medicine, the magnitude of this molecule doesn’t keep it from crossing the intestinal barrier (just like undigested food proteins may cross a leaky intestinal barrier) which it does really get in the bloodstream.