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Illegal List: Carrageenan

May 3, 2010

image 1We recently ported over a copy of the legal/illegal list from the breaking the vicious cycle website.

Here's some more information on carrageenan, one of the illegals:

- Carrageenan is made from seaweed

- Extensively used as a US food additive since the late 1930s

- Starting in the 1960s, carrageenan became controversial . . .

- Most carrageenan (undegraded carrageenan) was thought to pass through the body without being digested

- Degraded carrageenan (which has smaller molecules) has been shown to cause lesions, ulcerations, and cancer in animals.

- A review of 45 carrageenan animal studies consistently showed these effects.  (JK Tobacman, Review of Harmful Gastrointestinal Effects of Carrageenan in Animal Experiments)

- To test IBD drugs, carrageenan is used to induce ulcerative colitis in animals.  (last sentence in full abstract: "The clinical presentation, histopathology, proliferative alterations, potential premalignancy, and response to pharmaceutic intervention of carrageen-induced colitis in mice support its continued investigation as an animal model for human ulcerative colitis." )

- 1972: the FDA proposed minimizing public exposure to carrageenan by requiring it to be (1) undegraded and (2) of a specific size--so that molecules of carrageenan would pass through the intestine

- 1981: As the use of carrageenan increased in food/diet products, the Lancet published a letter from two doctors who extensively researched carrageenan's effects on animals:  They wrote "we wish to reiterate our warning in relation to the long-term dangers in the continued use of carrageenan and carageenan-like products in our food, and especially in slimming diets."  (from: Danger of Carrageenan in Foods and Slimming Recipes)--

- 2001: Dr. Joanne K. Tobacman of the University of Iowa medical school authors a widely cited article titled "Review of Harmful Gastrointestinal Effects of Carrageenan in Animal Experiments".

- post 2001: Several pro-carrageenan studies are paid for by Marinalg International, an organization representing carrageenan manufacturers, or FMC, a producer of carrageenan.

- post 2001: Studies demonstrating carrageenan's negative effects continue to be published and back-up Tobacman's assertions

- Excerpt from a June 2002 letter by Dr. Joanne Tobacman, University of Iowa Health Care

Extensive experimental data have demonstrated that

a) degraded carrageenan produces neoplasms and ulcerations in animal models;

b) acid hydrolysis, such as occurs in the stomach, leads to the production of degraded carrageenan from food-grade carrageenan; and

c) food-grade carrageenan contains significant amounts of degraded carrageenan.
Human consumption of carrageenan has been increasing steadily in the United States in the
20th century.

The data with regard to intestinal effects of carrageenan seem sufficient to mandate restriction of carrageenan intake.

source: Environmental Health Perspectives, VOLUME 110 | NUMBER 6 | June 2002 A 289

- 2008: Tobacman and two other scientists study the effect of undegraded ("safe"), food grade carrageenan on human epithelial cells.  They find "increased cell death, reduced cell proliferation, and cell cycle arrest". (source: Carrageenan Induces Cell Cycle Arrest in Human Intestinal Epithelial Cells in Vitro)

Bottom line: If you're not on the SCD, watch how much carrageenan you ingest.  The greater the amount, the greater the chance of stomach problems.