The Natural Food Ingredient That May Be Harming You

Carrageenan could be responsible for more than 100 medical conditions, including cancer and arthritis

This article originally appeared on Live in the Now.

A report from the Cornucopia Institute warns that a natural but unnecessary food additive used in conventional as well as some organic foods and drinks could be fueling more than 100 medical conditions, including cancer and digestive disorders. The culprit is carrageenan, a seaweed-derived compound used in products to provide a better “mouthfeel” and to keep ingredients in suspension.

Products That Contain Carrageenan

As carrageenan is a natural thickener or emulsifier, it is commonly used in a broad spectrum of dairy products including yogurt, sour cream and chocolate milk, along with ice cream and creamers. The compound is also used in dairy alternatives like soymilk, almond milk and coconut milk. Other products containing carrageenan include toothpaste and beer, in addition to juices and jelly based foods.

Aside from imparting a creamier texture, carrageenan prevents the separation of the ingredients of a product, preventing the need to shake it before use. Mark Kastel of the Cornucopia Institute asserts most mothers would not mind shaking a container to avoid using a product containing an ingredient that could harm their child’s health. He points out that shaking or stirring products before use is a minor inconvenience to ensure your family is receiving a natural and pure product.

How Carrageenan Is Harmful to Your Health

Carrageenan’s detrimental effects stem from the fact that it causes inflammation within the body. This effect is so consistent that researchers use this compound to induce inflammation in scientific experiments, according to Joanne Tobacman, MD, a researcher at the University of Illinois College of Medicine. Tobacman has explained to the National Organic Standards Board (NOSB) that both this compound and its breakdown product produce dangerous inflammation, which is the foundation of more than 100 illnesses, including rheumatoid arthritis, atherosclerosis and inflammatory bowel disease.

Additionally, carrageenan potently feeds other life-threatening conditions like cancer. Regular consumption of the compound is strongly linked to different types of gastrointestinal cancers in rats.

Why Carrageenan Is Permitted in Organic Products

You would expect carrageenan to be rampantly used in nonorganic foods and drinks, as it indeed is, but it is distressing to know it is permitted in organic ones, too. While foods designated as being organic have the advantages of being grown without toxic chemicals, hormones and antibiotics, sometimes detrimental substances are included in the NOSB’s list of approved ingredients.

Why is it that this board, which should be dedicated to the purity of organic food, approves the use of carrageenan in organic products? The answer lies in corporate interests who appear to deem profitability more valuable than purity and product integrity.

How so? The organic food industry has become so enormously lucrative that large traditional food manufactures, such as Kellogg, PepsiCo and General Mills, have bought out most of the nation’s organic food companies. Major corporations such as these now dominate the NOSB, the board that sets the standards for organic products. The influence of these corporate interests on the board has been rather corrupting, demonstrated in a recent meeting of NOSB, where the members voted 10 to 5 to retain carrageenan on the expanding list of questionable ingredients that can be used in products having the “certified organic” label.

How to Avoid Carrageenan

Be diligent about reading labels or select one of the organic carrageenan-free products from this working list provided by the Cornucopia Institute.

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Sources

http://www.rodale.com/carrageenan

http://www.motherjones.com/tom-philpott/2012/07/five-weirdest-ingredients-allowed-organic-food

http://www.dietsinreview.com/diet_column/07/beware-carrageenan-a-food-additive-common-in-organic-products/

http://www.nytimes.com/2012/07/08/business/organic-food-purists-worry-about-big-companies-influence.html?_r=3&pagewanted=all

http://www.cornucopia.org/shopping-guide-to-avoiding-organic-foods-with-carrageenan/

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