Sunday, January 24, 2010

Jan. 24: Toxin of the Day ~ Carrageenan

What is this mysterious ingredient I keep finding on the labels of yogurt and ice cream? Is it prime to be a Toxin of the Day?

Yup. Like anything else on the ingredient list we can't picture coming from it's source, Carrageenan is less than desirable for our consumption. It comes from seaweed and is used to increase viscosity in foods. The seaweed is treated with a hot solution of potassium hydroxide, and then the cellulose is removed by centrifugation and filtration. Then through evaporation the cellulose is dried and then ground for commercial use.

Carrageenan is frequently found in dairy products like cottage cheese, yogurt and ice cream, beer, pates, shaved ham, fruit gushers (it's the gel gooey stuff in the middle), toothpaste and soy milk. If you don't want to eat it, you can also locate it in sexual lubricants, where it is being tested for it's ability to protect the user against certain sexually transmitted diseases. Other uses are in fire-fighting foam and shoe polish.

Carrageenan degrades in high heat or acidic settings, forming poligeenan. Animal studies have linked consumption of this substance to gastrointestinal and cancer. Studies have also related it to the worsening of Irritable Bowel Syndrome symptoms and Crohn's disease symptoms.

The World Health Organization expressed "concern about the potential promotion of colon carcinogenesis by Carrageenans." They also noted more research needs to be done regarding the fact that Carrageenans are a prominent ingredient in some baby formulas. They felt that the current tests were inconclusive regarding the safety of this additive.

Carrageenan starts out as seaweed, which sounds healthy and natural. When I looked up studies, I could not find as much resounding evidence that this one is a killer as many of the other additives I have researched. This is the absolute fact I gleaned from my research: Carrageenan is a Vaseline-like substance that when orally consumed, coats the stomach with an oily greasy residue that may cause gastro-intestinal distress. It may or may not give me cancer, but it is much more likely that it will make me think I am lactose intolerant or suffering from a food allergy when all I am suffering from is an additive reaction. I would NOT feed my babies a formula containing this creation, nor do I plan to include anything with this ingredient in our family meals.

This one might be a bit of a toss up whether or not it's an actual toxin. That being said, I plan to err on the side of safety and wholesomeness.

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