The Health Dangers of Carrageenan

by Dr. Edward Group DC, NP, DACBN, DCBCN, DABFM Published on , Last Updated on

Carrageenan is a food additive commonly used in yogurt, dairy-free milk, and other processed foods. It works great as an emulsifier and thickening agent, and it does have natural origins. Nonetheless, carrageenan isn’t free from health concerns. Isolated from seaweed, carrageenan is a polysaccharide compound that may also trigger an immune response in some people, but this is debated. Because it comes from a natural source, it is typically added to natural food products. This food additive is just one of the many additives you may wish to be aware of the next time you go shopping.

The Dangers of Carrageenan

The most recent medical paper we have on carrageenan’s carcinogenicity suggests that carrageenan consumption increases the risk for certain cancers. [1] It is also suggested that carrageenan has negative effects on the gastrointestinal tract, potentially contributing to issues such as irritable bowel disease (IBD) and colitis.

Past research has shown that carrageenan may impact macrophage activity; however, this research has not been replicated. [2] Another study has shown carrageenan may induce insulin resistance, a symptom characteristic of type 2 diabetes. [3] Colon cancer is also of some concern when it comes to the prolonged ingestion of carrageenan. [4] Many people who consume carrageen seem to report gut irritation, which could be a sign of sensitivity to the food additive.

How to Avoid Carrageenan

One of the best ways you can avoid carrageenan is to avoid dairy-free milk products, this includes some brands of almond milk. While you can definitely make your own using fresh almonds and water, try to avoid purchasing store bought because these typically contain some type of thickening agent, like carrageenan. Simply look at the ingredients labels of your foods to make sure they’re free from the additive. Also, if you purchase gluten-free goods, make sure it doesn’t contain the ingredient, either. Many gluten-free baked goods will contain carrageenan as a binding agent to replace the gluten, and these products may also contain xanthan gum and guar gum. These gums may also cause gut irritation in sensitive individuals.

Have you heard about carrageenan? What are your thoughts on this and other additives in natural foods? Have you experienced anything unusual after consuming this ingredient? Please let us know in the comments!

References (4)
  1. J K Tobacman. Review of harmful gastrointestinal effects of carrageenan in animal experiments. Environ Health Perspect. 2001 Oct; 109(10): 983–994.
  2. Ishizaka S1, Kuriyama S, Tsujii T. In vivo depletion of macrophages by desulfated iota-carrageenan in mice. J Immunol Methods. 1989 Nov 13;124(1):17-24.
  3. Bhattacharyya S1, O-Sullivan I, Katyal S, Unterman T, Tobacman JK. Exposure to the common food additive carrageenan leads to glucose intolerance, insulin resistance and inhibition of insulin signalling in HepG2 cells and C57BL/6J mice. Diabetologia. 2012 Jan;55(1):194-203. doi: 10.1007/s00125-011-2333-z.
  4. Bhattacharyya S1, Feferman L, Borthakur S, Tobacman JK. Common food additive carrageenan stimulates Wnt/ β-catenin signaling in colonic epithelium by inhibition of nucleoredoxin reduction. Nutr Cancer. 2014;66(1):117-27. doi: 10.1080/01635581.2014.852228.

†Results may vary. Information and statements made are for education purposes and are not intended to replace the advice of your doctor. Global Healing Center does not dispense medical advice, prescribe, or diagnose illness. The views and nutritional advice expressed by Global Healing Center are not intended to be a substitute for conventional medical service. If you have a severe medical condition or health concern, see your physician.

  • arn

    And what’s wrong with Xanthum gum and Guar gum ??


    I used to take Vegan D3 by Country Life, but the softgels are made with carrageenan, so I discontinued its use and began using Dr. Group’s Vegan D3 when that came out. I’ll never use another D3 supplement after using GHC’s Vegan D3.

  • Blanche Marie Couture

    I used to buy So Delicious coconut milk it contains both Xanthan and Guar gum plus other unsavory chemicals. Now I purchase Califia Coconut and Almond Milk and that is all it has. Great tasting too. Disregard what I just said it contains about 2% Gellan gum and carrageenan. I never thought that it had anything but almond and coconut. I will not buy this again. It looks that I have to make my own. I have raw almonds and Aroy-d 100% coconut cream. I will use these together instead. Wow….I should read ALL the labels. Lesson learned.

  • Malauna Mstree

    Extremely allergic to this. Just another fancy label for glutamic acid. I’ve learned I suffer from Stiff Person Syndrome 1 in a million have this rare disease. I’ve had Lupus issues all my life and allergic to drugs and many things. I have survived due to Healthy juicing and supplements. You learn to LIVE with disease.

  • ceecee

    This was a very interesting article that I found so helpful as I’ve been having gut issues for many years since I was diagnosed with IBS 30 years ago. I am also lactose intolerant and gluten sensitive and have purchased certain foods and drinks with all these questionable ingredients. I thought it was all in my head when I noticed that I was getting flare ups after consuming carraggeenan, xanthan gum and guar gum. A friend told me to be on alert with ingesting products with carraggeenan so I stopped drinking almond milk because of it, but never realized about the guar gum and xanthan gum. I am now reading all my food labels and eliminating all food and drinks from my diet that has these ingredients in them. Thanks for advising about making almond milk from almonds and water – – I’ll make my own from now on.

  • Susan

    II am not a person that normally has food allergies but would randomly have intentional problems & couldn’t figure out what was causing it. One day I had some soy milk at a friends house. Later I started having severe intestinal problems. I thought back to what I had to eat & the only thing abnormal was the soy milk. I googled “what’s wrong with soy milk”. That’s how I heard about carrageenan. All of a sudden a light came on & I thought back to another time I bought a cup of coffee & had the same reaction. I wondered if it was in the coffee creamers I used. I looked up the ingredients & bingo! Now I know why I can eat dairy most of the time & other times no . It’s the carrageenan. I started checking the ingredients on ice cream & stopped buying canned whipped cream. Only use half & half in my coffee & am feeling much much better!

  • Karenkmy

    Carrageenan makes me exhausted. If I have it today, I cannot function tomorrow. Not good for a teacher.

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