Monday, October 11, 2010 Avoid or Not!

Carrageenan is an algal polysaccharide that is classified as a heteropolymer, which is a non-digestible fibre when consumed. Common natural sources of carrageenan are seaweed (e.g Eucheuma cottonii) and sea moss/algae (e.g Chondrus crispus). Commercial sources include toothpaste, ice cream, puddings, and soy-milk amongst others. Carrageenan, once extracted, is used as a gelling, emulsifying, thickening and/or a stabilising agent.
Most compounds undergo a structural and ionic change during processing, and carrageenan is no different. Once processed, the cations (calcium, potassium, magnesium, ammonium and sodium sulphate) present within the carrageenan molecule shift. Resulting int at least one cation becoming dominant in the chemical structure. Producing, three types of carrageenan, each with varying properties and structures:
  • Iota Carrageenan 
  •  Kappa Carrageenan 
  • Lamba Carrageenan 
   It should be noted, only the high molecular (un-degraded) weight, sulfated polygalactan version of carrageenan is considered 'safe and fit' for human consumption; whilst, the low molecular (degraded) weight version of carrageenan is deemed unsafe and has shown to be carcinogenic.
           Dr. Joanne Tobacman in 1997 cited that carrageenan damages human cells in culture and destroys human mammory myoepithelial cells at concentrations low as 0.00014%.

           In 2006, Tobacman and her team showed  human cells (human intestinal epithelial cells) treated for 1 to 96 hours with high molecular weight lambda-carrageenan at a concentration of 1 micro gram/ml. Visible in the cells were pro-inflammatory cytokine,  interleukin-8*.

         The same team in 2008, concluded and sugguested that prolonged exposure to un-degraded carrageenan diet-wise, can and may play a role in the development of human intestinal disease.

The current research, simply concludes once a naturally occurring compound is processed for human commercial usage, the compound losses the right to be called 'natural'. Once chemical alterations to the original chemical structure occur,  negative consequences often proceed, as seen with carrageenan.  
Algae and other marine plants have been consumed for years and are still being consumed in its natural unprocessed state and the negative impact of carrageenan has not been an issue.   In other words, "if it ain't natural then why consume it?" 

Those who avoid carrageenan products because of allergic reactions have it 'easier' than those who are not that sensitive to the compound. Carrageenan is very much  a part of many food and non-food items ultilised on a daily basis. Ones best bet is to do their own research and make the best choice that suits them. Even though, products containing carrageenan have been known to cause stomach aches in some, the same product have no effect on others.

Enjoying a 100% carrageenan-free life may be impractical for some. Admittedly,  constantly reading labels before making a purchase can be a time consuming task. At the end of the day,  whether one decides to take time and constantly read ALL labels and avoid products containing carrageenan or continue to use the carrageenan-contaning products in limited quantities are practical solutions.
                                     Dr Greger's from Nutrition Facts opinion on Carrageenan.

*Interleukin-8 (IL-8) is a proinflammatory CXC chemokine that may function as a significant regulatory factor within the tumor microenvironment (Wilson & Waugh, 2008)

Thank you for reading! 
Leave a ⓒⓞⓜⓜⓔⓝⓣ below.

Anonymous. (N/S). CARRAGEENAN. Available: Last accessed 11th Oct, 2010.
Anonymous. (N/S). Carrageenan. Available: Last accessed 11th Oct,2010.  
Waugh,D & Wilson,C. (2008). The Interleukin-8 Pathway in Cancer. Clinical Cancer Research. 14 (21), 6735.  
Borthakur,A, Bhattacharyya, S, Dudeja,P and Tobacman, J. (2006). Carrageenan induces interleukin-8 production through distinct Bcl10 pathway in normal human colonic epithelial cells. Gastrointestinal and Liver Physiology.doi:10.1152/ajpgi.00380.2006  
Bhattacharyya, S, Borthakur, A, Dudeja, P and Tobacman, J (2008). Carrageenan Induces Cell Cycle Arrest in Human Intestinal Epithelial Cells in Vitro1. The Journal of Nutrition,Biochemical, Molecular, and Genetic Mechanisms. 138 (abstract), 469–475.  

No comments: