Debunking the Myths On Carrageenan Safety Using Food Science

When it comes to health subjects like carrageenan, I'm your girl. Not too long ago...I was that person. That one person who would mindlessly believe every health scare they heard on the internet and actually implemented that fear into her daily life. I did my best to avoid water with fluoride in it and stopped drinking anything out of plastic. Foods that weren't organic became my worst enemy. Every time I went to the grocery store, I had to read the ingredients over and over again just to make sure they didn't sneak anything bad in there. Even when I went out to eat, I was scared to eat the food served to me because I was afraid it wasn't prepared to my standards.

What a way to live, eh? Not really. I believed false information presented to me, developed terrible eating habits, and was stricken with anxiety 24/7. Why was I doing this to myself?

Carrageenan is in your dairy, your lattes, and your espresso drinks!

During my crazy health-obsessed days (which actually made me not so healthy), I stumbled upon an article somewhere with a headline along the lines of "Stop Drinking Starbucks Soy Milk!" Instantly, I clicked, scared for my life. How will I drink my iced vanilla soy lattes? I mean...I'm even drinking one right now as I'm writing this.

The article stated that the soy milk at Starbucks had one “cancer-causing” ingredient in it: carrageenan. Was this going to be another BPA case? Was I going to stop drinking my soy lattes? Of course not.

It's even in your favorite lipstick.
Carrageenan is a food ingredient derived from seaweed. It's commonly used in products we use every day: soy and almond milks, yogurt, cheese, toothpaste, protein powders, foundations, lipstick. Carrageenan is safe and used all around the world, as it has been for hundreds of years. Regulatory bodies in the United States, Japan, China, Brazil, and all of Europe have approved it for use in food. Yes, you heard me, carrageenan is safe. So pick up that soy latte and start drinking; there's no need to worry anymore.

Let's debunk a few common myths, shall we?

1. Carrageenan has no nutritional value therefore it is unneeded.
This is where the importance of food science comes in. Carrageenan is added to food products for many reasons:

A. For the texture of the product. 
No one wants watery yogurt or ice cream. No one wants chunky protein powders or uneven foundations. You get the point.

B. So we can preserve products for a longer period time and extend the products' shelf life. 
If you want to make all of your food fresh on the spot and get it from your local farmers market, you are always welcomed to do that. However, when you are buying processed food, there needs to be a way to maintain the freshness of the food, and carrageenan helps with that.

A world without carrageenan is a world without your favorite packaged treats!
C. Sustainability, and other big issues. 
There are people all over the world who have a very limited supply of food. With carrageenan, we can transport goods from all over the world to you, me, and those in need. This is really important to keep in mind. Maybe to you, this little additive in some products may be stressing you out, but that comes from a place of privilege. You need to think about the bigger picture: how is this helping millions of people in the world survive?

2. There was a study stating that it causes cancer and intestinal, that can't be wrong!
Yes, you are correct about that. Sort of. That's the problem with the internet nowadays...SO. MUCH. CLICKBAIT. People will see a headline that says "Study finds carrageenan causes cancer" and they'll believe it without doing their research. Here's why the study can't be taken 100% seriously:

A. The study tested a material other than carrageenan: poligeenan.
Carrageenan is approved for human consumption and you can find it in the products we use each and everyday. Poligeenan, previously and erroneously referred to as degraded carrageenan, is NOT approved for human consumption and NOT used in foods, and that is what they often tested on animals. Giving animals poligeenan is obviously going to have a different effect compared to humans eating carrageenan.

B. Studies Vary by Animal, Testing Methodology and Material Tested
There have been no human studies of carrageenan. Many of the animal studies that have been done have employed flawed methodologies, including injecting carrageenan rather than feeding it in food  There have been cellular or in vitro studies of carrageenan on human cells from organs that carrageenan cannot reach because carrageenan is fully excreted when consumed with food. And, of course, if you test the wrong stuff you’ll get different results.
Berry smoothie with almond milk.

C. When carrageenan interacts with food, it acts differently.
In animal testing carrageenan should always be administered in food – the way we get carrageenan in food and drinks, instead of just drinking water. When we consume carrageenan, it's in a product that has other ingredients. If you use soy milk in a latte or almond milk in a smoothie, the carrageenan binds to different proteins, which changes everything. Recent reviews of the history of carrageenan research have confirmed its safety – even when used in infant formula. 

And that, my friends, is why you should do your research before buying into clickbait. Carrageenan may seem to be a complicated subject, but it's actually quite simple. So simple that you can actually make it in your OWN KITCHEN! 

For the future, I encourage everyone to pay attention to actual food science instead of myths posted on the internet. The decisions you make for your health should be for yourself, whether that’s going paleo, vegan, gluten-free, or whatever else. But you simply cannot demand the world stop using a food additive that helps millions of people eat each and every day. 

This post is part of a social shopper marketing insight campaign with Pollinate Media Group® and Food Science Matters, but all my opinions are my own. #pmedia #foodsciencematters

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