Carrageenan belongs to the family of linear sulfated polysaccharides which came from the red edible seaweeds. There three main types of carrageenan which are Kappa-carrageenan, Iota-carrageenan, and Lambda-carrageenan. The difference among these three is the number of their sulfate per disaccharide. They each contain 1, 2 and 3 sulfate molecules respectively. Carrageenan is usually used in the food industry for its stabilizing, thickening, and gelling properties.
As said before Carrageenan is often used in the food industry. They are found in deserts such as ice cream, yogurts, condensed milk and salad dressings. Carrageenan is also used to increase the viscosity of different sauces since Carrageenan has gelling properties. The gelling properties of Carrageenan are also useful in emulating the whole milk’s consistency that is why it used in soy milk. In the production of beers, they are used to remove many proteins that cause haze. In soda it is sometimes used to enhance flavor.
They are also used in making toothpaste. It is the compound that binds together the properties of the toothpaste to keep it from separating. They are also used in making shampoos and creams in order to make them thick.
Effects of Carrageenan
Carrageenan has no nutritional value and it is also not digestible by the human body. It is just used to thicken products so to speak. However, some experts say that even if it came from a natural source it still has indications of being harmful to the human body. It could destroy some part of your digestive system through triggering inflammations. These inflammations then lead to bleeding and even ulcerations.
These effects of Carrageenan on the human body have not gone unnoticed. It is already being studied since the 1960s but the momentum of the researchers only picked up in the recent years. These studies mainly revolved around animal experimentations.
In order to make sure that Carrageenan is safe for humans, it has been used to animals first in order to see the results in long term use. Over the years some studies found out that the animals that have been exposed to Carrageenan for a long time have developed tumors. Therefore they concluded that Carrageenan is a catalyst for tumor production in the body. It has also been discovered that it causes some bowel diseases like inflammatory bowel disease. So it might not be safe to keep using it in food production.
However, even with all these studies, there is still a lack of evidence that directly links Carrageenan to the development of some of the diseases mentioned. The experts could only infer that Carrageenan might have triggered the development of some disease. That is why even with these studies, Carrageenan is still being used in many industries especially in the food industry today. Therefore, the decision now whether to buy or not buy products with Carrageenan lies to the consumers but just remember to take or use products with Carrageenan in moderation as a precaution.