You may have heard controversy surrounding the common food additive Carrageenan, but why has it garnered such a bad reputation in some circles?

Typically found in dairy products such as heavy cream, buttermilk, and ice cream as an emulsifier, Carrageenan has been the subject of much negative press in the past years.

If you are a fan of ice cream, well pay attention — this one is for you.

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This additive, among others, has been linked to a variety of gut-related health issues.

These conditions include IBS, gut inflammation, colitis, rheumatoid arthritis, and even cancer.

The gut is a fascinating organ responsible for a myriad of positive changes to your health from fat loss to mental health — and must be treated with the utmost respect to improve your quality of life.

What is Carrageenan?


Native to the British Isles, Carrageenan is an extract from a red seaweed commonly known as Irish Moss that is commonly added to various staple ingredients.

Although the theme of recent culinary controversy, this seaweed extract has been used in cooking for hundreds of years.

It is usually found as a thickener to dairy products such as ice cream, cottage cheese, and creams; but it also found in jellies and infant formula — which has recently become the center of a lot of controversy due to the recent shortages in the USA.

As we wrote in a previous article on food additives: “

One of the main reasons to avoid corporate food is the excess of additives, preservatives, and other unknown substances (natural and artificial flavors) inserted into the foods. However, despite some of our best efforts, you can find some of these additives (some controversial) in surprising places. For instance, you’ll find guar gum or even carrageenan used as an emulsifier in store-bought buttermilk or heavy cream, even if you think you’re buying organic. (Seeing guar gum as an ingredient in my “100% pure organic heavy cream” as I was pouring some in my breakfast tea prompted me to write this article.)

“Some additives are harmless, or even beneficial. For instance, pectin is found in apples and is a good gelling agent. In fact, I use grated apple in my blueberry pie to achieve that ideal filling texture without the gummy taste tapioca starch or cornstarch provides. Others are controversial, such as carrageenan and furcellaran (more common emulsifying and stabilizing polysaccharides), MSG, and various sugar substitutes.”

Before we continue, we must make the following distinction:

There are two varieties of carrageenan are available

  • Food-grade carrageenan
  • Non food-grade carrageenan (degraded carrageenan)

Food-grade carrageenan is U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA)-approved in the United States for use as a food additive. Degraded carrageenan is not available for human consumption.

But some scientists argue that as carrageenan is digested, it becomes degraded, turning into Polygeenan, and can potentially cause to humans.

Why is Carrageenan Bad News?

MSC to launch first sustainable seaweed standard

The jury is still out on this one, but there appears to be a consensus developing over the damaging effects attributed to Carrageenan.

As Carrageenan is “plant-based” it has been added to various other foods such as jellies to be available to vegan consumer bases.

Although animal studies have produced negative outcomes, Medicinenet reports:

“Since the 1960s, there has been a lot of research that has found carrageenan to be harmful for human consumption. But all of these studies have been in animals or cells outside the body (in vitro). No studies have been conducted on humans.”

The kicker is that Polygeenan — degraded Carrageenan — has been detected in 25% of products purportedly containing Carrageenan.

In addition to this, some reports suggest that the original seaweed-based food extract can become degraded once exposed to stomach acid and therefore cause a litany of digestive diseases, including cancer.

A guideline states that no more than 5% of these additives found in a variety of household food items should not contain polygeenan.

Some of the symptoms/diseases reportedly include:

  • diarrhea
  • nausea
  • IBS
  • colitis
  • rheumatoid arthritis
  • colon cancer
  • bloating
  • belly pain
  • various aches
  • cramps
  • tumors
  • ulcers

The immediate symptoms reportedly ceased when food products containing this additive were discontinued.

Although conclusive human studies are yet to be released, many scientists are vying for its discontinuation as a food additive — despite being a part of human diets for centuries.

Here at Herculean Strength, we strongly advocate for natural diets with the least amount of food additives possible.

If you need further guidance, we recommend you check out your diet program that contains dozens of healthy food recipes here.

Don’t hesitate to email us at [email protected] for personalized coaching and a client questionnaire if you’d like DEDICATED tailor-made personal training on strength training, building muscle, losing fat, developing athleticism, and more — all to your liking, lifestyle, habits, and taste!

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