Does Your Soy, Almond, or Hemp Milk Contain Carrageenan?

Most milk substitutes such as soy milk, almond milk, hemp milk, etc. are thought to be good alternatives to whole milk, especially for lactose intolerant people. These ‘milks’ come in different flavors, and their packaging gives us the distinct impression that drinking alternative milks promises to create lasting health. Milk alternatives even taste divine. However, some of them contain carrageenan, used as a US food additive since the late 1930’s.

Yet, starting in the 1960s, carrageenan became controversial, but very few people mention the potential consequence of ingesting them. Recent research indicates that carrageenan can cause gastrointestinal inflammation, lesions and possibly contribute to cancer. So, more and more people are studying carrageenan and linking increased gastro intestinal symptoms with this emulsifier.

Several studies in the early 2000s suggest that degraded or hydrolyzed carrageenan, called poligeenan, has have been shown to cause lesions, ulcerations, and cancer in animals.  Joanne k. Tobacman MD, associate professor of clinical medicine at the University of Illinois college of Medicine has published 18 peer-reviewed studies.  These address the biological effects of Carrageenan. In 2012 she addressed the National Organic Standards Board on this issue to ask reconsideration of putting this in ‘organic’ foods.

According to Dr. Weil, researcher and physician, there are no nutritional benefits to this additive/emulsifier. However he does suggest that milk alternatives are a good choice as long as the word carrageenan is not on the label. Other researchers believe that carrageenan contributes to IBS (irritable bowel syndrome).

There are two kinds of carrageenan’s, the degraded, and the un-degraded type. Food grade carrageenan (un-degraded carrageenan) was thought to pass through the body without being digested, so it was believed to be safe. Therefore, only the un-degraded variety was deemed safe for human consumption by the Joint Expert Committee on Food Additives (JECFA) and approved for use in foods by the Food and Drug Administration.

Is it a coincidence that people are getting sicker, especially lately, with what appears to be gastrointestinal problems? People say, its just food poisoning… well, it sort of is, isn’t it?

The easiest way to avoid carrageenan is to read your food labels. The most common place it shows up is in alternative milk products — ‘plant’ milks, ice cream, cottage cheese, yogurts, etc. Of course, it can show up in other food.  Try the following. If you’re feeling a bit inflamed, try staying away from as much carrageenan when you find it on a label, for a couple or 3 weeks. See if you feel better.


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