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Carrageenan is extracted from Irish moss, a red-hued seaweed. It is used to thicken ice cream, yogurt, cottage cheese, soymilk and other foods. Joanne K. Tobacman, M.D., associate professor of clinical medicine at the University of Illinois College of Medicine, has conducted studies linking undegraded carrageenan – the type that is widely used in foods – with malignancies and other stomach problems.
Over the years Dr. Tobacman has published 18 peer-reviewed studies that address the biological effects of carrageenan and is convinced that it is harmful to human health. In April 2012, she addressed the National Organic Standards Board on this issue and urged reconsideration of the use of carrageenan in organic foods.
In her presentation, Dr. Tobacman said that her research has shown that exposure to carrageenan causes inflammation and that when we consume processed foods containing it, we ingest enough to cause inflammation in our bodies. She explained that all forms of carrageenan are capable of causing inflammation. This is bad news. We know that chronic inflammation is a root cause of many serious diseases including heart disease, Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases, and cancer.
Bottom line: consider avoiding regular consumption of foods containing carrageenan. This is especially important advice for persons with inflammatory bowel disease.