Carrageenan uses and side effects

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Carrageenan Quick Facts
Name: Carrageenan
Health benefits Promote gut health, Antioxidants packed, Positive effect on cholesterol, Treat flu and cold
Carrageenan is extracted from specific seaweeds processed with alkali into natural food ingredient used widely. Instead of using alkali when processed with acid, it is downgraded to low molecular weight and is known as poligeenan and degraded carrageenan. Carrageenan is an additive which is used to emulsify  and preserve foods or drinks. It is a natural ingredient which occurs from red seaweed also known to be Irish moss. This ingredient is found in meat products, nut milks and yogurt.

Since late 1960s, controversies enclosed the health effects of carrageenan. Evidence shows that carrageenan produce inflammation, gastrointestinal ulcerations and devastate digestive system. It is widely used in food industry for thickening, gelling and stabilizing properties. It is mostly applied to meat and dairy products as it strong bind to food proteins. It is an alternative to gelatin for vegetarian and vegan and also used instead of gelatin in confectionery. Archaeologists have shown that humans have been using seaweed such as Chondrus crispus for 14000 years. The medicinal benefits have been shown in China traced back to 600 BC. Around 400 BC, it was used as a source of food.

The name carrageenan is derived from Carrigan head, a cape near Northern Ireland. In 19th century, Irish believed carrageenan cure sick calves with flu, human colds and congestion. Initially, seaweed is harvested and laid to dry. It is washed and boiled before added to tonics, flans and beer. Similar to gelatin, carrageenan is a vital ingredient in Blancmange and Irish pudding. Still it is made in Ireland and whole pieces of dried red seaweed could be purchased in local markets.

History

Carrageenan was used from early as 1810 which is recommended for treating respiratory problems. The specific name of this red seaweed is Chondrus Crispus. Then this ingredient got spread to other countries such as New England and States. It is widely used in food we eat, the processed ones. Companies use this product a potent formula for making products as it is right now over years. Probably, it is consumed right now. Carrageenan is used from longer time than expected and is harvested on bigger scale than before being Indonesia and Philippines on top.

Health Benefits of Carrageenan

Here we discuss the health benefits of Carrageenan:

  1. Promote gut health

A conducted study shows prebiotic effects related with consumption of Carrageenan. It positively influence development of beneficial microbial communities found in digestive tract. It enhances gut health and promote immune response. Study shows that Carrageenan assures intestinal lining being corroded by alcohol by defending against stomach ulcers.

  1. Antioxidants packed

Studies have shown that Carrageenan displays antioxidant activity which nullifies free radicals causing significant damage to the body when left unchecked. Free radicals are associated to causing health problems such as Parkinson’s disease, diabetes, cancer and age related eye diseases.

  1. Positive effect on cholesterol

The presence of high level of bad cholesterol results atherosclerosis promoting the chances of strokes and heart attacks. Study shows that diet which incorporate Carragenan lowers lipid and blood cholesterol levels. Another study shows that not for preventing atherosclerosis but Carrageenan is used to treat cardiovascular diseases.

  1. Treat flu and cold

About hundreds of millions of people in United States experience common cold each year. Study recently carried out in Austria analyzed antiviral properties related with Carrageenan. Some same properties compose Carrageenan valued as a thickener in foods and also effectively helpful when used as an ingredient in nasal sprays. Study has shown that Carrageenan gel is able to adhere directly to viruses and prevent it to hook up to nasal wall and limit its ability to propagate. Carrageenan appears to be effective for treating specific cold virus.

Traditional uses

  • Use it for treating bronchitis, coughs, intestinal problems and tuberculosis.
  • It is also used to treat peptic ulcers.
  • Apply it directly to the skin for discomfort around anus.

How to Eat         

  • Add carrageenan to meats and chicken.
  • It is also used in processed foods, nutritional bars and frozen pizzas.
  • Use it as a thickener and emulsifier for enhancing texture of yogurt, ice cream, soy milk, cottage cheese and other processed foods.
  • It is also used to thicken sauces, soups and puddings.

Precautions                                                                                                 

  • Products having Carrageenan could cause bloating, inflammation, glucose intolerance, irritable bowel syndrome, food allergies and colon cancer. An increase in inflammation causes arthritis, inflammatory bowel disease, chronic cholecystitis, tendonitis and gallbladder inflammation.
  • The regular consumption of Carrageenan causes inflammation and could put at the chances of chronic problems.

References:

https://www.cornucopia.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/04/CarageenanReport-2016.pdf

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Carrageenan

https://foodingredientfacts.org/irish-moss-the-history-of-carrageenans-roots/

http://www.streetspirits.org/archives/106

https://food.ndtv.com/food-drinks/what-is-carrageenan-is-it-harmful-1670607

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