Ask A Healer Food Additives Series
Does the additive carageenan cause msg-type reactions?
by N J Howell
Source: Not Milk
I became interested in this ingredient because it's in so many of the same foods that contain some form of monosodium glutamate. I have a reaction to any food containing any monosodium glutamate and I have severe reactions to any food that has more than just a little msg, so label reading isn't enough. Companies are not requires to list msg when added to a wide variety of ingredients already containing it or when the extraction process results in free glutatmic acid so it's not a matter of label reading so much as label decoding, for me.
Is Carrageenan the same as msg? No. MSG is an excito-toxin. Carrageenan is extracted from red seaweed. However, this ingredient may cause the msg-type reactions in those that experience adverse reactions from msg. Is carageenan healthy? It is considered a safe additive by the FDA, obviously, or it would not be so widely used. I DO NOT consider it safe, based on my research into the matter.
Carageenan itself may be natural but the process that is required to extract this food additive from the natural red seaweed does not sound safe to me at all beacuase carageenan is extracted thru the use of strong, toxic alkali solvents. That alone would encourage me to avoid it. Additionally, many people report stomach aches (one msg-type reaction) after consuming products with carrageenan.
If your child experiences unexplained belly aches, start noticing if they have had any products containing carrageenan within an hour of onset of pain. Most milks you buy at the grocery store contain it, as do flavored milks and even some soy milks. A few companies adding carageenan at the time of this writing include Hershey's, Nesquik and Silk.
Of course, milk is not the only food to which carrageenan is regularly added. Unfortunately, a lot of the foods that have it are foods children consume, including milk and hot dogs. You may notice carageenan listed in ingredients list for jellies, puddings, meats, cheeses, ice cream and sweet treats of all kinds.
So, what's so bad about carrageenan? If it only bothers some people, isn't it ok for those with stronger gastointestinal tracts? I think not. Aside from msg-type reactions experienced by those more affected by monosodium glutamate in general, carrageenan has other health impacts. Free radical production increases when consuming this ingredient and that may significantly impact internal inflammation in the body. I believe inflammation is an underlying cause in many chronic and degenerative conditions so I avoid foods that contribute to inflammation response. Additionally, it is thought by some that carrageenan may actually promote cancer growth, particularly in the case of cancer of the colon.
I encourage you to learn more about this additive, particularly if you have young children. Articles on carrageenan may be found at RayPeat Website. Please also educate yourself if unfamiliar with other food additives that may wreak havoc with intestinal health, wuch as the artficial sweeteners derived from sugar alcohols. Basically, it if has "tol" on the end, watch out. Read more about the potential side effects of xylitol and sorbitol
Health Care Disclaimer: Carrageenan is considered a safe food by the FDA. If you speak to anyone in the alternative health community, you will hear echos of the information I've listed above, over and over. It won't be the first time the natural health community cries out for the FDA to take a second, long, hard look at something they've approved as safe for us and our children. If you have a new baby or young child, please research the incredible amount of artificial or potentially toxic / allergenic ingredients in food created specifically for children.