What is carrageenan and the role and efficacy of carrageenan


What is Carrageenan- Carrageenan is a common food additive derived from red seaweed. Manufacturers often use it as a thickener. Scientists believe that carrageenan can cause inflammation, digestive problems such as bloating and irritable bowel disease (IBD), and even colon cancer. Below, we will introduce to you the harm and use of carrageenan to the human body.


Carrageenan, also known as carrageenan, carrageenan, Irish moss carrageenan, is the calcium, potassium, sodium and ammonium salts of polysaccharide sulfates composed of galactose and anhydrogalactose. Due to the different binding forms of sulfates, they can be divided into Kappa, Iota, and Lambda. Carrageenan is white or light brown granules or powder, odorless or slightly odorous, with a sticky and slippery taste. Soluble in water at about 80°C to form a viscous, transparent or slightly milky white free-flowing solution.

Carrageenan is extracted from red seaweed.

Carrageenan is a food additive, which belongs to a kind of dietary fiber. It can thicken, stabilize and emulsify when added to food. Since the raw materials for making carrageenan are natural plants, such as marine red algae, etc., it is not harmful to the human body when applied under the relevant standards for food production.

Some people believe that carrageenan will be degraded in high temperature and other environments, and the degraded products will cause harm to the human body after being ingested, such as causing digestive system diseases, including digestive tract inflammation, ulcers, and even cancer. There is no scientific basis, but in order to avoid unnecessary harm, it is still recommended to avoid eating foods containing food additives as much as possible, but to choose to eat natural foods as much as possible. In addition, some foods specified in the food additive usage standard cannot be added with carrageenan, such as milk powder for infants and young children. Due to the weak gastrointestinal function of infants, long-term intake of carrageenan may affect digestive function and be detrimental to body health and development.

Since carrageenan is a dietary fiber, normal adults can help gastrointestinal peristalsis and promote defecation to a certain extent when ingested in moderate amounts. If it causes harm to the human body, it is usually seen in the case of excessive intake of carrageenan. For example, a large amount of carrageenan is added to the ingested food, which is equivalent to the intake of a large amount of dietary fiber. For people with weak digestive function, it may lead to Indigestion , causing discomfort such as bloating and diarrhea .

What does the research show?

Degraded carrageenan is not safe to eat. Animal studies have shown that it can cause intestinal tumors and ulcers, and possibly even colon cancer. Due to the possible dangers, few studies have investigated the potential effects in humans.

That's because various studies dating back to the 1960s suggested that the substance could degrade and become toxic when mixed with stomach acid. The medical community is uncertain about how well carrageenan degrades in the digestive system. That means we don't know if any quantities are toxic. Even undegraded carrageenan can cause inflammation and intestinal disease, suggesting that the substance may contribute to ulcers and irritable bowel syndrome.

The role and efficacy of carrageenan

Carrageenan has strong gel-forming and high-viscosity properties, and can form a hydrophilic colloid with high elasticity, high transparency and excellent stability. It will not be hydrolyzed even when heated in alkaline solution; it has good binding properties with proteins, and can form ionic interactions with positively charged protein molecules. This unique reactivity is unique among all colloids. .

It can play a synergistic effect with carrageenan, locust bean gum, konjac gum, xanthan gum, etc. Mixed use can significantly change its gel properties, making the gel tend to be elastic and can reduce bleeding.

The use of carrageenan in meat can keep the moisture in the meat well and make the meat more tender. Its unique properties cannot be replaced by other hydrophilic colloids, which makes the carrageenan industry develop rapidly. It is used as toothpaste, detergent, cosmetics and air freshener in daily chemicals. In biochemistry, it is used as microbial suspending agent, barium sulfate dispersant, capsule, etc. It is used as a microbial carrier and immobilized cell carrier in biochemistry. In other respects, it is used as a thickener for water-based paints in the coating industry. It can be used as a thickener for ceramic glazes, a watercolor pigment thickener, a graphite suspending agent, a sizing agent for textiles and paper, and an agricultural herbicide. and pesticide suspensions.

How to use carrageenan

Carrageenan has a variety of uses. Although it has no flavor or nutritional value, it is a useful thickener and stabilizer.

1. Some manufacturers include it in products like chocolate milk to prevent the milk from separating.

2. It can also replace fat in non-fat or low-fat foods and dairy substitute products aimed at the vegan market.

3. Carrageenan is used as a binder for processing cooked meat.

4. Inject it into pre-cooked poultry to tenderize the meat and keep it juicy longer.

5. Use carrageenan as a vegan alternative to gelatin in desserts.

6. It is also a common ingredient in canned pet food.

7. Non-food products such as air freshener gels and toothpaste also often contain carrageenan.

Possible dangers and side effects of carrageenan

Possible side effects if carrageenan is consumed include:


irritable bowel syndrome

Glucose intolerance

colon cancer

food allergy

foods containing carrageenan

Because of its versatility, carrageenan is used in a wide variety of products.

The following foods commonly contain carrageenan:

Dairy products : whipped cream, chocolate milk, ice cream, sour cream, cottage cheese and children's squeezable yogurt products

Dairy alternatives : soy milk, almond milk, hemp milk, coconut milk, bean pudding and other desserts

Meat : turkey slices, prepared chicken, and deli meats

Prepared Foods : Canned Soups and Broths, Microwave Dinners, and Frozen Pizzas

Some nutritional or diet drinks contain carrageenan, as do some supplements, including chewable vitamins. Because it can be used as a gelatin substitute, manufacturers use carrageenan in jelly products, including vegan jelly desserts.


This food additive is made by mixing seaweed extract with alkaline substances. Scientists generally believe that degraded carrageenan can cause cancer and other health problems. Made by mixing the same seaweed extract with acid. It is a powerful inflammatory agent used in laboratories.

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