Carrageenan, a stabilizer and thickening agent extracted from red seaweed, has long been a topic of debate within the scientific community regarding its safety in foods. Certain studies have identified the substance as a possible cause of inflammation, while others have deemed it safe for consumption. A new study, published by James McKim in the peer-reviewed journal Food and Chemical Toxicology, set out to investigate the issue by replicating past studies conducted at the University of Chicago. These Chicago studies had previously concluded that carrageenan triggers intestinal inflammation.
McKim was unable to replicate the results of the Chicago studies when performing laboratory tests under the same conditions. Instead, he found that carrageenan is not broken down in the gut, and therefore doesn’t enter the body. Because the ingredient isn’t able to interact with other organs, he concluded that it should be safe to consume. His findings were in agreement with the bulk of existing scientific literature, which has also found carrageenan to be harmless to the body.
This new evidence may have an effect on the US National Organic Standards Board’s decision this November to potentially reapprove the use of carrageenan in organic food. While many peer-reviewed studies have pointed to its safety, it still remains controversial to consumers due to its attention in the media.
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