Seaweed extract, carrageenan and cancer Algen-Extrakt, Carrageenan und Krebs Extracto de algas, carragenina y cáncer


Seaweed extract, carrageenan and cancer

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Seaweed extract, carrageenan and cancer

Many processed foods we consume contain a number of elements and chemicals to, even though they have been stored for a long time, reach the consumer in perfect condition, and have good texture, good color, and do not lose their appeal.

These chemicals added to most processed food products are quite often gums, among which we highlight now carrageen.

The carrageenan is a rubber that is extracted from red algae of the family Rhodophycaeae, in the genera of ChrondusGigartinaEucheuma, Hypnea e Iridaea. The harvesting of this alga is done at low tide, between spring and autumn, and comes from the coasts of several countries including France, Chile, Brazil, Argentina and Peru among others.

This type of seaweed was used in ancient times because of its unique property of gel milk. Bleached lichen was used to prepare a gel of milk known as "blanc-mange", whose translation would be "white food".

Extraction process for the carrageenan production is based on two of the properties of the alga: its solubility in water and its insolubility in polar organic solvents.

After a process of washing, crushing and filtering, you get a syrup that contains carrageenan solution. This liquid is subjected to another process that ends with a collection of a fine powder granular or, tasteless and odorless, white to beige.

In commercial products, these powders are frequently diluted with sugars for standardization purposes, and mixed with salt for food use of gelling and thickening characteristics.

Carrageenan and Cancer

Several studies have found that this food additive called carrageenan, widely used at present, causes cancer in laboratory animals. And therefore, should be reconsidered use in food for humans.

Although studies have been conducted only in animals, "there is sufficient evidence on the effects of cancer-causing carrageen to limit the use of food additive," said researcher Joanne K. Tobacman Health Care, University of Iowa in Iowa City.

This food additive, as explained before, is an extract of red algae, and is used in various foods such as dairy products and processed and canned meat in sausages and thickening, stabilizing and texturing. Also found in products like ice cream, whipped cream, pudding and yogurt. The carrageenan is mainly used in meat products because it provides a better bonding effect of water, improves the appearance and the ability to slice, in addition to improving its performance. In its dual role, it allows us to optimize the quality of processed meat and its performance.

Some studies in animals by Tobacman, found that carrageenan is associated with the formation of cancerous tumors and ulcers in the intestine.

Tobacman explained in the October edition of the journal Environmental Health Perspectives: the intestinal cells absorb very easily carrageen, but they cannot metabolize. As the carrageenan accumulates in cells that can be destroyed, and this time the process could lead to ulceration.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) proposed to limit the type of carrageenan in food since 1972, but "... there has been no substantive review by the FDA on the carrageenan from the studios that performed for more than 2 decades, " the researcher wrote in his report. " However, there have been more evident in relation to the activity of carrageenan to promote the cancer and subsequent confirmation of the possibility of degrading the carrageen" and adds: "People need to be informed about the potential risks associated with the consumption of carrageenan based on animal studies. "

Moreover, Á Free Trade Area of the Americas stressed in a statement "... the immediate and reciprocal elimination of tariffs on carrageenan, a stabilizing agent in food derived from seaweed…"

However, this still remains a controversial food used in many processed products, as many claim that there is no real evidence that this product causes cancer or tumors. Currently in dairy beverages, pharmaceutical products, diet products, and are now beginning to use to inject seafood. Another application is as a cover agent fruit and there is an even more innovative, the inclusion of carrageenan in the biomedical field, there are several studies that demonstrate its anticoagulant and barrier of some viruses, among others. It is the vision for the next 20 years, an opening of this additive to use a biomedical (food products that protect health).

But as always, you decide...

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Tags: additives algae cancer carrageenan health

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4 Reviews “Seaweed extract, carrageenan and cancer”

on 29/08/2015
There are a lot of things that can be added (or substracted) from the diet that help fight cancer. In fact, I believe very strongly that the majority of our cancers and illnesses around are diet induced, and by adding or subtracting foods we can achieve perfect health.
on 01/10/2013
Well, I think that even though you are against the use or consuming of this type of seaweed or let?s say additive, you cannot be sure if the food you are consuming now is free of it, and probably all of the products contain at least some of this product, so it is not always our decision
on 05/03/2013

Q. What is Carrageenan??

A. Carrageenan is a naturally-occurring seaweed extract. It is widely used in foods and non-foods to improve texture and stability. Common uses include meat and poultry, dairy products, canned pet food, cosmetics and toothpaste.
Q. Why the controversy?
A. Self-appointed consumer watchdogs have produced numerous web pages filled with words condemning carrageenan as an unsafe food additive for human consumption. However, in 70+ years of carrageenan being used in processed foods, not a single substantiated claim of an acute or chronic disease has been reported as arising from carrageenan consumption. On a more science-based footing, food regulatory agencies in the US, the EU, and in the UN?s Food and Agriculture Organization/World Health Organization (FAO/WHO) repeatedly review and continue to approve carrageenan as a safe food additive.
Q. What has led up to this misrepresentation of the safety of an important food stabilizer, gelling agent and thickener?
A. It clearly has to be attributed to the research of Dr. Joanne Tobacman, an Associate Prof at the University of Illinois in Chicago. She and a group of molecular biologists have accused carrageenan of being a potential inflammatory agent as a conclusion from laboratory experiments with cells of the digestive tract. It requires a lot of unproven assumptions to even suggest that consumption of carrageenan in the human diet causes inflammatory diseases of the digestive tract. The objectivity of the Chicago research is also flawed by the fact that Dr Tobacman has tried to have carrageenan declared an unsafe food additive on weak technical arguments that she broadcast widely a decade before the University of Chicago research began.

Q. What brings poligeenan into a discussion of carrageenan?
A. Poligeenan (?degraded carrageenan? in pre-1988 scientific and regulatory publications) is a possible carcinogen to humans; carrageenan is not. The only relationship between carrageenan and poligeenan is that the former is the starting material to make the latter. Poligeenan is not a component of carrageenan and cannot be produced in the digestive tract from carrageenan-containing foods.
Q. What are the differences between poligeenan and carrageenan?
A. The production process for poligeenan requires treating carrageenan with strong acid at high temp (about that of boiling water) for 6 hours or more. These severe processing conditions convert the long chains of carrageenan to much shorter ones: ten to one hundred times shorter. In scientific terms the molecular weight of poligeenan is 10,000 to 20,000; whereas that of carrageenan is 200,000 to 800,000. Concern has been raised about the amount of material in carrageenan with molecular weight less than 50,000. The actual amount (well under 1%) cannot even be detected accurately with current technology. Certainly it presents no threat to human health.
Q. What is the importance of these molecular weight differences?
A. Poligeenan contains a fraction of material low enough in molecular weight that it can penetrate the walls of the digestive tract and enter the blood stream. The molecular weight of carrageenan is high enough that this penetration is impossible. Animal feeding studies starting in the 1960s have demonstrated that once the low molecular weight fraction of poligeenan enters the blood stream in large enough amounts, pre-cancerous lesions begin to form. These lesions are not observed in animals fed with a food containing carrageenan.

Q. Does carrageenan get absorbed in the digestive track?
A. Carrageenan passes through the digestive system intact, much like food fiber. In fact, carrageenan is a combination of soluble and insoluble nutritional fiber, though its use level in foods is so low as not to be a significant source of fiber in the diet.
Carrageenan has been proven completely safe for consumption. Poligeenan is not a component of carrageenan.
Closing Remarks
The consumer watchdogs with their blogs and websites would do far more service to consumers by researching their sources and present only what can be substantiated by good science. Unfortunately we are in an era of media frenzy that rewards controversy.
Additional information available:
On June 11th, 2008, Dr. Joanne Tobacman petitioned the FDA to revoke the current regulations permitting use of carrageenan as a food additive.
On June 11th, 2012 the FDA denied her petition, categorically addressing and ultimately dismissing all of her claims; their rebuttal supported by the results of several in-depth, scientific studies.
If you would like to read the full petition and FDA response, they can be accessed at!searchResults;rpp=25;po=0;s=FDA-2008-P-0347

on 01/06/2014

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