Carrageenan and Gellan Gum

So for about 2 weeks now I have been seeing posts about Carrageenan being “bad” and I didn’t read them because I knew it was an ingredient in my almond and coconut milks and I love them so. I felt, “Well I’m trying to be healthy and I don’t want to be told they are not good for us.” But how irresponsible is that? At times, researching healthy items is overwhelming and I’m constantly refining and fine tuning what we intake.

In comes good ole Facebook to the rescue, keeping me abreast of up to date information. I saw this lovely post by The Nourished Life about the #1 Ingredient to Avoid is….. (drum roll please)………… GUILT (stressing about food)!!!!! From her awesome website: 

Stressing About Food: It’s No Way to Live

Don’t get me wrong: there’s nothing wrong with trying to eat healthy and live healthy. But it’s not hard to cross the line from living healthfully to agonizing over every bite you take.

  • Does figuring out what to eat for lunch trigger stress and anxiety?
  • Do you try to make a healthy choice and then feel ashamed of it later because part of your meal didn’t line up with some health guru’s recommendations?
  • Are you constantly wondering which guru is right?

What if all this anxiety and agony is causing more health problems than whatever food you may (or may not) be eating?

I really appreciate the honest, down to earth approach this article takes. I can totally relate. And we all know how stress can affect our lives.

The Mayo Clinic indicates that:

Common effects of stress

Indeed, stress symptoms can affect your body, your thoughts and feelings, and your behavior. Being able to recognize common stress symptoms can give you a jump on managing them. Stress that’s left unchecked can contribute to health problems, such as high blood pressure, heart disease, obesity and diabetes.

Well with this in mind let’s actually get into the meat of the title of this post: Carrageenan vs. Gellan Gum.

Ok So I opened up my fridge and here are the brands I have:

So what the heck is Carrageenan? Dr. Weil states:

Carrageenan is a common food additive that is extracted from a red seaweed, Chondrus crispus, which is popularly known as Irish moss. Carrageenan, which has no nutritional value, has been used as a thickener and emulsifier to improve the texture of ice cream, yogurt, cottage cheese, soy milk and other processed foods.  

Well that doesn’t sound so bad! And I want to be completely hippie crunchy granola and make my own almond and coconut milk but I’m just not there yet… I love the convenience of buying my milks at the store…

However, Dr. Weil goes on to point out that:

When I first wrote about carrageenan on this site 10 years ago, I reported that some animal studies had linked degraded forms of it (the type not used in food) to ulcerations and cancers of the gastrointestinal tract. But around that time, a prominent researcher in the field, Joanne K. Tobacman, M.D., now associate professor of clinical medicine at the University of Illinois College of Medicine, conducted studies linking undegraded carrageenan – the type that is widely used in foods – with malignancies and other stomach problems. (Degraded and undegraded carrageenan differ by molecular weight with undegraded carrageenan having the higher weight.)  

Over the years Dr. Tobacman has published 18 peer-reviewed studies that address the biological effects of carrageenan and is convinced that it is harmful to human health. In April 2012, she addressed the National Organic Standards Board on this issue and urged reconsideration of the use of carrageenan in organic foods.

In her presentation, Dr. Tobacman said that her research has shown that exposure to carrageenan causes inflammation and that when we consume processed foods containing it, we ingest enough to cause inflammation in our bodies. She explained that all forms of carrageenan are capable of causing inflammation. This is bad news. We know that chronic inflammation is a root cause of many serious diseases including heart disease, Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases, and cancer.

Dr. Tobacman also told the board that in the past, drug investigators actually used carrageenan to cause inflammation in tissues in order to test the anti-inflammatory properties of new drugs. And she reported further that when laboratory mice are exposed to low concentrations of carrageenan for 18 days, they develop “profound” glucose intolerance and impaired insulin action, both of which can lead to diabetes.

She maintains that both types of carrageenan are harmful and notes that “degraded carrageenan inevitably arises from higher molecular weight (food grade) carrageenan.” Research suggests that acid digestion, heating, bacterial action and mechanical processing can all accelerate degradation of food-grade carrageenan. 

All told, I recommend avoiding regular consumption of foods containing carrageenan. This is especially important advice for persons with inflammatory bowel disease.

Well crap. That sounds crappy. But I’m not stressing! Just gonna ditch them and find something else. So what the Hay is Gellan Gum?

Wikipedia says:

Gellan gum is a water-soluble polysaccharide produced by Pseudomonas elodea, a bacterium

As a food additive, gellan gum is used as a thickeneremulsifier, and stabilizer. It has E number E418. It was an integral part of the now defunct Orbitz soft drink. It is used as the gelling agent, as an alternative to gelatin, in the manufacture of vegan varieties “gummi” candies.

It is used in soy milks to keep the soy protein suspended in the milk.[3]

Well the only scholarly article I found was: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/3294053 that basically sums that:

The data indicate that the ingestion of gellan gum at a high level for 23 days caused no adverse dietary or physiological effects in any of the volunteers. In particular, the enzymatic and other indicators of adverse toxicological effects remained unchanged.

So here is how I feel:

Image

SO I wonder if anyone else has any takes on this issue? Leave me a comment, let me know.

Next post I will be reviewing The Nourished Metabolism by Elizabeth Walling. Have a super fantastic awesomely rad day.

One thought on “Carrageenan and Gellan Gum

  1. Pingback: Nourished Metabolism Book Review | Short, Simple, and Sweet

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