Answer:

Carrageenan is a substance derived from red algae, or seaweed, that is used to create a smooth texture and thicken foods such as pudding, yogurt, ice-cream, whipped toppings, milk (including almond and soy milk), soups, and processed meats.  

Carrageenan is sometimes also added to supplements to improve texture or thicken ingredients. It can be found in some multivitamins, vegan and vegetarian sources of omega-3 fatty acids, such as algal oil supplements, nutrition bars and protein drinks. It was also an ingredient in one cocoa product tested by ConsumerLab.com, although it was removed from the formulation in late 2014.  

Food-grade carrageenan is considered safe by most regulatory agencies; however, some researchers who study carrageenan have raised concerns that carrageenan may be carcinogenic and cause inflammatory reactions. See the full answer for more information >> 

See the Review Article about Inactive Ingredients for more information about carrageenan and other ingredients commonly added to supplements.

Join today to unlock all member benefits including full access to all CL Answers and over 1,300 reviews.

Join Now

Join now at www.consumerlab.com/join/

9 Comments

Join the conversation

Curtis583
February 24, 2015

Very interesting. Growing up along the Rhode Island seashore, we collected the plentiful seaweed known as "Irish Moss" and used it to make "blancmange" or "seaweed pudding," basically by boiling it in flavored milk, which then thickened when cooled. (You had to strain out the pieces of seaweed before the pudding cooled.) We collected only the pieces that had washed up on the sand and been there long enough to bleach out to a white color. At one time, quite a few folks did this, and I never heard of any bad effects on the digestive system. I wonder if there's a difference between the material fresh from the ocean, and that which gets commercially processed.

Mary Beth588
February 25, 2015

It may also be a total exposure thing, you probably did not eat that pudding every day, but with this being added to a surprising array of products, we are probably exposed to a lot more, at a constant level..

Mary Beth576
February 23, 2015

I had a long period of serious digestive disturbance, after a course of Levaquin - I could not tolerate any dairy at all, and once I made the correlation, I switched to soy milk, which was just as bad, and I was so depressed! Then I saw a Dr Weil post on carrageenan in soy milk, and once I switched to one that did not contain it, I was fine. It took years of probiotics to get my gut back to normal, but now I am able to pretty much eat what I want. However, I still have trouble with carrageenan, and I am hard pressed to find heavy cream (for my coffee) that does not contain it! I don't understand why heavy or whipping cream would need to be 'creamier', but Kalona is the only one I can find without it, even at the co-ops. Very disappointing.

Bach8182
December 13, 2015

Try getting organic cream from a natural food store (local dairy, not super pasteurized and homig. national brands. )

Martin565
February 22, 2015

Why do we even allow carrageenan, a possible carcinogen in out foods and nutritional supplements at all? There are totally safe substances that improve texture or thicken without causing inflamation and possibly contribute to cancer. If you're a label reader, as you should be, do yourself and your family afavor and do not buy anything with carragreenan. Caragreenan is a cheap food additive that some manufactures put into their products to save a few cents. I have a long history of ulcerative colitis and have avoided carrageenan for more than 20 years. Anyone with UC, bowel diseases of any sort, irritable bowel, or who have had family members that had colon cancer, should avoid carrageenan like the plague! One more observation, the more responsible food manufactures do not use carrageenan in there food and supplement products!

Andrea8517
March 11, 2016

Hi Martin565, can you tell me what safe alternative thickeners you are aware of? I would like to suggest some to the organic food manufacturers whose products have carrageenan.

Siegfried564
February 22, 2015

It appears that a frequent discussion on blogs is that it lowers testosterone?

ConsumerLab.com
February 23, 2015

Hi Siegfried - We have seen a study in which degraded carrageenan was injected into rats to induce inflammation and the effects of testosterone on the pain response was measured (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17008018) - but have not seen studies showing carrageenan to lower testosterone levels in people.

Can you let us know where you have read this, and/or what research was cited?

Joanne17766
April 17, 2019

Re carrageenan, Drs. Oz and Roizin write a syndicated newspaper column re health topics, and recently discussed carrageenan. Their information was strong enough to convince me that's it's a no-no, food-grade or not. Check it out online. The newspaper in which I saw it is the Palm Beach Post.

Join today to unlock all member benefits including full access to CL Answers

Join Now

Join now at www.consumerlab.com/join/