Do you choose soy milk, almond milk, kefir, or low-fat dairy because you think it’s better for your family? A recent report found that even these “healthy” products could be contaminated with a substance that is classified by the WHO’s International Agency for Research on Cancer as a “possible human carcinogen.”
The Cornucopia Institute, an organic watchdog group, recently published a report that shows a wide variety of organic brands of both low-fat dairy and non-dairy products contain carrageenan, a seaweed derivative used as a stabilizer and thickener in foods. Carrageenan keeps ingredients in beverages and creams from settling, so they can be consumed without shaking and have a pleasant creamy texture in the mouth.
Unfortunately, research funded by the National Institutes of Health raises serious concerns about harmful effects of carrageenan as an inflammatory agent on the human gastrointestinal tract. Even though carrageenan has been used by the food industry for nearly 50 years, it “so reliably causes inflammation that scientists actually use it to induce inflammation in biological experiments.”
In a recent statement to the National Organic Standards Board, Dr. Joanne Tobacman explained that carrageenan itself and its breakdown product both create dangerous inflammation, a condition that serves as the backbone of more than 100 human diseases, including inflammatory bowel disease, rheumatoid arthritis, and arteriosclerosis. Inflammation also fuels other life-threatening diseases, including cancer.
In some cases, individuals suffering from chronic gastrointestinal symptoms have reported that their symptoms disappeared when they cut carrageenan out of their diets.
Although Cornucopia researchers are quick to acknolwedge that organic brands are still far more healthy than conventional alternatives, they stress that industry influence can often mean unsafe ingredients like carrageenan are allowed to slip through the regulatory cracks.
To avoid dairy and non-dairy foods that contain carrageenan, browse this handy shopping guide.
Image via Thinkstock
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