Carrageenan

What does it do?

Carrageenan is an abundant, natural material which is very useful in thickening our toothpaste so that it can take the form people expect of it.

What are the alternatives?

Other thickening agents exist, but carrageenan represents our best choice because it is a naturally sourced material with little taste or odor which has a long history of safe use in food products.

What are the risks?

There is some confusion about carrageenan which has cast an unfortunate light on the ingredient. Poligeenan is a chemically degraded derivative of carageenan which is used for industrial (non-food) purposes. Although poligeenan does not posses the thickening or stabilizing properties of carrageenan, it was improperly named "degraded carrageenan" and for a short time the word "carrageenan" was used ambiguously and might refer to either food-grade or degraded carrageenan. Due to this confusion, the US Adopted Names Council determined that "poligeenan" was a more accurate and descriptive name for the chemically degraded form of carrageenan. While poligeenan has shown unfavorable health effects in studies, food-grade carrageenan has no known toxicity or carcinogenicity and is Generally Recognized As Safe (GRAS) by the US Food & Drug Administration. Unfortunately, because the two ingredients were referred to by one common name for a short time, many people have been left with the mistaken impression that the negative health effects shown for poligeenan are true of food-grade carrageenan. Food-grade carrageenan is an entirely safe and appropriate ingredient for toothpaste.

What is it?

Food-grade carrageenan is a purified extract from red seaweed (Chondrus crispus). It is used as a thickener and stabilizer in a wide range of food products including frozen yogurt and reduced-fat ice cream.

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Expert Herbal Information

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