advertisement



Q & A Library


Print this page | Sign up for free e-bulletins
 | Bookmark This Page

Q
Can Carrageenan in Some Soy Milk Cause Cancer?
I just started drinking soy milk. Now, I find out some brands contain carrageenan which has been shown to cause cancer in test rats/mice. What do you know about carrageenan?
A
Answer (Published 3/21/2002)

Updated on 4/4/2005

Carrageenan is a common food additive that comes from red seaweed also known as Irish Moss or Chondrus Crispus. Carrageen has long been used as a thickener and emulsifier in ice cream, yogurt, cottage cheese and other processed food products, including soy milk.

Related Weil Products
Dr. Weil on Healthy Aging - Your Anti-Inflammatory Diet Source - Want to promote overall health and help minimize the risk of inflammatory diseases? Join Dr. Weil on Healthy Aging, your online guide to the anti-inflammatory diet. Start your 14-day free trial now for access to shopping and eating guides, hundreds of recipes, an exclusive version of Dr. Weil's Anti-Inflammatory Food Pyramid and more!

However, results of a study published in October 2001 suggest that carrageenan may not be as safe as once thought. Findings from animal studies and a review of the scientific literature showed that degraded forms of carrageenan can cause ulcerations and cancers of the gastrointestinal tract.

The researcher who made the connection between carrageenan and cancer, Joanne Tobacman, an assistant professor of clinical internal medicine at the University of Iowa College of Medicine, noted that as long ago as 1972 the FDA determined that there was enough evidence from animal studies to limit the type of carrageenan that could be used in foods. However, in 1979, the FDA rescinded its proposed limitation and since then, no action has been taken.

Concerns about carrageenan have centered on the "degraded" type which is distinguished from the "undegraded" type by its lower molecular weight. Most of the studies linking carrageenan to cancer and other gastrointestinal disorders have focused on degraded carrageenan. But Dr. Tobacman thinks that undegraded carrageenan - the kind most widely used as a food additive - might also be associated with malignancies and other stomach problems. She suggests that such factors as bacterial action, stomach acid and food preparation may transform undegraded carrageenan into the more dangerous degraded type. Dr. Tobacman's findings were published in the October 2001 issue of Environmental Health Perspectives, a publication of the National Institute for Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS), a branch of the National Institutes of Health. So far, no government action has been taken as a result of Dr. Tobacman's findings. She is currently looking into the possibility of an association between carrageenan and breast cancer risk.

Given this new information on carrageenan, I would recommend avoiding regular consumption of products containing it. While some brands of soy milk do contain the additive, others do not. With a little research you should be able to find a product that suits your taste and doesn't contain carrageenan.

Andrew Weil, M.D.

Creative Commons License Some Rights Reserved Creative Commons Copyright Notice
A portion of the original material created by Weil Lifestyle, LLC on DrWeil.com (specifically, all question and answer-type articles in the Dr. Weil Q&A Library) is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License.

The Weil Vitamin Advisor
Get your FREE personalized vitamin recommendation & supplement plan today!

Dr. Weil on Healthy Aging
Your Online Guide to the Anti-Inflammatory Diet. Start eating for your health - begin your free trial now.

Dr. Weil's Spontaneous Happiness
Achieve emotional well-being
in just eight weeks!
Start your 10-day free trial now!

Vitamin Library
Supplement your knowledge with Dr. Weil's essential vitamin facts. Learn why they are necessary and more.

Dr. Weil's Optimum Health Plan
Your 8-week plan to wellness.
Begin your journey today!
 

Dr. Weil's Head-to-Toe
Wellness Guide

Your guide to natural health.
Use the Wellness Guide today!

Dr. Weil's Anti-Inflammatory Diet Food Pyramid
Our interactive tool can help improve overall health through diet.

Condition Care Guide
Learn about health conditions from acne to vertigo, and Dr. Weil's view of the best treatment options for each.

Healthy Recipes
Discover a treasure trove of healthy, healing foods and creative, delicious ways to prepare them.

Q&A Library
Over 2,000 questions from you
and their corresponding answers
from Dr. Weil.

 
Copyright © 2014 Weil Lifestyle, LLC
Information on this web site is provided for informational purposes only and is not intended as a substitute for the advice provided by your physician or other healthcare professional. You should not use the information on this web site for diagnosing or treating a health problem or disease, or prescribing any medication or other treatment.

Ad Choice
Advertising Notice

This Site and third parties who place advertisements on this Site may collect and use information about your visits to this Site and other websites in order to provide advertisements about goods and services of interest to you. If you would like to obtain more information about these advertising practices and to make choices about online behavioral advertising, please click here