Is Carrageenan Bad?

At the break of dawn, the birds chirp and the morning ushers in new beginnings. The newspapers get delivered, bringing with them a tide of emotions ranging from happiness to shock on the reader’s face. Controversy has become the new selling point for the media and sometimes, unfounded facts are conveniently highlighted as headlines to sell more copies of their papers and magazines. After all, who would read the same boring news again and again? This mindset has given birth to a new style of irresponsible journalism and it is highly misleading. Not just newspapers and magazines, but the internet too is a medium for such articles, as everyone has the right to express themselves and most adopt the free platform of the World Wide Web. And sadly, the latest victim to this trend is the food additive carrageenan!

Carrageenan is a natural seaweed product which is widely used to obtain stability in food items due to its excellent emulsifying properties. It is also used to improve the textures of many dishes and its use is not limited to just food items. Also used in cosmetics and toothpaste, it is an ingredient which simplifies many problems like keeping items fresh and to add to the list of positives, it is vegan too! So why have people taken to condemning this product?

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Dr. Joanne Tobacman, a biologist from the University of Illinois, after years of research on carrageenan, has always maintained the stance that this product should be abolished due to the ill effects it has on the human body. However, on looking into the basis for her conclusions, we find that her studies were rather flawed and biased. She used a derivative of carrageenan called poligeenan (which has no relation to carrageenan), to conduct her studies.

After her initial theory was dismissed by the health regulatory bodies in the country, she went on to conduct tests on animals. But the catch here is that she used abnormally large dosages or fed them in water, neither of which is the consumption technique used by humans. There have been a number of keen nutritionists who have come forward to refute her claims, but unfortunately, the media loves to present negative news to garner publicity, and before you know it, a fear has been instilled in the public about an ingredient, which in actuality, is completely harmless.

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The proof that seals the case is the fact that the Food and Drug Administration refused to entertain the claims of Dr. Tobacman and her repeated attempts at reopening the case have proven to be unsuccessful. Her theory has become a topic of interest among bloggers but there is nothing more to it than just fodder for gossip. So, is carrageenan bad? Absolutely not! It is extremely important for the public to receive correct news about ingredients they have trusted for decades and incorrect information can shatter the very pillars of faith that our society stands on. Thus, it is imperative for the media to promote news which have a concrete scientific backing, instead of any piece of news that breeds controversy. And this will eventually give rise to a well-informed, intelligent public which trusts only one source: science!

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