Plenty of supplements and treatments on the market today claim to fight the dreaded, vague, modern plague that is inflammation. Inflammation is a natural immune process by which the body shields itself from attack when faced with potentially harmful processes. It is an immune response like any other, but overactivity in this part of the system puts your body on high alert, and excessive reactions can ultimately cause weight gain, drowsiness, skin problems, digestive issues and worse—it can be a contributing factor toward obesity, heart disease and cancer.

How Your Food Might Be Hurting You

Let’s take a deeper dive into where ingredients that cause—or don’t cause—inflammation really lurk.

While it might be common sense to assume that any choice to cut out junk food generally tends to lead to a healthier lifestyle, if you’re someone who lives with chronic food reactions, it is not always as simple as avoiding candy and fries. But savvy consumers who know to pay more attention will soon discover that there is not some magic ingredient that is causing their troubles. Instead, the culprit is usually a host of miniscule additions leftover from various points in the production process. Unfortunately, though, food labels can be tricky to navigate, and the many levels of political discourse that seem to surround each addition can be overwhelming to suss out. We are here to clear at least one of those claims up today: carrageenan.

Carrageenan is a natural thickening agent often found in dairy products, as well as shelf-stable treats like puddings and jellies, and it is currently found all over the organic aisle, replacing many synthetic or animal-based gumming agents that can act the same way but require the use of multiple chemicals to do so. This keeps food labels shorter, more straightforward and easier to read—its use effectively reduces your chance of encountering another strange additive with its own host of potential problems.

But Isn’t That Stuff Disputed for a Reason?

Some mal-informed studies have claimed it triggers inflammatory pathways in labs, but by the same application, so have many other commonly eaten foods and nutrients required for human life (such as essential amino acids, protein, saturated/unsaturated fats, green tea, etc.). Carrageenan has never been shown to cause inflammation in humans. In fact, it has actually been shown to reduce inflammation in certain usages.

So Why the Confusion?

Almost all the negativity around carrageenan in food can be traced back to The Cornucopia Institute and its “expert,” Dr. Joanne Tobacman. In recent years, Dr. Tobacman went so far as to petition the FDA in favor of the ingredients’ removal from organic food. The staff instead issued a very strong rejection of every claim that Dr. Tobacman and Cornucopia make against carrageenan, including inflammation, low molecular weight, cancer and more, citing the fact that she referenced many studies that simply didn’t exist, or made reference to testing performed at insane levels or unsafe conditions.

Don’t be fooled! Get the facts and decide for yourself.