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Review of harmful gastrointestinal effects of carrageenan in animal experiments.
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MedLine Citation:
PMID:  11675262     Owner:  NLM     Status:  MEDLINE    
In this article I review the association between exposure to carrageenan and the occurrence of colonic ulcerations and gastrointestinal neoplasms in animal models. Although the International Agency for Research on Cancer in 1982 identified sufficient evidence for the carcinogenicity of degraded carrageenan in animals to regard it as posing a carcinogenic risk to humans, carrageenan is still used widely as a thickener, stabilizer, and texturizer in a variety of processed foods prevalent in the Western diet. I reviewed experimental data pertaining to carrageenan's effects with particular attention to the occurrence of ulcerations and neoplasms in association with exposure to carrageenan. In addition, I reviewed from established sources mechanisms for production of degraded carrageenan from undegraded or native carrageenan and data with regard to carrageenan intake. Review of these data demonstrated that exposure to undegraded as well as to degraded carrageenan was associated with the occurrence of intestinal ulcerations and neoplasms. This association may be attributed to contamination of undegraded carrageenan by components of low molecular weight, spontaneous metabolism of undegraded carrageenan by acid hydrolysis under conditions of normal digestion, or the interactions with intestinal bacteria. Although in 1972, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration considered restricting dietary carrageenan to an average molecular weight > 100,000, this resolution did not prevail, and no subsequent regulation has restricted use. Because of the acknowledged carcinogenic properties of degraded carrageenan in animal models and the cancer-promoting effects of undegraded carrageenan in experimental models, the widespread use of carrageenan in the Western diet should be reconsidered.
J K Tobacman
Publication Detail:
Type:  Journal Article; Review    
Journal Detail:
Title:  Environmental health perspectives     Volume:  109     ISSN:  0091-6765     ISO Abbreviation:  Environ. Health Perspect.     Publication Date:  2001 Oct 
Date Detail:
Created Date:  2001-10-24     Completed Date:  2001-12-04     Revised Date:  2009-11-18    
Medline Journal Info:
Nlm Unique ID:  0330411     Medline TA:  Environ Health Perspect     Country:  United States    
Other Details:
Languages:  eng     Pagination:  983-94     Citation Subset:  IM    
College of Medicine, University of Iowa, 200 Hawkins Drive, Iowa City, IA 52242-1081, USA.
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MeSH Terms
Carrageenan / adverse effects*,  metabolism
Cell Transformation, Neoplastic
Colonic Diseases / chemically induced*,  veterinary
Disease Models, Animal
Gastrointestinal Neoplasms / chemically induced*,  veterinary
Guinea Pigs
Macaca mulatta
Ulcer / chemically induced*,  veterinary
Reg. No./Substance:
Comment In:
Environ Health Perspect. 2002 Apr;110(4):A176; author reply A176-7   [PMID:  11940442 ]

From MEDLINE®/PubMed®, a database of the U.S. National Library of Medicine

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Journal Information
Journal ID (nlm-ta): Environ Health Perspect
ISSN: 0091-6765
Article Information
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Print publication date: Month: 10 Year: 2001
Volume: 109 Issue: 10
First Page: 983 Last Page: 994
ID: 1242073
PubMed Id: 11675262
Publisher Item Identifier: sc271_5_1835

Review of harmful gastrointestinal effects of carrageenan in animal experiments.
J K Tobacman
College of Medicine, University of Iowa, 200 Hawkins Drive, Iowa City, IA 52242-1081, USA.

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  • Research Article

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