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Food-grade carrageenans and their implications in health and disease

Food additives, often used to guarantee the texture, shelf-life, taste, and appearance of processed foods, have gained widespread attention due to their increased link to the growing incidence of chronic diseases.

As one of the most ccarrageenansommon additives, carrageenans have been used in human diets for hundreds of years.

While classified as generally recognized as safe (GRAS) for human consumption, numerous studies since the 1980s have suggested that carrageenans, particularly those with random coil conformations, may have adverse effects on gastrointestinal health, including aggravating intestinal inflammation.

While these studies have provided some evidence of adverse effects, the topic is still controversial.

Some have suggested that the negative consequence of the consumption of carrageenans may be structure dependent. Furthermore, pre-existing conditions may predispose individuals to varied outcomes of carrageenan intake.

In this review, structure–function relationships of various carrageenans in the context of food safety are discussed, it reviews the molecular mechanisms by which carrageenans exert their biological effects, and it summarises the findings associated with carrageenan intake in animal models and clinical trials.

Moreover, it examines the interactions between carrageenans and the gut microbiome in the pathogenesis of gastrointestinal disorders.

This review argues for personalised guidance on carrageenan intake based on individuals’ health status. Future research efforts that aim to close the knowledge gap on the effect of low-dose and chronic carrageenan intake as well as interactions among food additives should be conducive to the improved safety profile of carrageenans in processed food products.

Journal Reference – free to read:


Food-grade carrageenans and their implications in health and disease

Fang LiuPengfen HouHui ZhangQingjuan TangChanghu XueRobert W. Li

First published: 19 June 2021

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