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The truth about carrageenan

post #1 of 88
Thread Starter 
I just thought I'd make a thread to discuss the potential dangers of carrageenan and guar gum in our pet foods. I've read a few articles on the Internet which have convinced me to go carrageenan/guar gum free.
Quote:
Carrageenan is a common food addivitve both in pet food and human food. It is extracted from seaweed through the use of a chemical solvent. It is used as thickener and binder in canned pet food, as well as in many human foods such as ice cream, yogurt, and soy milk.
Quote:
According to the Cornucopia Institute, the International Agency for Research on Cancer recognizes degraded carrageenan as a “possible human carcinogen,” based on research showing that it leads to higher rates of colon cancer in lab animals. Carrageenan processors claim that food-grade carrageenan falls entirely in the undegraded category; however, one study showed that not a single sample of food-grade carrageenan could confidently claim to be entirely free of the potential cancer-causing material.
Quote Source

Can these food additives cause cancer in our pets? Why are these chemicals allowed to be added to pet foods (and human foods) if they are possible carcinogens?
post #2 of 88
I don't know. The Japanese use carageenan in everything, and don't they have the lowest cancer rate? I'm just not sure about this one.
post #3 of 88
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Willowy View Post

I don't know. The Japanese use carageenan in everything, and don't they have the lowest cancer rate? I'm just not sure about this one.

I know, that's another thing that baffles me. But having lost one cat to cancer, I'm willing to do anything to avoid the disease again, at any cost.
post #4 of 88
Thanks for starting this thread. I've been wondering about why exactly carrageenan is so bad as quite a few people avoid it. It's pretty darn tough to avoid it though as it's in just about everything!!

What about guar gum then? Where is that from and why is it something to avoid too?
post #5 of 88
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by pushylady View Post

Thanks for starting this thread. I've been wondering about why exactly carrageenan is so bad as quite a few people avoid it. It's pretty darn tough to avoid it though as it's in just about everything!!
What about guar gum then? Where is that from and why is it something to avoid too?

No problem! Been wondering that myself for a while. As to guar gum, will do some research on that and get back to you.
post #6 of 88
Well, don't the Japanese eat carageenan IN kelp? I mean - in the form of kelp? Maybe there's something else in the kelp that affects the carageenan that 's in it. dontknow.gif Or perhaps it's the way they prepare it. dontknow.gif It's like the issue with soy, the new miracle food. The Japanese and Chinese have eaten soy for thousands of years to no ill effect - yet they eat it once it has been FERMENTED, removing (altering? inactivating?) the toxins that we are now learning are harming us by using unfermented soy products. (Info on that here: scroll down to Hidden Poison in Food http://www.optimumchoices.com/Silent_epidemic.htm ).

As to carageenan, pet food manufacturers (and others) are quick to point out the differences between degraded carageenan and undegraded carageenan. Here is Ziwipeak's discussion of it: (In the FAQs, you have to scroll down then expand the discussion). http://www.ziwipeak.com.au/products/faqs/
Quote:
There are two types of Carrageenan, undegraded (food-grade) and degraded (hydrolysed with acid).

Undegraded Carrageenan has been used in both the human food and pet food industries for many years, and its safety has been assured by the United States Food and Drug Administration GRAS (Generally Recognised as Safe) status.

Degraded Carrageenan however, is a known Carcinogen and is not used or permitted in food (or pet food) production.

Carrageenan is also listed by AAFCO (Association of American Feed Control Officials) as an approved ingredient for pet food.

ZiwiPeak' cans contain undegraded Carrageenan.

Acid hydrolysis, which is dependent on pH, temperature and time, may hydrolyse (degrade) Carrageenan in solution at higher temperatures but this takes place only when Carrageenan is dissolved. In our process, the Carrageenan is in solution only at very low temperature. When Carrageenan is in its gelled state, as it is during canning, acid hydrolysis no longer occurs.

Please be assured that the quality and safety of ZiwiPeak is of the highest level.


BUT....

This discussion of carageenan (in an article about soy milk) addresses the issue of high molecular weight (undegraded) carageenan vs low molecular weight (degraded) carageenan: http://www.notmilk.com/carageenan.html
Quote:
Dr. Tobacman shared studies with me that demonstrate that digestive enzymes and bacterial action convert high weight carrageenans to dangerous low molecular weight carrageenans and poligeenans in the human gut. These carrageenans have been linked to various human cancers and digestive disorders. Again, I remind you that Tobacman's evidence and conclusions are based upon human tissue samples, not animal studies.


The studies are cited.
post #7 of 88
Interesting - just found this. It also refers to Dr. Tobacman: http://www.healthcentral.com/allergy/c/564984/109362/carrageenan?ic=2602
Quote:
It is in Soy Milk, almost all dairy products, cheeses , jellies and jams, cherry pies, toothpastes, prescription pills, and a myriad of other things. In some cases, it is also called AGAR and for most people, it is harmless and causes no problems for them. For others the stomach acid is a little stronger than other people and so their stomach breaks the molecule down further, allowing it to be passed into the blood when it normally wouldn't be, and as a result it turns into a carcinogen that the body attacks with an immune response, which in my case is inflamation of the digestive tracks and then inflamation of the skin.

emphasis added.

And cats have very acidic environments in their stomachs. That's one of the points of raw food feeders as to why cats handle bacteria so well.
post #8 of 88
The Japanese do eat a lot of kelp, yeah. But some of it must be isolated from the kelp--I remember when I was a kid (I grew up in Japan), there was this ice cream we bought at the corner store that simply didn't melt, no matter how hot it was. We were told it had some kind of seaweed derivative in it that kept it hard, and that the Japanese use that seaweed stuff in a lot of foods to make them firmer or thicker. The ice cream didn't taste like kelp laughing02.gif. I never was told the name of "that seaweed stuff", but since carageenan is a seaweed derivative. . .
post #9 of 88
Well, given our ice cream melts, I'm guessing there's something different about the processing. laughing02.gif Worth looking into!
post #10 of 88

It may be true that heavy, undegraded carrageenan is harmless to people, but you can also say that about chocolate, garlic, onions, grapes, raisins, and avocados. Pet food companies know not to add real food that is safe for us, but toxic to cats and dogs. Why would they not also refrain from using carrageenan if it is known to be dangerous for our pets?

 

Obviously, more studies on cats and dogs, not humans, need to be done to determine its effect on feline and canine health. If cats get cancer by eating carrageenan it does not matter whether we do or not. We don't suffer acute kidney failure by eating onions.

post #11 of 88

Would anyone care to list all pet food brands that use carrageenan?

post #12 of 88
It's much easier to list the canned foods that do not use carageenan. I don't think there's any kibble or raw that uses it. The wet foods that do not use carageenan are:

Nature's Variety
Nature's Logic

Those are the one's I'm aware of.
post #13 of 88
What is the problem with Guar Gum?
post #14 of 88
Quote:
Originally Posted by Carolina View Post

What is the problem with Guar Gum?

From Wikipedia:

 

Quote:

Solubility and viscosity

Guar gum is more soluble than locust bean gum and is a better stabilizer, as it has more galactose branch points. Unlike locust bean gum, it is not self-gelling.[6] However, either borax or calcium can cross-link guar gum, causing it to gel. In water, it is nonionic and hydrocolloidal. It is not affected by ionic strength or pH, but will degrade at pH extremes at temperature (e.g. pH 3 at 50 °C).[6] It remains stable in solution over pH range 5-7. Strong acids cause hydrolysis and loss of viscosity, and alkalies in strong concentration also tend to reduce viscosity. It is insoluble in most hydrocarbon solvents.

Guar gum shows high low-shear viscosity but is strongly shear-thinning. It is very thixotropic above 1% concentration, but below 0.3%, the thixotropy is slight. It has much greater low-shear viscosity than that of locust bean gum, and also generally greater than that of other hydrocolloids. Guar gum shows viscosity synergy with xanthan gum. Guar gum and micellar casein mixtures can be slightly thixotropic if a biphase system forms.[6][7]

 

Thickening

Guar gum is economical because it has almost eight times the water-thickening potency of cornstarch - only a very small quantity is needed for producing sufficient viscosity. Thus, it can be used in various multiphase formulations: as an emulsifier because it helps to prevent oil droplets from coalescing, and/or as a stabilizer because it helps to prevent solid particles from settling.

post #15 of 88
Can you point out in your post from Wikipedia what the problem with it as an ingredient is? dontknow.gif I'm not getting what the problem with it is.
post #16 of 88

I know that is a lot of technical jargon, but basically Wikipedia says guar gum has no nutritional value because it comes from beans and I read the word hydrolysis again.

post #17 of 88
OK, but why would it be DANGEROUS?
post #18 of 88
Quote:
Originally Posted by EmilyMayWilcha View Post

From Wikipedia:
Emily, thanks but IMHO that doesn't tell me much....
Dr. Pierson for example, uses Guar Gum as a fiber (it is a fiber) for some of her cats, instead of psyllium. Guar Gum is a soluble fiber, and she finds it doesn't add as much bulk to the kittie's poop, yet it does help with constipation issues and to soften up the poop.
So again, I ask, in practical life, what is the matter with Guar Gum?
Quote:
April, 2011 update: One of my cats, Robbie, has an anatomical abnormality in his rectum and needs to have his stools softened to facilitate defecation. I have been using guar gum which is a soluble fiber source and it is working very well.

I purchase the guar gum from Whole Foods Market or online here.

There are two types of fiber sources: soluble and insoluble.

Soluble fiber traps water in the stool, thereby softening it, but it does not swell as much as insoluble fiber. It is fermented into compounds that can be helpful for colon health.

Insoluble fiber (e.g., cellulose from vegetables) also traps water but it swells - adding bulk to the stool. However, this is not what we want for cats. Cats are not designed to eat a high plant fiber diet that results in a high volume (large diameter) stool.

Vegetables contain predominantly insoluble fiber making them much less desirable for treating constipation in the cat.

I have been adding ~1/8 of a tsp of guar gum to 3 ounces of a meal of the recipe on this site + plus an extra ~2 TBS of water. You can experiment with a bit more guar gum and water if you want to. (I am not adding the guar gum to the whole batch of food since I am playing around with the amount.)

There is one drawback to using guar gum....you will no longer be able to brag that your cat's feces do not have any odor. The feces of a cat fed the recipe discussed on this webpage (without guar gum) have very little odor but guar gum is fermented into some pretty stinky gases by the bacteria in the colon.

7/2/11 update: I have been using guar gum for 3 months as noted above and the smell of my cats' feces is not as bad as it was when I first started using it and the gas production has subsided significantly.

http://catinfo.org/?link=makingcatfood#Constipation
Quote:
Recently, Robbie, my best buddy with no colon whose picture adorns the top of all web pages on this site, has needed his stools softened due to an anatomic abnormality in his intestines. I have chosen to use guar gum powder but I am not adding it to the entire batch. I am just adding it to individual meals so that I can play around with the amount.



I am using ~1/8 per 3 ounces of food. If you are going to try it, start with 1/8 tsp and work up from there. Also, add more water to the food since fiber 'soaks up' water.



There are two types of fiber - soluble and insoluble. Psyllium is a combination of both types. Guar gum is strictly soluble. I use this source of fiber because it does not seem to add as much bulk to the stool when compared to insoluble fiber but it does increase the water content of the feces, thereby softening it.



Soluble fiber also has some properties that promote intestinal (colon) health.



If you want to use psyllium, add 2 tsp if using psyllium husk powder. If using whole psyllium husks, use 4 tsp.



If using any fiber source, be sure to add more water to the this recipe.http://catinfo.org/?link=makingcatfood#Constipation
post #19 of 88
Quote:
Originally Posted by LDG View Post

OK, but why would it be DANGEROUS?

Laurie, you were the one who first explained earlier carrageenan is bad because it is hydrolysed, correct? Was I reading your post wrong?

 

Quote:

Hydrolysis usually means the rupture of chemical bonds by the addition of water. Generally, hydrolysis is a step in the degradation of a substance.

 

So if guar gum is hydrolysed, it is degraded like carrageenan.


Edited by EmilyMayWilcha - 7/8/12 at 7:59pm
post #20 of 88
Quote:
Originally Posted by EmilyMayWilcha View Post

I know that is a lot of technical jargon, but basically Wikipedia says guar gum has no nutritional value because it comes from beans and I read the word hydrolysis again.
Emily, what about Hydrolysis?
post #21 of 88
Quote:
Originally Posted by Carolina View Post


Emily, what about hydrolysis?

I was just thinking if hydrolysis is what makes carrageenan bad for cats certainly we don't want them to be eating hydrolysed guar gum either. But if guar gum is not dangerous when it is hydrolysed, I will not worry about it.

post #22 of 88
Quote:
Originally Posted by EmilyMayWilcha View Post

I was just thinking if hydrolysis is what makes carrageenan bad for cats certainly we don't want them to be eating hydrolysed guar gum either. But if guar gum is not dangerous when it is hydrolysed, I will not worry about it.
Emily, Hydrolysis, FYI, is generally the split of a molecule/chemical bond by the addition of water. Depending on the conditions, you can have acid hydrolysis.
What Laurie was talking about, which degrades Carragerran, is Acid Hydrolysis - Read Carefully, from her post:
Quote:
Acid hydrolysis, which is dependent on pH, temperature and time, may hydrolyse (degrade) Carrageenan in solution at higher temperatures but this takes place only when Carrageenan is dissolved.

Read what would take to cause the same to Guar Gum (actually from your post)
Quote:
Strong acids cause hydrolysis

So, there is more to it, then just the word "hydrolysis". This process for example, can be beneficial actually...... Have you heard of Hydrolyzed Proteins? Used in prescription diets for allergic animals and baby formulas for infants who are lactose intolerant?
post #23 of 88

I assume if Dr. Pierson uses guar gum in her recipes there is nothing wrong with it.

post #24 of 88
Guar gum is used as a fiber, because it can absorb up to 20x its weight in water.

And no, hydrolysis in and of itself is not an issue. It's simply a chemical process in manufacturing.


The problem with carrageenan is that degraded (low molecular weight) carrageen is cancerous. The carrageenan in our foods is supposedly undegraded (high molecular weight). But acid breakdown of high molecular weight carrageenan can create low molecular weight carrageenan. Apparently this can occur in the process of digestion, so even though carrageenan in our food can start as "safe," "undegraded" carrageenan, through the process of digestion it can become the cancerous, low molecular weight, "degraded" carrageenan. Carrageenan is the problem, not the process of hydrolization.

Though in a very quick search of guar gum, I did find this:
Quote:
Guar gum may slow down the absorption of sugar into your bloodstream after eating. Although many people would consider this a positive attribute, for diabetics this can cause glucose fluctuations, interfering with other drugs and treatment plans. According to Shire Pharmaceuticals, guar gum is potent enough to be "used as an adjunct to other antidiabetic drugs in the treatment of diabetes mellitus." Consult your physician before incorporating guar gum into your diet if you have diabetes.

.....

Flatulence, stomach distention and intestinal obstruction are common side effects of guar gum. Guar gum may swell up to 20 times its original amount, producing carbon dioxide and hydrogen during fermentation in the large intestine. If you suffer from irritable bowel syndrome, monitor your guar gum intake closely.


http://www.livestrong.com/article/339250-problems-with-guar-gum/


So at least for kitties with diabetes and IBD, it seems guar gum should be avoided.
post #25 of 88

So if your cat does not have IBD or diabetes, the food should have guar gum?

post #26 of 88
Quote:
Originally Posted by LDG View Post

The problem with carrageenan is that degraded (low molecular weight) carrageen is cancerous. The carrageenan in our foods is supposedly undegraded (high molecular weight). But acid breakdown of high molecular weight carrageenan can create low molecular weight carrageenan. Apparently this can occur in the process of digestion, so even though carrageenan in our food can start as "safe," "undegraded" carrageenan, through the process of digestion it can become the cancerous, low molecular weight, "degraded" carrageenan. Carrageenan is the problem, not the process of hydrolization.
agree.gif Thanks Laurie

As for Guar Gum, I did not know about the diabetes thing.... Interesting agree.gif
I did know about fermentation.... (I think that's why Dr. Pierson says the poop will stink) It didn't cause any ill effects on Bugsy.... I did stop feeding it to him as he simply didn't like the taste very much.... I did use it for a little bit when he was constipated....
There was such a discussion at the time about not using anything coming from plants, that I just stopped feeding though.
post #27 of 88
Quote:
Originally Posted by EmilyMayWilcha View Post

So if your cat does not have IBD or diabetes, the food should have guar gum?

Why are you thinking guar gum should be in cat food? I'm just wondering what the train of thinking is here. dontknow.gif
post #28 of 88
Quote:
Originally Posted by EmilyMayWilcha View Post

So if your cat does not have IBD or diabetes, the food should have guar gum?
Emily, the discussion here, was if Guar Gum is dangerous for cats, and thus an ingredient to be avoided, such as carrageenan.
To round this up, Guar Gum in canned pet foods is used as a thickening agent, that's all - it has little to none nutritional benefits. It is not a vitamin, not a supplement.... Not really something you would be looking for as being beneficial for your cat.

The question is,
Is it Dangerous?

As Laurie has posted, if your cat has Diabetes, it can be an issue. You either want to avoid it, use it under medical supervision, or at the very least keep in mind that it can affect sugar levels.

Also, it might be an irritant for IBD cats - like many, many things can be. For my Bugsy, it was not. If you have an IBD cat, you either want to avoid it, or, know that this ingredient can be ingredient causing inflammation on your kitty's digestive system. If you add a food with this ingredient to your IBD kitty's diet, you should watch it very carefully for any ill effects.

Benefits:
Guar Gum is a strict soluble diet, which, when added to the diet (as a supplement/fiber), can help with digestive problems such as constipation. The difference in between Guar Gum and Psyllium, is that psyllium swells and dries up the poop too much, and if the kitty is too constipated, it can have the opposite effect - 1-getting stuck to the intestinal walls causing blockage, 2- causing Megacolon. Not good things at all.
Guar gum as a strict soluble fiber, doesn't swell the poop as much, and it helps to soften the poop, preventing the above issues.
It is the natural version of Miralax, if you will, but is is a fiber.
I hope this helps you a bit......
Edited by Carolina - 7/8/12 at 10:22pm
post #29 of 88

Good summary post Carolina!

post #30 of 88
Quote:
Originally Posted by LDG View Post


Why are you thinking guar gum should be in cat food? I'm just wondering what the train of thinking is here.

If Dr. Pierson thinks it has nutritional value as a fiber, apparenlty it is good for cats without IBD or diabetes.

 

Of course, the people who praise pumpkin for treating constipation probably will say there is a way to do it without stinking up poop.

 

Now I will start looking for cat foods with no psyllium because I don't want a constipated cat.

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