Carrageenan is something that you’ll find in a lot of food products and supplements like omega 3. It’s mainly used as a food additive to thicken up the product and bind ingredients. In recent years, Carrageenan, derived from red algae, has been found to increase inflammation and even be harmful to cells in the body.
The controversy around this additive has been going on for decades. Even as far back as 1970, the FDA considered banning this substance. In late 2018, the United States Department of Agriculture will publish its research to determine whether or not it is safe and should be removed from food products.
Trying to find a good vegan omega 3 supplement which doesn’t contain this substance can be difficult. Fortunately, companies’ took notice that some vegans would like to avoid carrageenan and its potential dangers, and have since developed products to meet your needs.
Potential dangers of Carrageenan
Before I share a few omega 3 supplements that are carrageenan free, here is a short list of a few potential issues with this substance based on scientific research.
- Causes gut inflammation and may be damaging to cells
- May be implicated in the formation of polyps and even colorectal cancer
- Immune system suppression and dysregulation with increased inflammatory cytokines
- Glucose intolerance and increase cholesterol
- Cause or worsen conditions such as ulcerative colitis
These are just a few of the concerns raised by some researchers who’ve studied the effect of Carrageenan. Later in the article, I will go into a bit more depth for each point.
Omega 3 without Carrageenan
Below are a few algal oil omega 3 supplements with no Carrageenan. It’s everywhere, and if you’re busy, reading the small print for this ingredients can really take up a lot of time!
So for your convenience, I’ve done the research for you, and came up with a list of which I think are highest quality omega 3 supplements that are also free of Carrageenan.
#1 BLOOM Algal Omega 3 – NO Carrageenan
It contains both DHA and EPA, making it a great alternative to fish oils. And perhaps an even better tasting one as well! As it comes in natural lemon and peppermint flavors.
Vegetarians already struggle to get enough omega 3 in their diet, especially DHA, so it’s great to have a supplement that has generous amounts of DHA and EPA, plus devoid of many of the harmful additives found in many supplements.
One of the drawbacks for some people might be that it contains a little bit of soy, but most vegans are fine with soy and such a small amount is not going to be of any concern.
#2 Nested Algal Omega 3 – NO Carrageenan
It still has enough omega 3 per serving to stop you from becoming deficient in these essential fatty acids, but perhaps not enough when you consider the cost and how much you get compared to Bloom Omega 3.
That being said, this brand is very popular amongst vegans and I love the fact that they’ve really cut down on the ingredients to give you the most basic algal oil supplement.
If you also want to avoid soy as well as carrageenan, then this supplement would be a great choice as it contains either.
#3 AMALA Algal Omega 3 – Without Carrageenan
This omega 3 supplement would be especially more useful for vegans who are already getting omega 3 from other food supplements, perhaps a protein shake which contains it. And you just want to top up your omega 3’s.
The supplement is highly rated amongst vegetarians and vegans and contains just a few main ingredients such as Vitamin E, EPA, DHA, and DPA.
Other ingredients include Oleic acid, natural lemon flavoring, natural peppermint flavor, ascorbyl palmitate (antioxidant), mixed tocopherols (vitamin E), Rosemary extract and Soy.
Controversy around Carrageenan
As I’ve already mentioned, this substance is used extensively in supplements and foods. Trying to avoid yet another ingredient makes a vegans life even more difficult in finding suitable products.
But are the danger’s of carrageenan overhyped?
I’ll address just briefly address each of the bullet points at the top of the article and show a link to the relevant studies.
Causes cell damage and inflammation
NF-Kappa-B is a master regulator of key inflammatory cytokines and proteins downstream from it. Overexpression can lead to chronic inflammation and is present in many different autoimmune diseases and elevated in aging.
Evidence in animals suggests that feeding carrageenan may induce inflammation in colon cells. It has also been observed that IL-10 (potent anti-inflammatory cytokine) is unable to completely suppress the inflammation caused by carrageenan. 
May increase the growth of polyps
Polyps in the colon can increase the risk of colon cancer. This is why many people over 50 are advised to go for exams every few years and even have biopsies taken.
Anything which irritates or increases their growth may eventually cause cancer. Well, carrageenan has been identified from studies to not initiate the growth of polyps, but it does appear to accelerate their growth.
May exacerbate glucose intolerance and increase cholesterol
Diabetes is one of the fastest growing conditions in the world, and it appears that this food additive may have a small role to play. Of course, it’s not the only factor, but it’s really not helpful when people’s diets are already quite bad.
In mice, carrageenan has been shown to (by itself) lead to higher fasting glucose and in combination with a high-fat diet may increase glucose intolerance and worsen hyperlipidemia. 
Worsens ulcerative colitis
In a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial in humans, researchers investigated to see whether the common food addictive Carrageenan was contributing to worsening of colitis symptoms.
Twelve patients in the study were either selected to receive the food supplement or a placebo. After which, the patients completed study questionnaires relating to their symptoms.
In the patients who received the carrageenan supplement, three relapsed, while none of the patients who received the placebo relapsed. There was also an increase in IL-6 (an inflammatory marker) in patients who took the food additive.
Therefore, it is advised that patients with this condition avoid this ingredient in common foods, medicines and supplements.
See what Dr. Gregor has to say about Carrageenan
Common food additives may worsen symptoms in susceptible people who are more sensitive than average. Although the evidence is not overwhelming that carrageenan is harmful to the average person, the results of some of these studies should at least make you cautious about limiting your intake.
Omega 3 supplements without carrageenan are few and far between, but fortunately, there are a few good options for those who wish to avoid it.