If You Love Custard Ice Cream - Don't Read this Column

June 26, 2022

If You Love Your Milwaukee Custard Ice Cream, Don't Read This Column

Sepsis is what kills the most people in hospitals. It is when uncontrolled infections take over in a runaway spiral of inflammation. Most of that inflammation is driven by the lipids off of the surface of gram-negative bacteria from the bowel like Pseudomonas, Proteus, or Klebsiella species called lipo-polysaccharides (LPSs). Now, did you know that if you have a slightly big tummy, a bit of high blood pressure and slightly high CRP you likely have "metabolic syndrome", and the connection between lowgrade metabolic syndrome and the release of LPS is pretty high? LPSs are wicked little devils that wreak a lot of havoc. They basically come off the wall of bacteria from your colon, coming through "leaky gut" into your blood. No wonder Steven Gundry calls LPSs, "little pieces of s..t". They are. And they cause you harm.

Now, if you want to study animal models of inflammation, you take mice and inject their foot pads with LPSs. Makes for a dandy experimental model. But it's not so easily controlled. It would be oh so convenient if we could find a standardized method of inducing inflammation that could be precisely controlled by dose. Now, we have known since the 1980s that you can get precisely calibrated inflammation of mice footpads with carrageenan injections into their footpads. You don't have to deal with all that messy stool bacterial gunk.

Wait! Did I just say carrageenan? Didn't I see that on a list somewhere of ingredients in Culver's Icecream? What is carrageenan? Well, Wikipedia will tell you that it is used as a food additive to make ice cream creamy and smooth. It has been observed as having NOAEL (no-observed-adverse-effects-level) in rats at levels that would be about 1/2 pound a day of it for humans. Ok? But is it really safe?

Here is the conundrum. We extra carrageenan with alkali from seaweed. So far so good. But when we expose it to acid, it turns quickly into poligeenan, a substance known to cause cancer. Guess what carrageenan is going to find in your stomach! Acid! Oh, dear. And there have been a slew of animal studies showing that carrageenan exposures results in changes to bowel wall similar to that seen in inflammatory bowel disease. For example, 30 days of carrageenan given to guinea pigs makes 100% of them get gut ulcerations.

It should be distressing that we know it causes trouble in animals in many models but we say it is safe in humans because we haven't studied it enough. But that is where we are today. No clear evidence that it is safe. Lots of smoke. No obvious fire because we haven't looked at it enough. And goodness gracious, do we love our Milwaukee custard, 100% of which has carrageenan in it? Did you know that inflammatory bowel disease is the #1 reason for admission to Children's Hospital of Wisconsin? Lots of smoke.

www.What will Work for me. Ice cream is something I can't have in the house. I like it. A lot. Sugar and fat sure work for me. But I also have a stubborn CRP that I can't find the cause of. Carrageenan sounds like a possible culprit. But it's not just in ice cream. Did you know that carrageenan is found in coffee creamers, soy milk, sliced turkey, canned soups, microwave dinners......ouch. Now you know what that ingredient you didn't know about stands for...maybe it's time to reconsider eating it.

ReferencesJr of Innate Immunity, Frontiers in Immunology, J Vis Exp, Feder Pro, Culver's Ingredients, Wikipedia - Carrageenan, EFSA Journal, Medical News Today, Frontiers Pediatrics, Gut,

Pop Quiz

1. Carrageenan is extracted from....?                        Answer: Red seaweed by an alkaline extraction process.

2. What happens to carrageenan if it is exposed to acid?                              Answer: It makes a different compound called poligeenan. And it is not safe by everyone's consensus.

3. What environment does food meet when you eat and swallow it?                           Answer: Acid

4. In animal models, like guinea pigs, what happens to the GI tract when given carrageenan for 30 days?      Answer: 100% of the guinea pigs got gut ulcers.

5. Carrageenan has been proven to be safe? T or F.                              Answer: There has been no study in humans to prove it and no one has dropped dead from eating it, in the short term. But there are no meaningful studies in humans that are long-term or look specifically at gut health. You might wonder why. Huge industry pressure to leave your hands off.