Intestinal Uptake of Carrageenan: Distribution and Effects on Humoral Immune Competence

  • S. Nicklin
  • K. Baker
  • K. Miller
Part of the Advances in Experimental Medicine and Biology book series (AEMB, volume 237)


Carrageenan is the generic name given to high-molecular-weight( 100,000 daltons) sulphated polygalactans derived from certain species of red algae. Three basic types can be isolated: k, i, and 1. These have differing colloidal properties and are characterised by the type of intergalactan bonding and the degree of sulphation (Rees, 1972).Carrageenans are used extensively in the food industry as thickening, gelling and protein-suspending agents. Initially, all grades of carrageenan were considered safe by the Food and Drug Administration(FDA, 1959) and were permitted for use as regulated food additives (FDA, 1969). However, subsequent reports implicated degraded forms of carrageenan (mol wt 30,000) in the induction of ulcers and metaplastic changes in the intestinal tract of a number of species of experimental animals (Fabian, et al., 1973; Sharratt, et al., 1970; Watt & Marcus, 1970). Although some of these findings were contested by other studies (Maillet, et al., 1970; Sharratt, et al., 1971) the FDA ruled that food-grade carrageenans should have an average molecular weight exceeding 100,000 (FDA, 1972). It is known however that carrageenans may undergo some degree of hydrolysis at gastric pH (Stoloff, 1959; Glicksman, 1969) and a small proportion of the lower molecular weight polygalactan units produced can apparently gain access to the body tissues by persorption (Pittman, et al., 1976).


Mesenteric Lymph Node Alcian Blue Organ Distribution Immune Competence Intestinal Uptake 
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Copyright information

© Plenum Press, New York 1988

Authors and Affiliations

  • S. Nicklin
    • 1
  • K. Baker
    • 1
  • K. Miller
    • 1
  1. 1.Dept. ImmunotoxicologyThe British Industrial Biological Research Assoc.Carshalton, SurreyUK

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