Agar agar is a vegetarian substitute to gelatin and is used in a long list of products, such as pie fillings, meringues, sherbets, cream cheeses, canned and cured meats, sauces, noodles, baked products, yogurts, cakes, ice creams, puddings, jelly candies, desserts. It can be used as a thickener in soups and as a clarifying agent in brewing. It is derived from red seaweed and is mainly found in Asian countries, but has made its way into the North American diet.
Agar agar is 80% fibre, therefore it has also been used as a dietary supplement to lose weight and as a bulk laxative. There is a fad diet that started in Asia, the “Kanten” diet and has been followed in the United States. The agar agar acts as a filler,
decreasing the appetite.
Carrageenan is another extract from red seaweeds that is also used for thickening and gelling. The protein structure is very similar to agar agar and it is possible to develop an intolerance that would show as a reaction to agar agar.
Agar agar is not usually considered as one of the common food intolerances, but we do see a number of people that do react in their test. If you are frequently eating some of the many products that might contain agar agar or carrageenan, it may be worth investigating.