Seaweed in Health and Disease Prevention

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Combines foundational information and nutritional context, offering a holistic approach to the relationship between sea vegetables, diet, nutrition, and health Provides comprehensive coverage of health benefits, including sea vegetables as sources of nutraceuticals and their specific applications in disease prevention, such as angiogenesis, diabetes, fungal infections, and others Includes Dictionary of Terms, Key Facts, and Summary points in each chapter to enhance comprehension Includes information on toxic varieties and safe consumption guidelines to supplement basic coverage of health benefits.

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Luckily, iodine is readily available in most varieties of seaweed. This can create symptoms such as low energy, dry skin, tingling in the hands and feet, forgetfulness, depression and even weight gain Adding seaweed to your diet can help you consume sufficient iodine for your thyroid to function optimally The RDI of iodine for adults is micrograms per day.

Most people can meet this requirement by eating several servings of seaweed per week.


That said, certain varieties such as kelp, kombu and dulse tend to contain very high amounts of iodine and should not be eaten frequently, or in high amounts. Others, such as spirulina, contain very little, so don't rely on them as your only source of iodine.

Health Promotion and Disease Prevention

For starters, it's a good source of soluble fiber and contains long-chain omega-3 fatty acids , both of which could be beneficial for heart health 17 , In addition, several animal studies report that the sulfated polysaccharides sPS found in seaweed may have the ability to reduce blood pressure and prevent blood clotting 19 , 20 , 21 , They may also help reduce LDL the "bad" cholesterol and total cholesterol levels 19 , 20 , 22 , 23 , For instance, several studies report that high seaweed intakes may reduce blood pressure levels in preschoolers, adults and the elderly 25 , 26 , 27 , A two-month study gave type 2 diabetics either a spirulina supplement or a placebo every day.

Participants in the spirulina group also improved their LDL-to-HDL cholesterol ratio, whereas the ratio in the placebo group worsened Although these results seem promising, not all studies found similar results and more human studies are needed before strong conclusions can be made Researchers believe that certain compounds found in seaweed may play a beneficial role in stabilizing blood sugar levels and preventing type 2 diabetes 32 , 33 , One of these is fucoxanthin, an antioxidant that gives brown algae its characteristic color.

This compound is thought to help reduce insulin resistance and stabilize blood sugar levels In addition, the type of fiber found in seaweed may slow down the speed at which carbs are absorbed from a meal. This can make it easier for your body to stabilize your blood sugar levels 36 , Higher insulin sensitivity is beneficial because it helps your body respond better to insulin and regulate your blood sugar levels more effectively. No changes were observed in the control group Hemoglobin A1C is used as a measure of your average blood sugar levels over the last 2—3 months.

Overall, seaweed may be beneficial for blood sugar control, but optimal dosage levels remain unclear.

Therapeutic Potential of Seaweed Bioactive Compounds

More research is also needed to study the effects of raw versus powdered varieties. Researchers believe this may be due, in part, to seaweed's ability to affect your levels of the weight regulating hormone leptin. Combined with seaweed's high fiber content, this may help decrease hunger and enhance feelings of fullness In addition, fucoidan, a type of sPS found in seaweed, may enhance fat breakdown and prevent its formation 39 , 40 , Studies in obese participants report that those given a seaweed supplement for 12—16 weeks lost around 3.

What's more, seaweed is low in calories, but rich in glutamate, an amino acid thought to give it a savory, umami taste 1. Therefore, seaweed snacks may help boost weight loss by providing a satisfying alternative to more calorie-rich snack options. That's because it contains marine plant compounds believed to have antioxidant, anti-allergenic and disease-protecting properties 44 , 45 , Research shows that these compounds may have the ability to fight viruses such as herpes and HIV by blocking their entry into cells Two often-cited studies report that taking seaweed supplements may have the ability to reduce symptoms of the herpes virus and increase levels of immune cells in HIV patients 48 , However, neither of these studies had a placebo group, which makes it difficult to interpret their results.

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A more recent study looked at the effects of taking seaweed supplements in HIV-positive women. However, no differences in immune cell levels were observed over the week study period Seaweed may help improve the health of your gut in various ways. For one, it is rich in fiber, which can help prevent constipation and ensure smooth digestion. It also contains agars, carrageenans and fucoidans, which are thought to act as prebiotics 51 , Prebiotics are a type of non-digestible fiber that feed the beneficial bacteria in your gut.

The more good bacteria you have in your gut, the less space there is for harmful bacteria to thrive. Accordingly, animal studies show that taking seaweed supplements may improve the amount of healthy bacteria and reduce the amount of harmful bacteria in the gut more effectively than other types of prebiotics 53 , Researchers also believe that the prebiotics found in seaweed may have certain anti-inflammatory and antibacterial effects.

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This may be partly because, when feeding on prebiotics, the bacteria in your gut produce butyrate. Chapter Tools Request permission Export citation Add to favorites Track citation. Share Give access Share full text access. Share full text access.

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Please review our Terms and Conditions of Use and check box below to share full-text version of article. Summary Some recent studies indicate that seaweeds are a rich source of bioactive compounds that may have significant roles in health promotion, especially for disease prevention and treatment. Sustainability Challenges in the Agrofood Sector. Related Information. Close Figure Viewer.