Scientists at Newcastle University in England have discovered an ingredient in some varieties of seaweed that can reduce dietary fat absorption by up to 75%. It is hoped that if the ingredient can be extracted from seaweed and passed by food health bodies it could become a common supplement that can be added to just about any food.
“Some of the existing obesity pills work by inhibiting the enzyme lipase, which digests fat; but the fat is diverted into the colon, where it is digested by bacteria, causing bloating. Alginates from seaweed also inhibit this enzyme, but they don’t produce the same adverse side effects.” Prof. Jeff Pearson from the molecular physiology department in University of Newcastle.
This is not the first time seaweed has been recognized as a potential ingredient in weight loss medicine.
- September 2005 – Scientists at Newcastle University first announced their research into seaweed as a way to fight obesity. The 2005 research was published in Critical Reviews in Food Science and Nutrition. The property in seaweed that helps us lose weight is alginate, which lines the walls of the digestive system and prevents dietary fat passing through. The seaweed identified as carrying alginate are Lessonia and Laminaria. These grow in the Far East, South America and parts of Norway and Scotland, however they could be harvested anywhere.
- September 2007 – Japanese researchers identify fucoxanthin, which is a pigment in brown kelp, as being the cause of weight loss in test rats. Most of the weight was lost in the midsection (stomach area) of the rats.
- March 2010 – Dr. Brownlee announced new research and planned human trials to test their latest findings before any publication. The announcement was made at the American Chemical Society Spring meeting in San Francisco.
Many celebrities reportedly drink seaweed based smoothies and shakes as part of their weight management programs. Victoria Beckham, Madonna and Cindy Crawford have all admitted using seaweed smoothies to help them lose and manage their weight.
“Many people find it difficult to stick to diet and exercise plans in order to lose weight. Alginates not only have great potential for weight management but adding them to food also boosts overall fibre content.” Dr Brownlee, Newcastle University.
Extracts from seaweed are now used in a weight loss pill called Appesat as well as in general use as a thickener in food.
“There are countless claims about miracle cures for weight loss but only a few cases offer any sound scientific evidence to back up these claims,” Dr Brownlee, Newcastle University.
There is a real excitement about this discovery, and some people think that this really could be the magic wonder drug that saves humankind from the obesity crisis. The supplement can in theory be placed into any food, especially baked foods such as cakes and cookies, as well as in processed ready meals and other junk food.
Seaweed Diet References
- Brownlee IA; Allen A; Pearson JP; Dettmar PW; Havler ME; Atherton MR; Onsoyen E. Alginate as a source of dietary fiber. Critical Reviews in Food Science and Nutrition 2005, 45(6), 497-510.
- Hayato Maedaa, Masashi Hosokawaa, Tokutake Sashimaa, b, Katsura Funayamac and Kazuo Miyashitaa. Fucoxanthin from edible seaweed, Undaria pinnatifida, shows antiobesity effect through UCP1 expression in white adipose tissues. Biochemical and Biophysical Research Communications. Volume 332, Issue 2, 1 July 2005, Pages 392-397
- Seaweed to tackle rising tide of obesity. Newcastle University. Press Release 22nd March 2010