by bill barber
Most of us have heard about the benefits of eating certain kinds of seaweed. But recently, scientists have discovered a type of carotenoid called Fucoxanthin that is being haled as the new miracle food. It’s an antioxidant that experts believe promotes weight loss, and can even help to treat diabetes and cancer.
Fucoxanthin is found in wakame and hijiki, two kinds of brown seaweed, as well as some forms of red and green seaweed. This is the same seaweed that consumers find wrapped around most of their sushi rolls. At one billion years old, wakame is one of the oldest types of ocean plants ever discovered that still exist today. Asians have been consuming it for thousands of years and visibly benefit from it.
Some animal testing in labs has determined that Fucoxanthin will help treat diabetes in the near future. The supplement can diminish insulin and blood glucose levels by promoting the development of DHA in the body. DHA, otherwise known as omega-3, has proven to decrease bad cholesterol, balance insulin production and improve metabolism.
The improvement of triglycerides, and thus metabolism, instigated studies at the Hokkaido University in Sapporo, Japan to find out if Fucoxanthin can be used as a weight loss tool. It turns out that Fucoxanthin promotes fat burning by escalating the use of thermogenin. This stimulates a protein called UCP1, which turns energy to heat by oxidizing body fat.
The process of metabolic thermogenin is when the body burns fat for use as energy. This is the same process that is used by bears to stay warm in the winter when they hibernate. In other words, a person could stay perfectly still for a long time, and still burn fat while taking Fucoxanthin as directed. It also seems to have a positive effect on the kind of fat that attaches itself to the heart, abdomen and other organs thus reducing heart disease and helping to control diabetes. In studies, rodents lost about 10% of their body fat when given Fucoxanthin as 2% of their diet.
The other use found for Fucoxanthin is quite astonishing. There has been some test-tube evidence that Fucoxanthin may help fight tumors. This particular use is inconclusive, but more research is being done to find out if Fucoxanthin can be used to help fight tumors in cancer patients along with other medical treatments.
Rich in vitamin C, beta-carotene, riboflavin, vitamin B12 and B6, among others, wakame is a very wholesome food. Although it’s tempting to go to your local sushi bar and load up on sushi and sea weed salad, it is important to know that sea weed actually contains fairly large amounts of iodine as well. Consuming large portions of it can lead to iodine poisoning which can harm the thyroids.
While this does not mean that eating seaweed is unsafe, it is much safer to get Fucoxanthin in the form of a pill or supplement rather than gorge yourself on Japanese food. There seems to be no known negative side effect of taking Fucoxanthin as a dietary supplement.