|Seaweed Health Benefits - Reviews
December 24, 2011
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Seaweed is a loose colloquial term encompassing macroscopic, multicellular, marine algae, examples include red, brown
and green algae. Seaweed contains a thallus, the algal body. This thallus has a flattened leaf-like structure called
lamina, a spore cluster, float-assist organs, a stem-like structure, holdfast (for attachment to a surface) and haptera (for
anchoring). Seaweed environmental requirements are seawater, light for photosynthesis, and a firm attachment point.
Thus, seaweed is frequently found on rocky shores.
Seaweeds have different types - cyanobacteria (the blue-green algae), Chlorophyta (the green algae), Phaeophyta (the
brown algae) and Rhodophyta (the red seaweeds). The blue-green algae and green algae are found nearest the shore
in shallow waters, they are in the forms of threadlike filaments, irregular sheets or branching fronds. The brown algae
also have chlorophyll, but its brown pigment masks the green color. The red seaweeds are fernlike and exist in deep
Seaweeds reproduce in different ways. Lower types reproduce asexually, advanced types reproduce via motile
zoospores or gametes. Pieces of a seaweed break off and may form a new plant.
Seaweed Uses and Health Benefits
Seaweeds are consumed by coastal people as food, particularly in East Asia. Sheets of dried Porphyra, a red algae,
are used in soups, or to wrap sushi - Nori (海苔), Zicai (紫菜), and Gim (김). Seaweed is also used in beverage and
some other kinds of foods. Seaweeds are also cultivated for the production of alginate, agar and carrageenan. These
are hydrocolloids, they have gelling, water-retention and emulsifyig properties and they are popularly used in food
industry. Seaweed is a source of iodine, iodine is needed for thyroid function and to prevent goitre. Seaweed is also a
good source of potassium. Seaweed is also thought to benefit people suffered from tuberculosis, arthritis, colds and
influenza, worm infestations and even tumors. Most health benefit claims have insufficient scientific supports. However,
some studies do show seaweed has certain types of health benefits.
The "Green Seaweeds" (Green Algae, Chlorophyta) Reviews
Cholorphyta is the phylum (division) of the kingdom Protista consisting the green algae. The green algae have different
species, which can be unicellular or multicellular. Those that are motile have flagella. Cells of the Chlorophyta contain
chloroplasts for photosynthesis to occur. This phylum has an important class - Chlorophyceae. The class includes
unicellular organisms such as Chlorella. Chlorella is a popular health dietary supplement.
Chlorella is spherical in shape, about 2 to 10 μm in diameter, and is without flagella. Chlorella contains the green
photosynthetic pigments chlorophyll-a and -b in its chloroplast. Through photosynthesis, chlorella multiplies rapidly.
Chlorella is marketed as a supplement for weight control, cancer prevention, and immune system support. Chlorella is
high in protein and other essential nutrients; when dried, it is about 45% protein, 20% fat, 20% carbohydrate, 5% fiber,
and 10% minerals and vitamins. It is believed that Chlorella may offer many different health benefits. Chlorella contains
large quantities of folate, vitamin B-12 and iron, and can help improve anemia and hypertensive disorder. A study of 70
pregnant women suggests that Chlorella supplementation significantly reduces the risk of pregnancy associated
anemia, proteinuria and edema. Chlorella exhibits various anti-oxidative effects, Chlorella may have the benefits to
prevent age-dependent cognitive impairment. Alzheimer's disease animal model was fed with chlorella and oxidative
stress was reduced, the decline of cognitive ability was also declined. It has been thought that Chlorella might benefit
people at risk of diabetes, as chlorella vulgaris was once reported to have hypoglycemic effects. In a study, chlorella
ingestion tests on 17 subjects with high-risk factors for lifestyle-related diseases were conducted. Researchers found
that chlorella intake resulted in noticeable reductions in body fat percentage, serum total cholesterol, and fasting blood
glucose levels. Chlorella may also benefit people suffered hypertension, fibromyalgia syndrome, different kinds of
cancers, constipation, diabetes, bad breath and colds.. but more studies are needed to support these health-benefit
claims. Short term use of chlorella is probably safe to healthy adults at low dosages. The common side effects include
diarrhea, nausea, gas, green discoloration of the stools, and stomach cramping. Further, the side effects may also
include allergic reactions and skin sensitivity to the sun. Chlorella may interact immunosuppressants.
Brown Seaweed (Brown alga)
In 1960s, wakame, the brown seaweed, became popular in the United States, widely available in Asian-American grocery
stores. Wakame fronds are green and have a subtly sweet flavour and slippery texture. The leaves are be cut into small
pieces as they will expand during cooking. Wakame is distributed either dried or salted, and used in miso soup and other
preparations such as tofu salad. Goma wakame, or seaweed salad, is a popular side dish at American sushi restaurants.
Wakame is a rich source of eicosapentaenoic acid, an omega-3 fatty acid, wakame is also a good
source of magnesium and zinc. Asian soups and salads, contains a compound called fucoxanthin that may promote
weight loss. Fucoxanthin is found at high concentrations in several different types of brown seaweed. But it is absent in
green and red seaweeds. Brown kelp is a key ingredient of Japanese miso soup.
Fucus, called rockweed or bladderwrack, is a tough, leathery brown alga. Bladderwrack (Bladder Wrack, Fucus
vesiculosus) is a rockweed or seaweed having forked, brownish-green branches with gas-filled bladders. Bladderwrack
can be found on the coasts of the North Sea, the western Baltic Sea, the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans and it is also a
common food in Japan. Bladderwrack extract containing fucoidan was found to promote fibroblast-populated collagen gel
contraction by increasing the integrin alpha2beta1 expression on fibroblast surface.. A significant decrease in skin
thickness and a significant improvement in elasticity were found when a Bladderwrack gel (1%) topically onto human
cheek skin twice daily for five weeks. Thus, some people believe bladderwrack may have benefit of anti-aging effects.
Fucoidan is a highly sulfated glycosaminoglycan from bladderwrack, which has a molecular structure similar to that of
heparin. The antithrombotic effects of fucoidan in vitro have been widely reported. Bladderwrack fucoidan has an
inhibitory effect on proinflammatory cytokine production and proliferation of vascular cells. Bladderwrack may have
benefits of preventing thrombosis, but more studies are needed to clarify its effects. Bladderwrack may also have
benefits on people suffered from cancer, diabetes and other diseases, again, more studies are needed to prove its
health benefit-claims. Bladderwrack is possible safe for most healthy subjects at low doses, but high doses of
bladderwrack may worsen or cause thyroid problems. Prolonged high doses of bladderwrack is linked with goiter or even
increased risk of thyroid
Red Seaweeds (Red algae)
Porphyra and Chondrus are important in the diet - food in China and Japan. Commercial agar (vegetable gelatin) is
obtained from species of red algae and widely used in food and pharmaceutical industries. Irish moss or carrageen
(Chondrus crispus) has also been used in food preparation for a long time.
Carrageenans are large, highly flexible molecules. They are pseudoplastic; they are less viscous under shear stress and
recover their viscosity, once the shear stress is removed. This is similar to Ketchup. If you let it sit, it is thick. But if you
shake the ketch up bottle, the ketch up becomes thin, and you can pour it out from the bottle easily. There are at least
three types of carrageenans - kappa, lota and lambda. They all have different properties and uses. Carrageenan has
been frequently used in animal studies to induce oedema.
Seaweed soup is popular in East Asia. In Korea, seaweed soup is given to post-partum mothers recovering from
childbirth. Seaweed soup is delicious and taste good. It has low calories and fat, but high in minerals. Preparation of a
seaweed soup is easy. You simply purchase dry seaweed from an Asian market and then rehydrate the seaweed in
water for 30 minutes, drain seaweed, and squeeze out the excess water. Cut the seaweed into small pieces. Boil the
seaweed with sesame oil for two minutes. Add garlic pieces and light soy sauce and boil the soup again for a few
minutes. You may also add a small amount of meat, such as beef and pork.
Shiitake Mushroom Seaweed Soup
It is another delicious soup. Rinse mushrooms and seaweed and soak in warm water till they become soft. Slice the
mushrooms and cut the seaweed into small pieces. Add the sliced mushrooms and chopped seaweed into a boiling
chicken broth. Add chopped onions and water. Keep boiling for about 10 minutes. Season with light soy sauce, vinegar,
salt and pepper. You may use other broths at your preference.
Seaweed is occasionally used as an ingredient for salad. It is soaked in warm water and drained. Seaweed is then mixed
with other ingredients. Dressing is then added.