Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Kelp Can Help!!

Have you ever consumed alginate, carrageenan or beta carotene? If you have ever eaten store- bought ice cream or salad dressing, you have! These ingredients are derivatives of kelp, which has ben used for thousands of years in locations such as Japan, Greece and China as a food source, medicine and fertilizer. Since the 1980s, Americans are using kelp as a supplement to promote lower cholesterol, burn fat, manage thyroid problems and prevent cancer.

Kelp is a type of seaweed that is part of the algae family. It is one of the most common and largest types of seaweed. There are many species of kelp, including kombu, bladderfucus, wakame, cutweed and bladderwrack. Kelp is rich in various minerals such as magnesium, calcium, phosphorus, potassium and iodine. It also contains vitamins B12, C and E, protein, and healthy, indigestible carbohydrates/ lignans.

So what can Kelp do for you? There are various reported benefits to kelp supplementation. There are antibacterial and antifungal benefits. Researchers believe that the halogens, iodine and bromine found in kelp are effective antiseptics and disinfectants. It is also alleged that kelp has anticoagulant effects due to the fucans or fucoidans, which are sulfated polysaccharides found in brown seaweed. The fucoidans in kelp are also thought to provide antioxidant activity, although no human clinical studies have been completed to validate whether kelp provides sufficient antioxidant activity.

Kelp may play a role in cancer prevention. This claim stems from epidemiological studies showing a relationship between sea vegetable consumption and a decreased incidence of breast cancer in Japanese women. Some researchers are now investigating kelp and other sea vegetable consumption.

Supplement makers claim that bladderwrack can lower blood insulin levels and therefore may be an alternative or complementary treatment for diabetes. Kelp has also been used to treat goiter for hundreds of years. However, kelp contains a significant amount (500-8,000 micrograms per gram!) of iodine, and too much iodine can cause thyroid and skin problems and research does not indicate that kelp supplements are any more effective at preventing goiter than iodized salt.

Kelp has also been said to help with weight loss, cholesterol reduction and cardiovascular disease prevention. This is due to fucoxanthin, a pigment found in brown seaweed that appears to stimulate a protein that causes oxidation and conversion of energy to heat. This protein happens to be found in white adipose tissue in the abdominal area. Fucoxanthin also has been found to stimulate animals liver to produce docosahexaenoic acid which in turn reduced low-density lipoprotein cholesterol ("bad cholesterol") levels. Researchers hope to find similar reactions in human clinical trials.

While kelp supplements are a good source of iodine, the variability of iodine content makes regular kelp supplementation potentially harmful. Potential adverse effects are related to iodine content and heavy metals, Overdosing on iodine may trigger, as mentioned above, abnormal thyroid problems and acnelike skin lesions.

At this time, including edible kelp and other sea vegetables as part of a healthy dietary regimen is fine, but solely using kelp supplements for thyroid management, as a cancer preventative or to lose weight is not recommended.

1 comment:

Adrianne Silver said...

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