Are you missing out on benefits of anti-aging powerhouse seaweeds? What to do if you don’t eat them

Sushi is becoming ever more popular outside its home country, but many traditional Japanese foods can still strike somewhat mysterious outside their country of origin, like mud-covered burdock roots, fermented soybeans natto, and various types of dried and fresh seaweeds, to mention a few. Personally, a thought of these delicious foods makes my mouth water, but often, their culinary charms are lost in translation, and I find myself eating them alone, while my Swedish fiancé munches his meatballs.

But if you are like me and acknowledge foods’ powerful impacts on our health – are you missing out some unique benefits of foods like seaweeds, if your diet is absent of them? Maybe.

Many researches demonstrate that seaweeds, like wakame and kelp, have a wide rage of health benefits such as:

· Great for skin: Phlorotannin, a type of tannin found in brown algae such as kelps, is a potent antioxidant and photoprotective agent, absorbing harmful UV radiation in a similar manner than another, perhaps better-known, marine compound astaxanthin [1]. If your skin already shows some signs of photodamages, they also have a skin whitening effect, improving UV light-caused hyperpigmentation. Laminarin, a type of carbohydrate in kelp, is shown to stimulate the synthesis of the dermal tissues, potentially reducing wrinkles.

· Great for hair: ”Seaweeds are good for the hair” is a common folklore belief in Japan, and science seems to agree with the ancient wisdom. A 2012 study showed that Grateloupia elliptica, a seaweed related to one of Japan’s favorite seaweeds, nori (seaweed that covers a rolled sushi), has the potential to treat alopecia, inhibiting the enzyme 5 alpha-reductase and decreasing lipopolysaccharide-induced pro-inflammatory cytokines. Though I’m unaware of a commercial product including an extract of this promising seaweed, incorporating in your diet a high-quality organic nori, like this one, certainly won’t hurt.

· Promotes anti-inflammatory immunity profile: Among numerous beneficial compounds in seaweeds, I’m personally most excited about fucoidan, a complex polysaccharide responsible for the gel-like consistence of many seaweeds. Researches show that it’s a powerful immunomodulator, shifting the immune system from a pro-inflammatory configuration (upregulated interleukin 6, 8 cytokines and upregulated TNF-alpha) to an anti-inflammatory one (upregulated interleukin 10 cytokine). Many in vivo animal studies demonstrate its ability to reduce a systemic and chronic inflammation in a wide range of animals and conditions, such as diabetic mice, mice and rodents with chronic rheumatoid arthritis, and rodents with liver damage [2].

In this time of pervasive stress and resulting chronic whole-body inflammation, most of us unfortunately live in, I feel that adding to one’s regimen a potent anti-inflammatory immunomodulator like fucoidan can be a fantastic strategy. On top of a daily munching of my favourite seaweed dishes, I take a fucoidan supplement, to ensure a daily intake of 300 mg fucoidan, a dosage used in many human fucoidan trials.

· Anti-cancer properties: I’m not a medical professional and usually don’t write about cancer. I lost my Dad for a lung cancer at the age of six; Having experienced personally how devastating the disease can be, I don’t want to make any light-hearted statement about such a serious medical condition. However, I feel that I may be amiss to leave altogether fucoidan’s anti-tumor properties, one of the most researched areas for fucoidan’s benefits. Multiple researches demonstrate fucoidan’s anti-cancer effects through several mechanisms; including cancer-cell apoptosis, inhibition of angiogenesis in cancer cells, and immunomodulating effect mentioned above [3].

[1] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6266229/

[2] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7602053/

[3] https://www.mdpi.com/1660-3397/13/4/2327/htm

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