Will Brown Seaweed Fight Obesity?
September 26, 2006
Brown seaweed, which is used for flavor in many Asian dishes, contains a compound that may reduce the accumulation of fat, which could help aid weight loss.
The compound, called fucoxanthin, is a brownish pigment that helps with brown seaweed's photosynthesis process. It is not found in significant amounts in other kinds of edible seaweed, such as green or red seaweed.
Fucoxanthin led to a 5 percent to 10 percent reduction in the weight of test animals, and could be developed into an obesity-fighting drug or supplement. The compound targets abdominal fat in particular.
A study of more than 200 rats and mice showed that fucoxanthin appears to fight fat through two different mechanisms. First, it stimulates a protein call UCP1, which causes fat oxidation. The protein is particularly abundant in the abdominal area, which is why the compound might be especially effective at reducing abdominal fat.
Fucoxanthin also causes the liver to produce DHA, a type of omega-3 fat that reduces LDL ("bad") cholesterol, which is known to contribute to obesity and heart disease.
However, because the fucoxanthin is tightly bound to the protein in the seaweeds, it is poorly absorbed by the body when whole seaweed is consumed. An extract could yield stronger results.