I’ve tried to squeeze the wisdom on it into one page (for now).
To say the truth, I didn’t know anything about fucoidan until my sister introduced me to it. That’s weird (and kind of embarrassing) because this stuff has been around for a century.
1918 – the year when fucoidan got isolated from a plant for the first time.
Having said the above, the researchers have been really into fucoidan only in the last three decades.
Since 1990, about 800 studies were published! A good chunk of them are Japanese. Not surprising as fucoidan exists in seaweeds that grow around that part of the world (must be the reason behind its inconspicuousness in the West, btw).
Fucoidan is found in brown seaweeds.
Some examples of brown seaweeds are mozuku, kombu and wakame. These are all eaten by Okinawans. Very likely that fucoidan (to a certain extent) is responsible for the long lives of these people, and Japanese in general.
However, among the wealth of studies on fucoidan not a lot of them were done on humans. On mice and rats – yes. In vitro – yes. In vitro means a study is done on isolated tissue. This tissue may come from an animal or a human. For example, a mouse tumor. I’ll come back to this later.
Now, meet fucoidan, a compound that became so dear to the hearts of Japanese scientists.
Some points about it
- fucoidan is a polysaccharide, a complex carbohydrate. Meaning it’s composed of many simple sugar molecules. Majority of them are fucose sugar. The rest are xylose, mannose, galactose, glucose, rhamnose, arabinose. Some of these you eat every day. The huge difference between the structure of fucoidan and that of complex carbohydrates like quinoa is it lightly sprinkled with sulfur atoms
- again, fucoidan is found in brown seaweed such as mozuku, kombu, wakame, bladderwrack, hijiki, limumoui. Besides Japanese, these seaweeds are regularly enjoyed in China and Korea
- fucoidan has also been detected in some marine animals like sea cucumber and sea urchin eggs. So? The supplements on the market may not necessarily be plant-based
- fucoidan resides in extracellular matrix. It’s the jelly-like stuff between the cells
- fucoidan gives seaweeds their slippery texture. The slipperiness protects these plants from the harsh conditions of the ocean (such as intense sunlight and salinity fluctuations)
- although fucoidan has been around for a while, it’s still a problem to develop drugs from it or use it infucodian is the medical clinics. The reason is, medicinal properties of fucoidan vary greatly with its structure. Again, its structure is very large (has high molecular weight), complex and varies in chemical composition. And the chemical composition of fucoidan depends on a lot of things: a seaweed it is extracted from, how it is extracted, the time of the year and how a seaweed is harvested
- fucoidan is claimed to help with just about every ache bothering the human race. Today, the fuss around fucoidan is similar to the spirulina fuss about a decade ago. I don’t want to say that spirulina or fucoidan don’t do what they are claimed to. What I am trying to say is, that nearly everything you see in nature can be good for you. As long as it has no record of knocking people out and grows away from the human mess. Heck, an ordinary grass is healthy for you! It has chlorophyll! Anyways, let’s leave this discussion for later. Please have a look at what fucoidan can do. I listed its health properties below:
Health benefits / effects of fucoidan
- anti-adhesive – prevents evil bugs like Helicobacter pylori (bacteria) from sticking and living on your tissues
- anticoagulant – limits the ability of blood to clot. Clotting is when blood turns from liquid to gel. This may need to be controlled in some people to prevent formation of blood clots in vessels or heart. Otherwise, blood clots may lead to strokes and heart attacks
- antithrombotic – dissolves blood clots after they are already formed. For example, blood clots in vessels leading to a heart
- anti-angiogenic – prevents formation of new blood vessels. New blood vessels deliver nutrients to cancer cells which is bad
- antivenom – to some extent inhibits the catastrophic effects of the snake venom (poison)
- antiobesitic (a real word, I didn’t invent it) – prevents fat cells from accumulating in your problemtic areas
- antihyperlipidemic – prevents lipid level in your blood from going through the roof. “Fat blood” contributes to the development of atherosclerosis and some heart diseases
If you want more, close your eyes and come up with a medical term that starts with the prefix anti- . Very likely that it’s what fucoidan has been shown to do as well.
This all sounds exciting. We need elixirs. At least to give people that nurturing feeling of hope. Hope is powerful. Life may have shown this to you 🙂
That being said, however, remember, that majority of studies on fucoidan were done on rodents and pieces of flesh. Certainly, they do a good job at giving an indication of what fucoidan can potentially do for you – that is the whole purpose behind them.
However, if there are so many studies available, it makes sense to pay special attention to those that do involve humans. Clinical studies they are called.
So, my plan for the next post is to examine only those benefits of fucoidan that were confirmed by clinical studies (those that involve humans).