About fucoidan – a marine elixir that Japanese researchers love




 

About fucoidan - a marine elixir that Japanese researchers love My sister asked me to write about fucoidan. She is taking it (on the right).

I’ve tried to squeeze the wisdom on it into one page (for now).

To say the truth, I have never came across it before. I got to know it from her. That’s weird (and kind of embarrassing) because the compound has been around for a century. 1918 – the year when it got isolated from a plant for the first time.

However, the researchers have been really into it 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 abundantly around that part of the world (must be the reason behind its inconspicuousness in the West). Precisely, fucoidan is found in brown seaweeds. Some examples are mozuku, kombu and wakame – the stuff that Okinawans eat. Very likely that fucoidan is one of the contributing factors to the long and healthy lives of these people, and Japanese in general.

There is a caveat though. 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 conducted on isolated tissue; it 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

 

  • it’s 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 in your quinoa is it lightly sprinkled with sulfur atoms
  • found in brown seaweed such as mozuku, kombu, wakame, bladderwrack, hijiki, limumoui. Besides Japanese, they are regularly enjoyed in China and Korea
  • 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
  • resides in extracellular matrix. It’s the jelly-like stuff between the cells
  • gives seaweed its slippery texture. For your info, the slipperiness protects seaweed from harshes of the ocean such as intense sunlight and salinity fluctuations
  • although it has been around for a while, it’s still a problem to develop drugs from it or apply it in the 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 that seaweed is harvested
  • claimed to help with just about every ache bothering the human race. Today, the fuss around fucoidan is similar to the spirulina one a decade ago. I don’t want to say that spirulina or fucoidan can’t do what they are claimed to do. What I am trying to say is that nearly everything you see in nature may be good for you. As long as it has no record of knocking people out and grows away from 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 has been shown to do. I listed some of its health properties below

 

 

Health benefits / effects of fucoidan

 

  • antibacterial
  • anti-inflammatory
  • anti-adhesive  – prevents evil bugs like Helicobacter pylori (bacteria) from sticking and living on your tissues
  • anticoagulantlimits 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
  • antiviral
  • anti-tumor
  • 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)
  • antioxidant
  • anti-radiation
  • antiobesitic (a real word, I didn’t invent it) – prevents fat cells from accumulating in your problem areas
  • antidiabetic
  • antihyperlipidemic –  prevents lipid level in your blood from going through the roof. “Fat blood” contributes to the development of atherosclerosis and some heart diseases
  • anti-ulcer

 

Enough?

If you want more, close your eyes and come up with a medical term that starts with the prefix anti- .  Very likely that is what fucoidan has been shown to do by one study or another. Sounds exciting. We need elixirs. At least to give you that nurturing feeling of hope. Hope is a powerful phenomena (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. Yet, in such cases when there are so many studies available, it makes sense to pay special attention to those that do involve humans. Clinical studies they are called. If you think about it, the chance that fucoidan will work for you in a way that it worked on volunteers in the studies is pretty high.

Hence, the plan for the next post is to examine only those benefits of fucoidan that were confirmed by clinical trials.

 

 

 


 

Main references:

http://www.greenmedinfo.com/article/sea-cucumber-and-sea-urchin-eggs-contains-compound-fucoidan-which-may-inhibit-fat
https://academic.oup.com/glycob/article/17/5/541/744124/A-comparative-study-of-the-anti-inflammatory
http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0041010107003819
http://file.scirp.org/pdf/ABB_2015041614380280.pdf
http://pubs.rsc.org/en/content/articlehtml/2013/ra/c3ra23373a
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17296677https://books.google.ca/books
https://www.hindawi.com/journals/tswj/2014/768323/
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/14599557
http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/ptr.4965/abstract
http://www.tsijournals.com/abstract/antihyperglycemic-antihyperlipedemic-and-antioxidative-potential-of-fucoidan-7006.html
http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1878029615000596

 

2 Comments
  1. Wow! Very exciting stuff! Do you believe one plant can truly do so many amazing things for our body? I sure hope so! Thanks for this great information.

    • Dylan,

      Yes, I believe so. Moreover, I’m certain. Why? Here is a live “clinical study”.

      Contrary to what should be happening right now after Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombing is not happening. I mean there are no inborn genetic abnormalities. People are born healthy! Unlike in Ukraine and to some extent in Belarus after atomic explosion in 1986. I heard that this is attributed to fucoidan in brown seaweeds that Japanese regularly eat. See what I’m getting at? Simply amazing.

      And, yes, probably because of the explosion, in Belarus, seaweed was not such an exotic food. I remember I ate it often as a kid. Raw. Soaked in water, with unrefined sunflower oil, and salt it was pretty good. Try it yourself!

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