In ideal conditions, kelp can grow up to 18 inches per day, and in stark contrast to the colorful and slow-growing corals, the giant kelp canopies tower above the ocean floor. Like trees in a forest, these giant algae provide food and shelter for many organisms. Also like a terrestrial forest, kelp forests experience seasonal changes. Storms and large weather events, like El Niño, can tear and dislodge the kelp, leaving a tattered winter forest to begin its growth again each spring. Image credit: NOAA National Ocean Service Ocean Facts)

New research suggests that algae could help to lose weight. Algae (seaweed, kelp) contains a kind of chemical compound called “alginate” which appears to contribute to a healthy weight.

According to research conducted at the Newcastle University in England, these alginates reduces the body’s absorption of dietary fat by suppressing the digestion of fat in the gut.

The scientists used alginates extracted from sea kelp and then baked this it into bread. The bread was then fed to research subjects. The result was that for those participants who received alginates, the uptake of dietary fat was reduced by a third.

Alginate is made up of long chains of sugars, guluronate, and mannuronate, with an exceptional ability to absorbs water quickly. These long-chained sugars are actually already used in the food industry as thickening agents in soups and jellies.

The remarkable of alginates on the body was first found in 2010 when a team of researchers, also at the Newcastle University, used an artificial gut to test the effectiveness of more than 60 different natural fibers by measuring the amount of fat that was digested and absorbed with each treatment. And the promising results of that study was the foundation for continued research.

Professor Jeff Pearson at the Institute for Cell and Molecular Biosciences led the study back in 2010 together with Dr. Iain Brownlee. And he was also the lead researcher of this new study on live subjects. He said to the BBC that the findings are “extremely encouraging.” And added; “Now the next step is to carry out clinical trials to find out how effective they are when eaten as part of a normal diet.”

The scientist’s hypothesis is that alginates reduce fat break-down via blocking a digestive enzyme called pancreatic lipase. The blocking action of this enzyme results in lower amounts of fat being absorbed by the body.

A brown sea kelp called Tangle was found to be the most effective at preventing the digestion of fat.

The findings has been published in the journal Food Chemistry.

Seaweed to tackle rising tide of obesity

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