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How Seaweed Can Improve Your Health

Have you ever eaten seaweed? If you have, chances are it wasn’t straight from the sea, but rather a more edible form such as the kind that you find in a sushi roll. You may have heard that the ingredients in seaweed are good for you, but what benefit do they really have on your health? Well, one company is digging deeper into the depths of seaweed to find out the answer to that very question. Let’s take a look . . .

Marinova, an experienced pharmaceutical, nutraceutical and cosmetic ingredient manufacturer, has recently done several tests to determine the health benefits of one very important seaweed ingredient known as fucoidan.

The benefits of fucoidan-rich seaweed have been noted for centuries. In Ancient Greece seaweed was recommended for diseases of the joints. In traditional Chinese medicine seaweed was used to ward off fever. And, in Victorian England seaweed was used to soften the skin. Today in modern medicine, brown seaweed is used to counteract aging, boost the immune system and treat hypertension.

But does seaweed – and its super-ingredient fucoidan – really work? That’s what Marinova set out to determine. The company has undertaken numerous clinical trials, focusing on three key areas:

  • Joint health activity
  • Immune boosting activity
  • Skin care

Some of these trials are yet to be completed, but so far the research has been supportive as to the benefits of fucoidan. Let’s take a closer look at some results of these recent studies . . .

Fucoidan as an Anti-Inflammatory

Numerous published papers have demonstrated the effectiveness of fucoidan as an anti-inflammatory. In 2006, Marinova initiated its own anti-inflammatory research program, and following that, initiated a human clinical trial.

The study showed that fucoidan actively inhibits TNF-α, which is a pro-inflammatory protein present in the blood. This protein is central to diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis. Patients suffering from these conditions demonstrate high levels of TNF-α, and many modern pharmaceuticals developed for inflammatory conditions are “TNF-α inhibitors,” molecules that reduce TNF-α levels in the blood.

The clinical trial is observing the changes in TNF-α levels in the blood as well as the pain levels as assessed by the trial participants. The data collected thus far supports that fucoidan does indeed relieve joint pain, and that Marinova’s fucoidan product is more effective than Chondroitin sulphate and works faster than glucosamine.

Fucoidan as a Potent Immune Stimulant

In June 2007, a ground-breaking study was published in the Journal of Experimental Hematology. The study showed that Marinova’s fucoidan product (labeled Maritech® extract) stimulated the release of CD34+ stem cells from the bone marrow. These stem cells are precursors for the development of human immune cells, or white blood cells, and the building blocks of a functional immune defense system.

Another key finding of the study was that the fucoidan product significantly elevated levels of a protein integral to an effective immune response.

Fucoidan and Skin Health

There is a well-documented history of studies investigating the activity of fucoidan in skin health. Fucoidans have a diverse range of activities in regards to promoting skin health, including:

  • Increasing skin thickness and elasticity
  • Inhibiting inflammation
  • Lightening skin pigmentation through the inhibition of the enzyme tyrosinase
  • Increasing dermal (skin) fibroblast numbers

In January 2008, Marinova began a two-year, $1.5 million research program, supported by the Australian government to investigate the benefits of fucoidan as both an oral and topical ingredient.

Initial results of the program have demonstrated enzyme-inhibitory activity at very low concentrations, particularly in combating glycation, which is the process of elastin and collagen degradation commonly associated with a loss of skin elasticity and the physical signs of aging.

So what does all this mean for you? Marinova’s studies show that seaweed’s fucoidan is beneficial to your health in many different aspects. Perhaps future research will reveal even more health benefits. Go seaweed.

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