Sugar Kelp (Saccharina latissima)
Sugar Kelp is a type of large brown seaweed that grows in shallow, nutrient-rich saltwater, near coastal fronts around the world.
It contains over 40 micro- and macronutrients and vitamins as iodine, iron, manganese, calcium, magnesium, copper, zinc, riboflavin, niacin, thiamin, vitamins A, B-12, B-6, and C.
Sugar Kelp contain a wide variety of biologically active compounds as Polysaccharides, Sterols (fucosterol), Pigments: Chlorophylls/Carotenoids (fucoxanthin, β-carotene), Phenols/ phlorotannins, Carrageenan.
Seaweed polysaccharides isolated from the cell walls of brown seaweed possess immunomodulatory, anti-inflammatory, antiviral, antitumor, antithrombotic, anticoagulant and antioxidant bioactivities.
Where could be used
Sugar Kelp can be used in a large variety of products and industries. It is widely used in food, fertilizers, cosmetics, supplements, fish and animal feed. Compounds of Sugar kelp are used in medicine. Sugar kelp can also be used to produce biofuel and as a biofilter to clean water from oil spills.
Benefits of Sugar kelp
Since inflammation and stress are considered risk factors for many chronic diseases, including kelp in one’s diet could have numerous health benefits. Kelp is naturally high in antioxidants, including carotenoids, flavonoids, and alkaloids, which help to fight against disease-causing free radicals.
Antioxidant vitamins like vitamin C, and minerals like manganese and zinc, help to combat oxidative stress and may offer benefits to cardiovascular health. There have been many claims regarding kelp’s abilities to fight chronic disease, including cancer.
Recent studies have explored the role of sea vegetables in estrogen-related and colon cancers, osteoarthritis, and other conditions. Researchers found that kelp can slow the spread of colon and breast cancers. A compound found in kelp called fucoidan may also prevent the spread of lung cancer and prostate cancer. This doesn’t mean that kelp should be used to cure any diseases or be considered a guaranteed protection against disease.
Sugar kelp is often considered a “superfood” due to its significant mineral content. The benefits of these vitamins and nutrients are substantial. B vitamins in particular are essential for cellular metabolism and providing your body with energy. According to UCSF Medical Center, kelp has more calcium than many vegetables, including kale and collard greens. Calcium is important to maintain strong bones and optimal muscle function.
The National Institutes of Health in US (NIH) say that seaweed such as kelp is one of the best natural food sources of iodine, an essential component in thyroid hormone production. A deficiency in iodine leads to metabolism disruption and can also lead to an enlargement of the thyroid gland known as goiter.
Polysaccharides of Sugar Kelp function as a sorbent of heavy metals, including radionuclides.
Kelp is extraordinarily rich in alkaline buffering nutrients such as sodium, potassium, magnesium and calcium. It is also a phenomenal source of chlorophyll to boost blood cell formation and purify the body (1, 2).
Kelp Boosts Glutathione
The Japanese use Kelp in many traditional dishes such as soups, stews & sushi. Kelp is a powerful source of natural glutamic acid which is a precursor to the bodies master anti-oxidant glutathione (6).
Kelp is often used to soften beans during cooking and help convert challenging sugars into a more digestible form and thus reduce flatulence. Improving glutathione levels is important to keep the body adapting to stress, healing properly and preventing chronic disease. We naturally lose glutathione as we age, therefore, using glutathione precursers such as kelp can help to prevent against excess oxidative stress.
Sea vegetables also contain a unique group of polysaccharides called fucoidans. These fucoidans have a characteristic branching pattern with sulfur containing molecules. They are being widely studied for their ability to reduce inflammation within the body. These sulfated fucoidans have been shown to reduce pain, fight viruses and prevent atherosclerosis (9, 10).
Fucoidans produce their anti-inflammatory effects by blocking selectin production and inhibiting pro-inflammatory prostaglandins and enzymes. Selectins are glycoproteins (sugar-protein molecules) that are often used to signal inflammatory processes in the body. Fucoidans also inhibit the enzyme Pphospholipase A2 (PLA-2) that turns on inflammatory processes (11).
New research is looking at these fucoidans as anticancer agents in preclinical development (12, 13).
These sulfated polysaccharides have also been shown to block the typical binding sites for many viruses such as Herpes. By blocking binding sites the virus is unable to replicate. Without adequate replication, the viruses are unable to survive (14, 15).
Blood Clot Reduction
Sulfated polysaccharides are also revered for their powerful ability to reduce blood clots. Heparin (Coumadin) is a popular medical agent used to reduce clots. Heparin is also a sulfated polysaccharide although it is a synthetically derived form.
Both of these reduce platelet cell coagulation that forms blood clots (16). Heparin comes with a number of dangerous side effects while naturally occurring sulfated polysaccharides in kelp have no known side effects.
Heavy metal binder
Alginate is a polyuronide that is found in the cell wall of brown algae. In human and animal models they can function as heavy metal binders, cell immobilisers and immune system stimulators. Oligoalginates are known to act as prebiotics, stimulating growth of beneficial bacteria in the intestine and in the soil.
In recent years, researchers have looked into kelp’s potential fat blocking properties. Because kelp contains a natural fiber called alginate, studies suggest that it may halt the absorption of fat in the gut. A study published in Food Chemistry found that alginate could help block fat absorption in the intestines by 75 percent. In order to reap the benefits of alginate, the research team plans to add the thickening compound to common foods such as yogurt and bread.
Kelp may have great potential for diabetes and obesity, although research is still preliminary. A study published in the journal Diabetes, Obesity and Metabolism found that a compound in the chloroplasts of brown seaweed called fucoxanthin may promote weight loss in obese patients when combined with pomegranate oil. Studies also suggest that brown seaweed may influence glycemic control and reduce blood glucose levels, benefitting people with type 2 diabetes.
Watch video “Kelp Seaweed, A Concentrated Source of Dietary Minerals”