Carrie Lamm, MD, a physician who specializes in family medicine, anti-aging and regenerative medicine at the Lamm Clinic in Tustin, California. However, new research on its benefits shows promising results in seaweed’s ability to treat inflammation and related disorders, she adds.
There are more studies on the benefits of seaweed as a whole than on the benefits of seaweed itself. Preliminary research on seaweed so far is based on small studies. Extensive clinical trials are needed to verify the results listed below.
May Promote Thyroid Health
Your thyroid [a small gland located at the base of your neck] “Iodine is needed to produce thyroid hormones,” says Dr. Lamm. “These hormones, which are important for proper thyroid function, play a role in metabolism,” she explains. Iodine must be obtained through the diet because the body cannot make it on its own.
Iodine deficiency can lead to goiter (or goiter), hypothyroidism and intellectual disabilities in infants and children whose mothers were iodine deficient during pregnancy, according to the American Thyroid Association.
While iodine deficiency has virtually been eliminated in the United States since the introduction of iodized salt, even a minor deficiency can cause adverse effects on the thyroid gland.
In the marine environment, seaweed is the largest supplier of iodine. However, the iodine content varies among species, with brown seaweed usually having a higher amount compared to green and red seaweed. Seaweed in particular contains an average of 3.86 ± 1.49 milligrams of iodine per kilogram of dry weight.
Most adults need about 150 micrograms of iodine per day, while pregnant and breastfeeding women need slightly more at 220 micrograms and 290 micrograms, respectively, according to the National Institutes of Health.
May support gut health
An unhealthy gut has an imbalance of gut bacteria. This intestinal dysbiosis or dysbiosis is associated with disorders such as inflammatory bowel disease, type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, and cancer.
Prebiotics are a group of anti-digestive fibers. They help stimulate the growth and/or activity of “good bacteria” in the gut.
A review of studies on the effects of seaweed (including seaweed) as a whole on humans, animals, and in the laboratory (Microorganisms), indicates that some of the unique components of seaweed have the potential to act as prebiotics and support gut health. The review authors note that while these trials demonstrate the prebiotic potential of seaweed components, large-scale human clinical trials are required to validate the findings.
May support muscle recovery
“The various nutrients in seaweed not only help build muscle and maintain muscle health but also help maintain healthy bone structure,” notes Dr. Lamm. “This is very important for those on a rigorous exercise regimen or the elderly who tend to see a loss of muscle and bone mass due to the aging process,” she says.
A small 2018 observational study looked at the effects of seaweed supplementation in 80 patients with musculoskeletal conditions and joint symptoms. The subjects were divided into two groups that were treated with different seaweed supplements.
Some study participants from both groups reported beneficial effects such as increased strength and energy and reduced fatigue and pain after supplemental therapy. The researchers concluded that this may be due to the high protein content of the seaweed. Notably, people who took a seaweed supplement with more protein had a higher ability to recover muscle energy.
Additional health benefits of seaweed
There are other potential health benefits of seaweed. However, since these benefits have only been observed in animals and in the laboratory studies, more clinical trials in humans are needed.
- Neuroprotective activity was observed in worms given seaweed extract.
- Red seaweed compounds (including sea algae) show anticancer activity in mice.
- An enhanced immune response was observed in worms given seaweed extract.
- Anti-inflammatory effects were observed in cells treated with red seaweed extracts (including seaweed).
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