Medicine News

Caulerpa seaweeds can help in preventing obesity, metabolic disorders

Researchers from South Korea’s Mokpo National University found that a type of seaweed native to their region can potentially manage symptoms of obesity, as well as its complications. Their research, published in Nutrition Research, identified a type of edible seaweed known as okdeonggul (Caulerpa okamurae) to have anti-obesity properties, based on a high-fat diet murine model.

Seaweeds have been a part of a traditional diet in countries such as Korea, Japan, and even coastal areas of China. Multiple studies have identified the health benefits of eating seaweeds, especially those of the Caulerpa genus. A study from the University of Putra Malaysia found that eating sea grapes (C. lentillifera) can help with weight loss and cholesterol management, based on animal studies. Other species of Caulerpa have also been considered as functional food. In particular, a research article presented in the International Symposium on Aquatic Product Processing looked at C. racemosa — also referred to as sea grapes — for its potential to be used as a functional food, thanks to its impressive nutrient profile and antioxidant effects.

In their study, the researchers induced obesity by feeding mice with a high-fat diet. Those in the experiment group were pre-treated with an ethanolic extract of okdeonggul. The results indicated that treating mice with the extract inhibited the buildup of fat cells in their body. In addition, it effectively regulated the production of adipose cells, which are linked to increased levels of body fat, and reduced biomarkers associated with obesity. Mice treated with okdeonggul extract also had lower levels of body fat, as well as liver weight, compared to the rats that were not treated beforehand. Similarly, body markers for weight gain, including total cholesterol, blood glucose, and liver lipid levels were significantly lower than those in control.

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According to the researchers, the effects demonstrated by okdeonggul were similar to that of Garcinia cambogia, another natural supplement used for weight loss.

“These findings suggest that C. okamurae may be used as a possible treatment option for the management of obesity and associated metabolic disorders,” they wrote in their report. (Related: Edible seaweeds hold great potential for preventing diabetes and lowering blood pressure.)

A really healthy superfood

These days, it’s not just sushi that has seaweed. Health stores are now stocking up on seaweed-derived supplements and functional foods — an indicator that people are starting to warm up to the fact that they can get many health benefits from these so-called “sea vegetables.” While the study focused on Caulerpa seaweeds, it’s worth noting that there are at least 10,000 species of seaweed that scientists have currently identified, which means that there could be more nutritious and diverse types that are just waiting to be discovered.

The most popular edible seaweed, undoubtedly, is nori, but other known variants included wakame, spirulina, kelp, and dulse. Still, no matter the type, these superfoods are packed with nutrients, including calcium, copper, iron, and iodine. Seaweeds are also rich in vitamin K and folic acid, and they’re a good source of protein and fiber.

Aside from being really nutritious, seaweed consumption is linked to increased lifespans. In a review published in the American Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, researchers found that eating seaweeds is linked to improved blood pressure and better heart health.

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