A natural multi-functional human food
Seaweeds, or ‘kelps’ as the wild brown algae are sometimes called, are known to assist the acid-alkaline balance (1), have a prebiotic effect on the gut flora (2), help protect the gut lining (3), stimulate the secretion of digestive enzymes (4), assist nutrient absorption and metabolism, and thus strengthen immunity. A certified organic wild seaweed harvested and produced specifically to human food standards could be described as a nutrient-rich, high fibre, low energy whole food, an ideal modern dietary ingredient.
In The Colon Health Handbook, Dr Robert Gray describes an alkalising diet of vegetables, fruits, sprouts, honey, millet and other “non-mucoid forming foods with seaweed and zinc as supplements” as a sound foundation for colon health and nutrition (5).
The brown algae are some 25 times more alkaline-forming than common kelp (laminaria species), 77 times more than apples, and 1000 times more than milk, all alkaline-forming foods (6).
Dr Natasha Campbell-McBride, author of Gut & Psychology Syndrome (7) recommends them and the macrobiotic approach, rooted in oriental culinary traditions, includes “a small volume of sea vegetables, about 2%, taken daily, eaten as a condiment, in soup, cooked with grains, beans and vegetables as a seasoning to supply minerals, (and) as a small side dish about twice a week” (8).
Their proven ability to bind and remove toxic metals (9) and help regulate fatty acid metabolism and electrolyte balance may increase their validity in colonic dysbiosis (10) and that these wrack seaweed species provide in themselves a virtually complete balance of all the nutrients (11) helps explain the numerous references in the literature to their broad efficacy.
The complement to land grown foods
A really comprehensive nutrient spectrum is difficult to obtain from land-grown and manufactured foods (12) where the effect of soil deficiencies and nutrient imbalances is well documented (13). Still more so in special diets, where certain foods are restricted due to illness and therapy, allergy and intolerance, pregnancy, metabolic disorders, weight regulation (14), and especially in poor colon health.
The nature of land foods is that each species has a distinct but partial profile, high in some nutrients, low in others, all with some nutrients missing. Hence the need to 'graze' in the wild, or produce a wide variety of land grown foods. Even then, the mineral content will depend on the growing medium - from soil-less growing under 24/7 lighting to rich composted soil on a biodynamic farm.
Very different from the land, the oceans are a consistently rich growing medium where abundant seaweeds feed a multitude of species. Brown seaweeds are complete, primordial food which, having no roots, absorb and convert nutrients directly from this great 'soup' which covers 70% of the planet and is the final repository of all the Earth's minerals which Nature has very limited means of returning to the soil.
The seaweed, which at 75mg per gram is also rich in protein, is able to transform the ocean nutrients into a unique whole food with not only all the trace elements like selenium and zinc, but the entire B group and other rare vitamins including absorbable B12 (15), D, H and K. It is highly antioxidant, and like green tea, there are valuable tannins and polyphenols. Against the most nutrient dense species of land fruits and vegetables, half a teaspoon of Seagreens dried wrack seaweed has, for example, the same amount of vitamin B2 as 100g of blackberries or broccoli! (16).
A range of indigestible polysaccharides (17) constituting about 25% of the seaweed are an effective prebiotic and have been shown to prevent adhesion to the gut wall by helicobacter pylori bacteria (18). They also bind for elimination through the bowel, pollutants and toxic metals like lead and mercury - of special importance in the treatment of obesity since fat stores toxins which are released into the system in the process of weight regulation (19).
All of this supports the endocrine system so often implicated in colon disorders, which depends on the dietary balance of micronutrients to trigger digestive acids, hormones and enzymes.
Original research confirms traditional wisdom
According to the last available statistics a traditional Japanese diet includes 4.6 grams of mainly brown seaweeds per day, which translates to a heaped teaspoon of Seagreens dried ground wrack.
Coincidentally, Seagreens' scientific research over the past five years, mainly at Sheffield Hallam University’s Centre for Food Innovation, has shown that wrack seaweed can replace at least half of the salt (highly processed sodium chloride) in manufactured foods (20). It has also confirmed it to be anti-bacterial, non-allergenic and free from contaminants (21).
Since the average person in Britain consumes at least 9 grams of salt per day, replacing half with seaweed would equate rather precisely to the traditional Japanese daily intake. It is also the level at which many independent practitioners have found effective as a nutritional foundation for a wide variety of therapeutic protocols.
With the advent of a home-grown seaweed industry in Britain it is easy and safe to include dietary seaweed in a variety of ways from sprinkling it on food as a granular condiment or as an ingredient in cooked or baked foods, as larger pieces in vegetables and salads, or as an infusion in teas, tonics and smoothies, or of course in capsules (22). In summary, wild wrack seaweed has been shown to:
• protect and heal the endothelial lining
• bind pollutants and toxins including heavy metals
• have a prebiotic effect (approximately 25% of seaweed)
• have natural antibacterial properties
• broaden and complete the nutritional balance
© Copyright Seagreens Limited 2011
1 H. Aihara, Acid and Alkaline, Ohsawa Macrobiotic Foundation, 1986
2 L. O’Sullivan, B. Murphy, P. MacLoughlin, P. Duggan, P. G. Lawlor, H. Hughes and G. E. Gardiner, Prebiotics from Marine Macroalgae for Human and Animal Health Applications, Marine Drugs 8:2038-2064, 2010
3 J. Pearson et al., University of Newcastle upon Tyne, Institute for Cell and Molecular Biosciences, in Critical Reviews in Food Science and Nutrition, November 2006
4 S. Ikegami et al, Effect of viscous indigestible polysaccharides on pancreatic biliary secretion and digestive organs in rats, Journal of Nurtrition 120:353-360, 1990
5 The Colon Health Handbook, 14th revised edition, Emerald Publishing, 2002 - available from Bestcare (click here)
6 H. Aihara, Acid and Alkaline, Ohsawa Macrobiotic Foundation, 1986 and P. Pitchford, Healing with Whole Foods, Revised Edition, North Atlantic Books, 1993
7 N. Campbell-McBride, MD, MMedSci(neurology), MMedSci(nutrition), Gut and Psychology Syndrome, Medinform, 2007and Foods to Choose at www.gaps.me
8 M. Kushi, A. Jack, The Macrobiotic Path to Total Health, Ballantine books, pp.9-11, 2003
9 Y. Tanaka et al., Studies on Inhibition of Intestinal Absorption of Radioactive Strontium, Canadian Medical Association Journal 99:169-75, 1968; M. Y. Arica et al., Alginates bind heavy metals, Journal of Hazardous Material, 2004 (in addition to the metal binding properties of the polysaccharides, wrack seaweed also provides a balance of the amino acids necessary for the production of the metal transporting metallothionines, including cysteine. In the case of the ubiquitous MT hæmoglobin, cysteine accounts for as much as 30% of its structure)
10 J. Tommey, a clinical nutritionist, Pure, simple, effective and essential, The Autism File, Issue 21, Winter 2006 www.theautismclinic.com
11 V. G. Cooksley, Seaweed, A Field Guide to Seaweed, Stewart, Tabori & Chang, New York, 2007 p. 172; S. Surey-Gent, G. Morris, Seaweed - A User’s Guide, Whittet Books, 1987
12 The Guardian, February 2006 (quoted in The Week, London, 11.02.06); Changing Diets, Changing Minds: how food affects mental health and behaviour, a joint report of Sustain: the alliance for better food and farming, January 16, 2006, in partnership with the Mental Health Foundation; Feeding Minds: The Impact of Food on Mental Health, a report of the Mental Health Foundation (MHF), February 2006
13 Mineral and trace element changes in Britain 1940 to 2002 including fruit and vegetables, meat and meat products, cheeses and dairy products, research by D. E. Thomas, DC, MRNT (2007) based on McCance & Widdowson, The Composition of Foods, 6 Editions, pub. Royal Society of Chemistry and the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (MAFF); M. Crawford, Institute of Brain Chemistry and Human Nutrition, London Metropolitan University
14 An award-winning study on obesity using Seagreens® Ascophyllum seaweed: http://www.seagreens.com/University/Satietystudy2009.aspx.
15 F. Watanabe, S. Takenaka, H. Kittaka-Katsura, S. Ebara, E. Miyamoto, Characterisation and Bioavailability of Vitamin B12 compounds from edible algæ, Journal of Nutritional Science and Vitaminology, 48(5): 325-331, October 2002; P. MacArtain, C. I. R. Gill, M. Brooks, R. Campbell, I. R. Rowland, Nutritional Value of Edible Seaweeds, Nutrition Reviews, Vol. 65, 12:535-543, 2007
16 Seagreens Presentation to the Food Industry at http://www.seagreens.com/Media/Presentations.aspx
17 S. Løvstad Holdt, S. Kraan, Bioactive Compounds in Seaweed: functional food applications and legislation, Journal of Applied Phycology, 2011 [Seaweed Health Foundation library - www.seaweedhealthfoundation.org.uk ]
18 Dr P D’Adamo, The Eat Right Diet, Century, London 1998, p273 and Eat Right for Blood Type O, Penguin Books 2002, p58 and J. Carper, The Food Pharmacy, Simon & Schuster, 1989
19 ‘A Chemical Cosh’, The Ecologist, pp38-39, November 2006
20 A summary is provided elsewhere in this website because the main body of work awaits publication in a peer reviewed journal - click here
21 Seagreens conducts regular analysis of its wild wrack seaweeds including the world's most comprehensive contaminant and polllutant studies in 2007 and again 2011-12
22 Seagreens human food quality, organic wild seaweed food products are available in all good health and natural food stores and by mail order from: (for practitioners) The Natural Dispensary (for consumers) Bestcare