Fucoxanthin

Fresh wakame seaweed in fish market_Choshi_Chiba Japan
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Fucoxanthin is a natural substance said to offer a variety of health benefits. Found in edible brown seaweed such as wakame (Undaria pinnatifida) and hijiki (Hijikia fusiformis), it's considered a carotenoid (i.e., a class of plant pigments with antioxidant effects). Fucoxanthin is also available in dietary supplement form, and often marketed as a natural weight loss aid.

Uses for Fucoxanthin

Proponents suggest that fucoxanthin can support weight loss by speeding up your metabolism and stimulating your body's ability to burn fat.

Fucoxanthin is also touted as a natural remedy for the following health issues: diabetesheart diseasehigh blood pressurehigh cholesterolmetabolic syndrome, and obesity.

In addition, fucoxanthin is said to fight cancer, as well as preserve liver health.

The Health Benefits of Fucoxanthin

Some preliminary research suggests that fucoxanthin may have a number of health-enhancing effects. For example, there's some evidence that fucoxanthin may reduce inflammation, as well as promote healthy functioning of the liver, blood vessels, brain, bones, skin, and eyes.

Fucoxanthin also appears to stimulate the production of docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). A type of omega-3 fatty acid, DHA has been found to protect against a range of health problems, including arthritis, atherosclerosis, and depression.

While there's currently a lack of clinical trials testing its potential health benefits in humans, preliminary studies indicate that fucoxanthin may be effective against certain health conditions.

These conditions include:

1) Obesity

Fucoxanthin shows promise in the treatment and prevention of obesity, according to a research review published in Nutrition, Metabolism, and Cardiovascular Diseases in 2015.

In their analysis of previously published experimental studies, the review's authors found that fucoxanthin may fight obesity in a number of ways.

For example, the reviewed studies determined that fucoxanthin may inhibit the buildup of abdominal fat and reduce buildup of fat in the liver. There's also some evidence that fucoxanthin may affect the body's levels of leptin (a hormone essential for hunger control).

2) Diabetes

An animal study published in Molecular Medicine Reports in 2009 found that fucoxanthin may aid in the management of diabetes. In the study, tests on mice demonstrated that fucoxanthin may help regulate blood sugar as well as treat insulin resistance.

3) High Cholesterol

Some animal-based research indicates that fucoxanthin may help with cholesterol control. In a mouse-based study published in Biotechnology Journal in 2010, for instance, researchers observed that treatment with fucoxanthin helped lower cholesterol levels in animals fed a high-fat diet. The study also found that fucoxanthin may help increase levels of HDL ("good") cholesterol. 

Related: Remedies for High Cholesterol

4) Cancer

In preliminary studies on cell lines, scientists have observed that fucoxanthin may possess anti-cancer properties.

These studies include a report published in Anticancer Research in 2015, which found that treatment with fucoxanthin may help thwart the proliferation of some breast cancer cells.

It appears that fucoxanthin may suppress cancer growth in part by inducing apoptosis (a type of programmed cell death essential for stopping the proliferation of cancer cells), as well as by acting as an anti-angiogenesic agent (a type of substance that stalls the growth of new blood vessels).

Side Effects and Safety Concerns

Since there's currently a lack of studies testing fucoxanthin's effects in humans, little is known about the safety of long-term or regular use of fucoxanthin products.

Using Fucoxanthin

Due to a lack of scientific support for fucoxanthin's supposed health benefits, it's too soon to recommend the use of fucoxanthin supplements for any health-related purpose.

You can increase your intake of fucoxanthin by adding wakame and hijiki to soups, stir-fries, and salads. However, it's unlikely that dietary intake of fucoxanthin will produce any significant health effects. What's more, consuming large amounts of seaweed may result in iodine poisoning and interfere with the function of your thyroid gland.

If you're considering the use of fucoxanthin supplements, talk to your doctor before starting your supplement regimen.

Sources

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Disclaimer: The information contained on this site is intended for educational purposes only and is not a substitute for advice, diagnosis or treatment by a licensed physician. It is not meant to cover all possible precautions, drug interactions, circumstances or adverse effects. You should seek prompt medical care for any health issues and consult your doctor before using alternative medicine or making a change to your regimen.

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