Seaweed could make ‘excellent’ nutritional supplements, says researchers

By Oliver Nieburg

- Last updated on GMT

Red and brown seaweed are high in fibre, vitamins and many other essential nutrients, finds study. Photo credit: Merelymel13
Red and brown seaweed are high in fibre, vitamins and many other essential nutrients, finds study. Photo credit: Merelymel13

Related tags Amino acid Nutrition

Red and brown seaweed are rich in minerals and nutrients and carry great potential for use in nutritional supplements, according to new research.

A study due to be published in the journal Biomedicine & Preventive Nutrition ​by Syad et al. ​assessed the nutritional profile of two marine algae: Gelidiella acerosa​ (red seaweed) and Sargassum wightii​ (brown seaweed).

“The results suggest that both seaweeds have greater nutritional value and could be used as excellent nutritional supplements,”​ said the research team, who added the seasweeds may also be employed as an a highly nutritious food ingredient.

High in fibre, vitamins and protein

The study found that the seaweeds were high in fibre (13.45 mg per gram of dry weight), carbohydrates, protein, lipids, proline and chlorophyll and also had large amounts of vitamin C (around 5 mg per gram of dry weight).

Red seaweed was also high in potassium, while the brown variety possessed high amounts of sodium.

Major fatty acids including linolenic acid and essential amino acids including valine, methionine, lysine and phenyl alanine were also found in both seaweeds.

Red and brown seaweed uses

Brown seaweed is a commonly used ingredient in soups in Japan, where it is also fermented with other ingredients in soy sauce. It is also a source of alginic acid, which has been used as a gelling agent in the food industry.

Red seaweed is a major source of agar, a hydrophilic colloid used as a gelling agent in sugar confectionery, icings and canned meat and fish.

Other seaweed research

Other research has suggested prebiotic potential for seaweed compounds.

The HYFFI (Hydrocolloid Derivatives as Functional Food Ingredients) project, a consortium includes Irish firms Cyber Colloids and Marigot, Scottish company Hebridean Seaweed, Spanish-based Industrias Roko and the Universities of Reading and Ulster, found in lab tests that seaweed fibre increased bacteria and bifidobacterial populations that could be beneficial to human health.

However, a later human trial involving 60 volunteers found that positive changes in microflora were insufficient to demonstrate prebiotic activity. See HERE​.

The project has also suggested that seaweed has high antioxidant potential. See HERE.

Biomed Prev Nutr ​(2013), Article In Press
‘Seaweeds as nutritional supplements: Analysis of nutritional profile, physicochemical properties and proximate composition of G. acerosa and S. wightii.’
Authors: Syad AN, et al.

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