German drug authority approves first herbal weight control remedy

By Will Chu

- Last updated on GMT

Bladderwrack seaweed powder in tablet form becomes the first traditional herbal accompaniment approved by German authorities who deem the remedy suitable as part of a diet for weight loss.

The German Federal Institute for Drugs and Medical Devices (BfArM) has granted pharmaceutical consultancy Diapharm permission to license the product for sale in the country and the EU.

“Demand for natural plant-based remedies with confirmed indications is constantly increasing,”​ says Nicole Sibbing, Director of Diapharm.

“The ‘green’ shift in consumer preferences is directly related to social changes,” ​she adds.

According to BfArM, the seaweed powder is available in a plant-based film-coated tablet that contains 130 milligrams (mg) of bladderwrack (Fucus vesiculosus​). The seaweed also contain up to 210 micrograms (μg) of iodine per dose.

The authority has approved its use, “supplementing a reduced-calorie weight loss diet in obese adults in which a doctor has excluded serious underlying diseases."

What is Bladderwrack?

Bladderwrack’s benefits to weight management are not new. In the United Kingdom and France, a range of bladderwrack-containing pharmaceuticals has been around for decades that aid in weight loss.

"Herbal medicines often have a regional tradition,"​ says Dr Rainer Kolkmann, head of product development and partner at Diapharm.

"What has been established in one EU state for decades can still be almost unknown in other states. 

“We are consistently exploiting the opportunities to detect and market such drugs and new potential across Europe. In 23 countries, the company has already over 500 such drug registrations and approvals.”

Bladderwrack is a brown algae that is native to the North Atlantic. Alginates isolated from this kelp species has shown potential in weight loss supplements and foods, according to recent research.

The study​,​ published in Food Chemistry​, shows that alginate from sea kelp can suppress the digestion of fat in the gut.

The alginate may aid in joint health improvements with a study​ stating that alginates from the brown algae Lat. Laminaria hyperborean​ ​may be modified with sulphate groups to aid in chronic joint pain and inflammation linked to arthritis.

Seaweed interest

With the growing issue of drug side effects and resistance, seaweed-based pharmaceuticals have emerged as a viable alternative in addressing such conditions like weight management and cardiovascular (CVDs) conditions.

As well as alginate content, seaweed is a rich source of antioxidants compounds such as polyphenols and phlorotannins that have shown to high in vitro​ antioxidant activity.

Earlier this month​, French biotechnology specialist Solbia bought Israeli microalgae firm Algatech in a deal that looks to develop new algae-based products for the cosmetics and pharmaceuticals industries. ​

Back in March, French seaweed and algae specialist Algaia announced that agro business Sapec had purchased 31% of the firm’s shares from venture capitalists Demeter and Cap Decisif.

The shift in shareholding structure was a response to the rise in popularity of algae-based products, where according to Algaia’s CEO, Fabrice Bohin its traditional largest market – food – presents “huge opportunities”.​

Such is the pace of demand in recent years, the European Commission (EC) recently released a report​ offering scientific guidance to help meet the growing global demand for seaweed species in food, nutrition and pharmaceuticals.

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