Anti-obesity compound found in brown seaweed
Mon Sep 11, 2006 4:03pm ET
NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - Studies in animals suggest that brown seaweed, also known as wakame — commonly used to flavor Asian soups and salads, contains a compound that promotes weight loss. The compound, called fucoxanthin, also has anti-diabetes effects.
At the 232nd American Chemical Society National Meeting in San Francisco today, Dr. Kazuo Miyashita from Hokkaido University reported seeing significant reductions in fat tissue in rats and obese mice fed the edible seaweed carotenoid fucoxanthin.
“The mechanism for this effect is a new one,” Dr. Miyashita points out in a statement, explaining that fucoxanthin induces expression of the fat-burning protein UCP1 that accumulates in fat tissue around the internal organs. Mice fed fucoxanthin showed clear signs of UCP1 expression in fat tissue, whereas mice fed a control diet showed little expression of this protein.
The studies suggest that fucoxanthin-induced expression of UCP1 in fat tissue fuels the oxidation of fatty acids and production of heat energy in fat tissue mitochondria. Mitochondria, found in every cell, convert sugar and fatty acids into energy and play a key role in regulating metabolism.
Miyashita and colleagues also found that fucoxanthin has “strong” anti-diabetes effects by promoting the synthesis of DHA in the liver. DHA is an important fatty acid found in fish oil supplements. Animals fed fucoxanthin plus soybean oil showed an increase in DHA levels in the liver, comparable to that seen with fish oil supplementation, they note.
Prior studies by Miyashita’s group have shown that fucoxanthin also helps promote the death of human prostate cancer cells in culture.
This finding, coupled with the team’s current findings, suggest that this multi-tasking compound holds promise as a preventive agent for a variety of diseases.