On our shores, we can find an ugly brown algae known as seaweed. There are different types of seaweed but one in particular, known as Ecklonia cava (EC), has been subjected to scientific study in relation to its benefits as a nutritional breakthrough for supplementation.
After these studies, EC extracts have found their way into supplements which claim to boost immunity, heart health, energy levels, brain function and other benefits.
EC is an antioxidant that can support conditions such as Alzheimer’s as well as lifestyle issues such as insomnia, according to studies.
EC is found in coastal waters off Japan and Jeju Island, part of South Korea. In these areas, it has been used for generations in the form of a food supplement (it is edible); animal feeds, and even fertilisers.
In recent research, EC has been found to be a rich source of phlorotannins, which are antioxidant compounds, also known as polyphenols. The research shows that polyphenols have various beneficial antioxidant, anti-cancer, anti-diabetic, anti-hypertensive and anti-allergic effects.
Two clinical trials have been published. Both were randomised and placebo-controlled, considered the ‘gold standard’ for scientific evaluation. The first trial was related to weight. Almost 100 overweight Korean men and women were allocated to a group for 12 weeks. Some took EC, others took a placebo.
Those in the EC group showed significant decreases in body mass index, the body fat ratio, waist circumference, cholesterol, and waist-to-hip ratio, when compared to the placebo group. The group also showed a significant rise in ‘good’ cholesterol, lower blood glucose levels and systolic blood pressure.
The second trial was related to physical endurance in exercise. Twenty male students, again randomly given EC, this time in the form of a supplemented drink, took part in the trial. Exercise trials were performed and researchers found that the students who were allocated the EC drink were able to exercise for significantly longer before becoming exhausted.
All other research has been through laboratory findings and has suggested that EC may be useful for many conditions. Each one of them is supported by a research study.
Breast cancer was considered in one study and the conclusion was that EC stopped the growth of cancer cells by inducing natural programmed cell death. In another study, EC demonstrated natural angiotensin-converting-enzyme-inhibitory activity, an indication of its potential in the treatment of hypertension and heart disease.
For Alzheimer’s disease, an EC extract was recently shown to suppress the production and build-up of fibrils of beta-amyloid peptides. The accumulation of these in the brain is one of the hallmarks of Alzheimer’s. The results showed, for the first time, EC’s potential in treating this dementia-related disorder.
In a number of test-tube experiments, the phlorotannin-rich EC extracts showed effects that may be useful to treat osteoarthritis. The extracts seemed to counteract the production of inflammatory mediators involved in this condition. Further study is needed to confirm this.
Another study showed positive results in significantly reducing blood glucose and insulin levels compared with a control group.
A study by the Korean Food Research Institute concluded that EC is a good candidate as a possible treatment of neuropsychiatric disorders, such as anxiety and insomnia. This laboratory study found that EC had depressive effects on the central nervous system, thereby inducing sleep and controlling seizures.
Some of the phlorotannins in EC have been found to play a critical role in the lifecycle of the influenza virus, and are the primary target of several anti-flu drugs. EC’s antibacterial activity was investigated against the superbugs Staphylococcus aureus, also known as MHRSA.
This study was carried out in Wonkwang University, South Korea, and was also found to be effective against salmonella species.
An article entitled ‘Marvels of Brown Seaweed on the Human Body’ that can be found on the website www.naturalnews.com, refers to many other conditions in which seaweed has been considered supportive to health.
There is further information together with an endorsement about how this food/supplement has been eaten for thousands of years to promote health.
The theory is that EC is very helpful against various diseases as previously mentioned. However, not all of them have been subject to clinical trials. However, EC has been used for generations in the countries where it is naturally available.
The clinical trials have been extremely encouraging and the laboratory trials have yielded very positive results. There is no doubt that future research into the benefits of this particular seaweed is an exciting area of science.
Numerous compounds from these modest marine plants are showing their potential to be as powerful as pharmaceuticals but with a more diverse range of beneficial actions and less side effects.
Future clinical trials of this seaweed are awaited with keen anticipation.