Why would anyone want to eat sea vegetables? Because they offer one of the broadest ranges of minerals of any food, containing virtually all the minerals found in the ocean—and not surprisingly, many of same minerals found in human blood. The also offer a variety of unique phytonutrients, including their sulfated polysaccharides (also called fucoidans). Unlike some other categories of vegetables, sea vegetables do not appear to depend on carotenoids and flavonoids for their antioxidant benefits, because in additional to these two important categories of antioxidants, sea vegetables contain several other types, including alkaloid antioxidants. Sea vegetables are an excellent source of iodine, vitamin C, manganese, and vitamin B2. They are also a very good source of vitamin A (in the form of carotenoids) and copper as well as a good source of protein, pantothenic acid, potassium, iron, zinc, vitamin B6, niacin, phosphorus, and vitamin B1.
Throughout the world, there are thousands of types of sea vegetables, which may also be referred to as seaweed and algae. Not all of these are suitable for human consumption; in fact, most are probably not. They tend to be classified into categories by color-brown, red, or green.
Sea vegetables are thought to have been included in the diet of prehistoric people who lived near water in regions such as Scotland, Ireland, Norway, Iceland, New Zealand, the Pacific Islands, and coastal South American countries.
In a study published in 2005 in The Journal of Nutrition, California researchers divided 24 rats into two groups. One group was fed a regular diet, and a second group was fed a diet enhanced with kelp. After four weeks, the rats that ate the diet with kelp showed a 25 to 38 percent reduction in estrogen levels in the blood. (Higher amounts of serum estrogen are associated with increased risk for breast cancer.) In addition, the kelp lengthened the rats’ menstrual cycles by up to 37 percent. It is known that women who have longer menstrual cycles have fewer cycles during their lifetime. So, less of their life is spent with high amounts of estrogen in their blood.
In a study published in 2006 in the International Journal of Cancer, researchers investigated nine groups of mice, each containing 20 hairless mice specially bred to be strongly susceptible to UVB-induced skin cancer. 248 HEALTHY FOODS: FACT VERSUS FICTION The researchers applied varying amounts of brown algae polyphenols (BAPs) to the skin (3 milligrams or 6 milligrams in a mild solvent) of some of the mice and fed other mice different amounts of BAPs. Many of the mice were exposed to UVB rays. There was also a group of mice that served as controls.
In a randomized, double blind, placebo-controlled trial that was published in 2007 in The Journal of Nutrition, British researchers gave 38 healthy men and women, between the ages of 40 and 65, either daily 0.7 g of docosahexaenoic (DHA), an omega-3 fatty acid found in algae and fish oil, or a placebo. After four months, the treatments were switched. The researchers found that when the subjects took the DHA, their diastolic blood pressure dropped by 3.3 mm Hg, and their heart rate decreased by 2.1 beats per minute. So, taking a relatively modest amount of DHA has the potential to enhance cardiovascular health.
In a study published in 2008 in Nutrition Journal, researchers randomly placed 70 subjects with mild to severe osteoarthritis in one of four parallel investigation groups. The subjects, who were between 25 and 70 years old, were then assigned to take one of the following for 12 weeks: Aquamin (a multi-mineral supplement from seaweed, 2400 mg/day), glucosamine sulfate (1500 mg/day), a combination of Aquamin (2400 mg/day) and glucosamine sulfate (1500 mg/day), or a placebo.
A study published in 2008 in the Asia Pacific Journal of Clinical Nutrition may be of particular importance to the millions of people who are either overweight, obese, or simply trying to maintain a healthful weight.