Seaweed is Always Greener Under the Sea

Cardiovascular disease can be prevented by eating seaweed

(RxWiki News) The slimy, icky gooey stuff floating in the ocean, more commonly known as seaweed, is a delicacy in some countries and even provides heart health benefits.

Researchers have found that seaweed and other microalgae have bioactive compounds, which have the ability to lower blood pressure.

"Add some seaweed to your dishes!"

Bioactive compounds are products that have hormone-like effects that are released either during the processing of the food or by digestive enzymes in the body. These compounds include phenolics which are known to have antioxidant properties, which protect against hypertension (high blood pressure), cardiovascular disease, cancer and others diseases.

Bioactive compounds have been found primarily in dairy products, until now. Maria Hayes of the Food BioSciences Department and Department of Prepared Foods at Teagasc Food Research Centre in Ashtown, Dublin, Ireland, and colleagues reviewed over 100 studies and found that seaweed has been overlooked for far too long.

Seaweed contains these bioactive peptides that can reduce blood pressure similar to angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors.

While it is certain that bioactive compounds can be released by food processing, more research is needed to fully understand those effects to ensure that a significant amount of bioactive compounds remain throughout the process, Hayes says.

The researchers believe that seaweed and macroalgae - brown, green and red - can provide an untapped source of heart health benefits. Japan has tapped into eating seaweed and macroalgae for decades now; it's probably time Americans join in.

The research is published in the American Chemical Society's Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry.

Review Date: 
July 26, 2011