Medical Articles

The Health Benefits of Fucoidan

Fucoidan is a compound found naturally in many species of seaweed and in some sea animals, due to their diet of seaweed. Fucoidan is categorized as a complex sulfated polysaccharide. It is composed primarily of the natural sulfate fucopyranoside (sulfated fucos) with traces of xylos, glucuronic acid, and galactose. The exact composition varies so widely that two different forms of fucoidan are recognized: U-fucoidan and F-fucoidan. F-fucoidan is mostly sulfated fucos, while U-fucoidan contains large amounts of glucuronic acid. Both forms are used as a nutritional supplement for their health benefits.

As a type of carbohydrate, fucoidan is easily broken down by the body through hydrolysis, and they bond readily with other sulphate molecules. Early trials show that because of this, fucoidan is most effective when it is high in sulphate groups. However, each compound in fucoidan is used by the body for various purposes.

The action of fucoidan has been likened to that of mother's milk in baby mammals. The baby benefits from the strong immune system cells in the milk because the baby's cells have no experience yet in their function. Mother's milk, in a way, trains the baby's immune system to make it stronger.

Fucoidan is said to contain antibodies similar to those found in mother's milk. These antibodies and other nutrients give a boost to the immune system, making it stronger and more efficient. Some of the health benefits of fucoidan are as follows:

Enhances the immune system
Reduces allergic reactions
Treats upset stomach
Improves liver function
Stops blood clots from forming
Lowers cholesterol
Normalizes blood pressure
Stabilizes blood sugar
Improves cell regeneration
Fights free radicals as an antioxidant
Promotes skin health
Relieves arthritis pain by improving joint flexibility

In addition to the above benefits, fucoidan is now being promoted as an anti-cancer agent. The high life expectancy and low cancer rates of people in Okinawa, Japan are thought to be due to a diet high in fucoidan-containing seaweed. Fucoidan is said to trigger what is called the apoptosis mechanism in cancerous cells. The apoptosis mechanism is like a preprogrammed self-destruct code that is present in all cells. However, cells lack the capacity to begin apoptosis on their own. Other substances are required to trigger the mechanism. When it is triggered, the cancerous cells cease to function and can be replaced with new non-cancerous cells.

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