Health Benefits of Ascophyllum

By Irina Bright.

This article is part of our Health & Foods section

Ascophyllum nodosum is a species of brown seaweeds that grows in the North Atlantic region, including territories around Canada, Norway and Scotland. Ascophyllum nodosum is also known as egg wrack, rockweed or simply kelp.

kelp under water, kelp forest Kelp Forest.

Seaweeds have long been recognized as an outstanding *functional food* offering an endless number of unique marine-based compounds not found in terrestrial plants.

Many of these valuable compounds have been reported to exert highly beneficial effects on the body.

Seaweeds' proteins, peptides, amino acids, fatty acids, polysaccharides, vitamins, minerals and anti-oxidants work in synergy with each other, and are believed to have anti-cancer, anti-inflammatory, anti-coagulant and hypocholesterolemic activities. (Ref. 1)

We will take a look at existing research into Ascophyllum nodosum and see what health benefits we can gain from consuming this sea vegetable.

But first, let's examine its nutritional profile.

Ascophyllum Nodosum: Nutritional Profile & Chemical Composition

One of Ascophyllum's most prominent, sustainable harvesters in the world - Seagreens Ltd - provides a useful breakdown of nutrients offered by this species.

Below is a guide to Ascophyllum's nutritional & chemical profile. (Ref. 2)

Nutritional Profile (per 100g): Energy: 161Kc; Carbohydrate: 5.79g; Dietary fibre: 49.75g; (insoluble: ~41g, soluble: ~8g); Fat: 1.64g (saturated fat: 0.4g, mono-unsaturated fat: 0.96g, poly-unsaturated fat: 0.21g); Protein: 5.88g; Moisture: 11.95g; Ash: 24.99g.

Amino Acids (per 100g): Alanine: 0.177g, Arginine: 0.115g, Aspartic acid: 0.327g, Cystein +Cystine: 0.073g, Glutamic acid: 0.400g, Glycine: 0.154g, Histidine: 0.040g, Isoleucine: 0.106g, Leucine: 0.194g, Lysine: 0.123g, Methionine: 0.074g, Phenylalanine: 0.114g, Proline: 0.178g, Serine: 0.126g, Threonine: 0.128g, Tryptophan: 0.0472g, Tyrosine: 0.0660g, Valine: 0.145g.

Fatty Acids (per 100g): Total omega-3: 169.1mg (alpha-linolenic acid: 49.5mg; eicosapentenoic acid: 78.31mg, docosapentaenoic acid: <0.6mg, docosahexaenoic acid: <0.6mg), Total omega-6 : 512.9mg.

Minerals (mg/Kg): Calcium: 13,500, Magnesium: 8,260, Nitrogen: 9,400, Phosphorus: 690, Potassium: 18,200, Sodium: 34,400, Sulphur: 53.

Trace Elements (mg/Kg): Antimony: 0.047, Boron: 98.19, Cobalt: 0.626, Copper: 0.561, Fluorine: 5.5, Germanium: 0.07, Gold: <0.01, Iodine: 712, Iridium: <0.001, Iron: 119, Lithium: 0.327, Manganese: 24.7, Molybdenum: 0.632, Platinum: <0.005, Rubidium: 6.21, Selenium: 0.03, Silicon: 59.71, Silver: 0.054, Tellerium: <0.05, Titanium: 2.07, Vanadium: 3.591, Zinc: 43.87.

Vitamins (per 100g): Vitamin E (alpha-tocopherol): 2.70mg, Vitamin B1 (thiamin): 0.06mg, Vitamin B2 (riboflavin): 0.0100 mg, Niacin (Vitamin PP or B3): 11.8 mg, Vitamin B12 (cyanocobalamin): 0.0936 μg, Vitamin C: 9.92mg, Vitamin B9 (folate): 57.2 μg.

Antioxidants (per 100g): ORAC Value: 19300 TE.

As we can see from this snapshot, Ascophyllum has a very rich nutritional profile indeed.

Ascophyllum Nodosum for Tiredness & Chronic Fatigue Syndrome

So how exactly can Ascophyllum help us deal with tiredness, and even chronic fatigue?

In our detailed analysis of symptoms and causes of Tiredness, we have demonstrated that numerous nutrient deficiencies may be a major cause here. We have also shown that nutrient deficiencies may lead to more serious medical conditions, incl. chronic fatigue syndrome, cancer, chronic inflammation, heart disease, neurological disorders and so on.

In this article, we have identified that chronic deficiencies in vitamin B, vitamin C, vitamin E, magnesium, potassium, calcium, iron, selenium, zinc, amino acids, fatty acids & prebiotics, among many other valuable compounds, may result in tiredness, chronic fatigue and many other medical conditions.

In this regard, Ascophyllum can be a well-rounded solution for vitamin & mineral deficiencies. Bursting with all the essential nutrients required for the healthy function of the human body, it can deliver organic nutrition, in its unchanged *food-state* form - exactly as the nature intended.

As a marine-based food, Ascophyllum is especially rich in minerals & trace elements many of which are not widely available in land-based plants. Nutritional science has moved towards a better understanding of the role that such tiny chemicals play in our physical well-being.

For instance, as we have seen in its nutritional profile, Ascophyllum is exceptionally rich in iodine. Iodine is an essential trace element that is responsible for the proper function of the thyroid gland - which, in its turn, regulates our metabolism and therefore energy levels. From this perspective, we can refer to Ascophyllum as an energy food.

Many authors also point to a favourable balance between omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids found in Ascophyllum. Polyunsaturated fatty acids have traditionally been associated with the prevention of inflammation, cardiovascular disease and mental disorders. (Ref. 3)

Ascophyllum Nodosum: General Health Benefits

Apart from being beneficial for tiredness & chronic fatigue, Ascophyllum also offers a number of other wide-ranging health benefits.

First & foremost, it has a great anti-oxidant potential, as measured in terms of ORAC noted in its nutritional profile above. Many studies provide evidence on how Ascophyllum can function as a powerful anti-oxidant and otherwise fight oxidative stress.

Scientists believe that Ascophyllum's very own unique polysaccharide- ascophyllan - may be one of its most important anti-oxidant compounds. In one study, ascophyllan exhibited an even stronger anti-oxidant activity than a better-researched fucoidan. (Ref. 4)

Another study suggests that Ascophyllum may have a solid nutraceutical potential, based on its extensive phytochemical antioxidant and anti-hyperglycemia activities. (Ref. 5)

Thanks to its high content of phlorotannins, Ascophyllum is believed to fight inflammation and aging at the cellular level, too. (Ref. 6)

Anti-inflammatory effects demonstrated by Ascophyllum are very notable ones because general inflammation is implicated in many chronic conditions. (Ref. 6)

Ascophyllum can also work as a potent anti-bacterial agent. An animal-related study showed how consumption of Ascophyllum by steers and heifers resulted in reduction of the number of incidences of Escherichia coli (E.Coli) and may have also suppressed further increases of Salmonella in these animals. (Ref. 7)

In other tests performed on Caenorhabditis elegans (worms living in soil), an Ascophyllum extract seems to have protected these creatures from potential damage by Pseudomonas aeruginosa infection. (Ref. 8)

It has also been noted that many seaweed polysaccharides (including those found in Ascophyllum) activate defence responses and protection against a broad range of pathogens in terrestrial plants, showing anti-viral, anti-fungal and anti-bacterial activities. (Ref. 9)

Ascophyllum can boost the work of the immune system too.

For example, its immuno-stimulatory action may help kill cancer cells, as has been demonstrated in experiments with mice (Ref. 10).

In another example, Ascophyllum's immuno-modulatory action showed potential to suppress the pro-inflammatory response induced by some bacteria in intestines, as was shown in experiments with pigs (Ref. 11).

Ascophyllum's action as a prebiotic is certainly another area of interest. As an example, a recent study demonstrated its potential to improve the gut flora in weaned piglets. (Ref. 12)

Those of us seeking to regulate weight may be encouraged by the results of the study which showed that Ascophyllum consumption may help with appetite reduction. (Ref. 13)

Ascophyllum Nodosum and Other Medical Conditions

Taking into account its powerful anti-oxidant properties, it is no wonder that Ascophyllum has received a lot of attention for its healing properties. Numerous studies show that Ascophyllum can help with many common medical conditions.

Let's take cancer, for example.

Research shows that sulfated polysaccharides from brown seaweeds, incl. Ascophyllum, show a strong anti-tumour action. In one experiment, fucoidan extracted from Ascophyllum decreased viability and induced destruction of human HCT116 colon carcinoma cells. (Ref. 14) Other studies also demonstrate similar anti-proliferative & anti-cancer effects exerted by Ascophyllum's bioactive chemicals on both normal (ex., fibroblasts) and malignant (adenocarcinoma) cells. (Ref. 15, Ref. 16 & Ref. 17)

In case of diabetes, we also have promising evidence that Ascophyllum can help with reduction in blood glucose levels and generally improve blood anti-oxidant capacity. (Ref. 18)

Ascophyllum may also help with cardiovascular disease - a study demonstrated its effective anti-thrombotic and anti-coagulant action. (Ref. 19)

Its potential benefits for female health were proposed in a study of conception rates in cows. In this study, Ascophyllum supplementation which was given to heat-stressed cows was associated with more than a 7-fold increase in successful pregnancies. (Ref. 20)

Ascophyllum may also be used for general detoxification purposes. It can facilitate the removal of toxic & heavy metals and radiation, cleansing of the lymph system and kidneys, and improvement of the alkaline-acid balance. (Ref. 21)

Other notes on Ascophyllum. Ascophyllum: (Ref. 22)

  • Lacks toxicity at very high doses,
  • Improves immune cell function & increases circulating antioxidant levels,
  • Promotes growth of beneficial bacteria (Bifidobacteria), 
  • Fights harmful bacteria (E.coli, streptococci),
  • Improves general metabolic processes,
  • Can be safely used in patients with recurrent kidney stone formation,
  • Can be safely used to maintain heart, liver, and kidney health.

So, we observe a clear interest in Ascophyllum nodosum and its potential use for prevention and treatment of medical conditions.

Written by:     Irina Bright
Original publication date:     2013
Updates:     2020
Republication date:     2020


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