Seaweed has been a staple food in Asia for many millennia, especially Japan where it is prized in sushi. It has recently gained popularity within the United States. Outside of just its use in sushi, Americans are beginning to consume seaweed-based snacks instead of regular potato chips, and the health benefits appear to be greater than was believed.
Seaweed is low in calories and abundant in essential nutrients. Whilst most algae are recognized to have basic health benefits, researchers have now identified a type of red algae that could counter the severe symptoms associated with food allergies.
Food based allergies are a global health concern that can lead to sudden death in many cases. Prior studies have shown that serious allergies are prevalent in as much as 8% of children and 5% of the worldwide adult population. It has been long known that certain compounds within some foods activate a series of immune system reactions that result in various symptoms including wheezing, dizziness, hives and even prophylactic shock.
Prior studies have identified some seaweed species to be useful in preventing allergies, however the species of interest in this new study – Gracilaria lemaneiformis – lacked any science to support its use until now.
The scientists isolated certain key polysaccharides from the seaweed and supplemented mice with them. Before the experiment, scientists made sure that all the mice were sensitive to tropomyosin which is a shellfish allergen. A control group was also set up – this group did not receive any seaweed polysaccharides.
Allergens were then administered to both groups of mice, and it was found that those mice who were supplemented with the seaweed-derived polysaccharides had reduced symptoms and more favorable outcomes when compared to the untreated control group.
In conclusion, it seems that certain red algae seaweed species that are commonly consumed commercially, notably G. lemaneiformis, may have even more health benefits in the form of allergy prevention than was previously realized.
Study Source: Journal Of Agricultural And Food Chemistry