According to a research conducted at the Hokkaido University, seaweed can be used to loose body weight.
Loss of nearly 10% of the body weight was observed in rats given fucoxanthin; a pigment in brown kelp. Reduction was primarily seen around the gut. The researchers are looking to a possibility of developing fucoxanthin into a slimming tablet or supplement targeting harmful fat. Their study was presented to an American Chemical Society meeting in San Francisco.
The main ingredient of Japanese miso soup is the brown kelp; Undaria pinnatifida. However, consuming huge amounts of soup to reduce weight may not be very effective.
Fucoxanthin is not properly absorbed in its natural form as it is firmly bound to proteins in the seaweed.
A slimming tablet based on fucoxanthin may take 3 -5 years to hit the market, said Dr Kazuo Miyashita and his team.
Many varieties of brown seaweed show the presence of this compound in high concentrations. However, green and red seaweeds that are also used for cooking in Asia lack this compound.
In this study, the effects of fucoxanthin were observed on over 200 rats and mice. The study revealed that this compound acted in two ways to fight flab.
A protein called UCP1that causes breakdown of fat, seemed to be activated by fucoxanthin in obese animals. White adipose tissue that causes the thickening of the girth called "middle-age spread" contains this protein. Heart problems and diabetes are specifically linked with extra fat around the midriff, according to research.
The compound also stimulated the production of docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) in the liver. DHA helps in reducing "bad" cholesterol associated with heart problems and obesity.
The animals used in the study showed no undesirable side effects.
Dr Ian Campbell, medical director of the charity Weight Concern, said, "A 5% to 10% weight loss is comparable with existing anti-obesity drugs. "
But he added: "We don't know in how many humans this would be achieved, nor for how long.
"The possibility of it being side-effect free is attractive but it is a long way away from being anything resembling an anti-obesity pill.
"The problem remains that medication, however good, will only ever plaster over the cracks.
"The hard fact is that only a significant change in lifestyle will ever achieve long-term meaningful weight loss and it is here that we should be focusing our efforts."