Edible seaweed (also known as sea vegetables or ocean vegetables) are an unexpected powerhouse of nutrients. Generally, edible seaweed is a great source of fiber, calcium, potassium, iron, and iodine.
Depending on the variety, it can also be a valuable source of vitamins and minerals such as Source: vitamin A, vitamin B, vitamin C, vitamin E, vitamin K, copper, zinc, manganese, magnesium, and selenium . But did you know that certain types of sea vegetables can also provide an alternative cure for cancer?
What Makes Seaweed an Anti-Cancer Food?
Certain types of edible seaweed have an anti-carcinogenic property. Among them are the brown seaweeds such as the kelps and wracks. The anti-carcinogen constituent of these brown sea vegetables is called fucoidan. This natural compound can also be found in other varieties of sea vegetables such as the limu, wakame, kombu, and mozuku. About 4% of the dry weight of seaweed contains fucoidan.
A group of Japanese researchers at the Biomedical Research Laboratories discovered that fucoidan induced anti-tumor activity in mice when they introduced it to their animal models. The researchers observed that this seaweed extract effectively activated a process of natural cell death, referred to as apoptosis, among leukemia, lymphoma, stomach and colorectal tumor cells. But that’s not all… fucoidan has also been found to build up the immune system and regulate the body’s cholesterol levels.
Another study further confirmed that the extract from brown seaweeds helps fight cancer. Based on the study of the Hashemite University in Jordan at the AACR Dead Sea International Conference on Advances in Cancer Research, the fucoidan extract contributes to apoptosis or programmed cell death. Cancer cells had either shrunk or were completely destroyed.
Kombu and wakame are regarded as rich sources of fucoidan enzymes. These types of sea vegetables are abundant in Okinawa, Japan. The residents of Okinawa made the record of having the lowest cancer mortality rate because of the tradition of eating uncooked kombu wherein the fucoidan enzymes are concentrated. Although other Japanese cook their kombu, Japan has lower breast cancer rates compared to western countries. This is possibly due to the consumption of fucoidan-rich seaweeds.
Kombu and wakame also have the capacity to make cancer cells self-destruct. In a Japanese research trial, when the laboratory technicians administered the fucoidan enzyme to a petri dish containing cancer cells, the results were the complete destruction of all cancer cells within three days. The researchers concluded that the cancer cells were destroyed by the fucoidan enzymes.