A balanced and nutritious diet is very important for a healthy lifestyle and to prevent the risk of diseases and disorders.

The body requires a vital nutrient to ensure proper growth and survival.

Kelp is a brown marine algae that is highly rich in nutrients and has a variety of health benefits some of which have been mentioned in this article.

What is Kelp and What are its Benefits?

Kelp is a large seaweed that has therapeutic and nutritional benefits like anti-inflammatory, anti-oxidant, anti-coagulant, anti-cancer and anti-microbial properties.

It serves as a natural source of essential vitamins like Vitamin A, B, and E as well as minerals.

Health Benefits of Kelp

1. It Lowers Blood Glucose and Lipid Levels

Kelp has been found to be effective in the treatment of hypoglycemia i.e. low levels of glucose in the blood. It also prevents the increase of lipids in the blood.

According to a study published in the International Journal of Molecular Sciences in 2012, kelp supplementation might repair function of islet cells of the pancreas that secrete insulin thereby balancing the fasting blood glucose levels in the blood of diabetic patients.

This property of kelp was attributed to its antioxidant potential.

Its ability to regulate enzymes involved in oxidation and ensure their appropriate activity was also observed. [1]

A study published in Nutrient Research and Practice in 2008 revealed that supplementation of seaweeds in patients who have type 2 diabetes significantly reduced high levels of glucose and lipids in the blood.

It also increased the activity of antioxidant enzymes which can play an efficient role in preventing oxidative stress. [2]

What does this Mean? Supplementation of kelp can help patients suffering from diabetes as it is effective in lowering blood glucose and lipid levels.

2. It can Treat Hypothyroidism

The thyroid gland secretes hormones which have important functions in the body.

When the thyroid gland does not produce enough hormones, it leads to a medical condition called hypothyroidism that results in adverse effects on the body.

According to a study published in Clinical Pediatric Endocrinology in 2011, Kelp contains high amounts of iodine which can treat patients with hypothyroidism that have an aniodine deficiency. [3]

Another study published in Endocrine Journal in evaluated effects of powdered kelp in patients with iodine deficiency in hypothyroidism.

Results showed that when kelp was administered as a source of iodine, the function of the thyroid gland improved within five days of administration. [4]

What does Mean? Kelp is a natural source of iodine that can help patients with iodine deficiency resulting in hypothyroidism.

3. It can be Helpful in Cancer Management

Cancer is one the leading cause of deaths worldwide and researchers are finding effective treatment and management methods to control and cure this medical condition.

Brown seaweeds have found to play a positive role in preventing cancer progression and its effective management.

According to a study published in the Journal of Applied Phycology in 2013, dietary consumption seaweeds of seaweeds in women with breast cancer significantly reduces the risk of mortality and breast cancer in women and stimulates the immune system to fight against the growing cancerous cells. [5]

Another recent study conducted by Teas et al. reported that brown seaweeds have the ability to prevent skin cancer and its development.

The study concluded that seaweeds might be beneficial in the treatment and management of different types of cancer. [6]

What does this Mean? Dietary consumption of kelp can help in themanagement of cancer and prevent its further consumption. It can be used to replace chemotherapeutic drugs that cause side effects.

4. It Improves Skin Health

Tremendous research has been done on seaweeds, and marine algae and studies have found that the algal plants play an important role in treating skin diseases and are in demand for use in herbal cosmetics.

In a study published by Thomas et al. in 2013, properties of marine algae have been discussed.

The study mentioned that marine algae prevent skin wrinkling by reducing oxidative stress by its radical scavenging potential.

They are involved in the formation of collagen bringing about strength in damaged skin and treating UV-induced skin damage.

Fucoidans found in brown algae also play a beneficial role in preventing skin from aging on exposure to harmful UV radiations of the sun. [7]

Another study evaluating the benefits of algae in cosmetics reported that marine algae possess bioactive compounds that help in preventing skin aging, pigmentation, and microbial skin infections. [8]

What does this Mean? Kelp can be used in cosmetics to promote skin health due to its promising positive effects and usage in the cosmetic industry.

5. It can help Fight Microbial Infections

Brown algae like kelp have been found to possess a variety of active components that contain anti-microbial properties.

According to a study conducted by Eom et al. in 2012 brown marine algae possess antimicrobial properties.

Phlorotannins present within these algae have the ability to fight against pathogenic microorganisms and can be used as food products and drug candidates for curing microbial infections. [9]

A study published by Shannon et al. reported that marine algae have an abactericidal activity that can prevent and fight bacterial infections.

This property of marine algae was attributed to the presence of essential components like polysaccharides, phlorotannins, fatty acids, and peptides interfere with the mechanisms involved in the growth of bacteria and inhibit them. [10]

What does this Mean? Bioactive compounds found in marine brown algae like kelp have anti-microbial properties that are capable of fighting microbial infections.

6. It is a Natural Anti- Inflammatory Agent

Inflammation is the body’s response to harmful stimuli like pathogenic microorganisms, damaged cells or tissues.

Excessive inflammation for a long period of time can, however, lead to diseases like hay fever, atherosclerosis, and rheumatoid arthritis.

Anti-inflammatory agents like kelp in the diet can protect the body from ill effects of chronic inflammation.

A study published in Food and Chemical toxicology in 2010 reported that phlorotannins present in brown algae like kelp present anti-inflammatory effects.

They have inhibitory effects on the production of inflammatory mediators by inactivating natural killer cells and activating pathways that regulate excessive inflammation. [11]

A study published in Mediators of Inflammation in 205 reported that diterpenoids extracted from marine plants have anti-inflammatory properties.

These have been tested against various inflammatory diseases with positive outcomes however some rare mile side effects. [12]

The side effects will be discussed in the precautions sections below.

What does this Mean? Marine algae like Kelp exhibit anti-inflammatory properties that can help in treating eye inflammation. Although its use might have some side effects in few individuals, they can be managed.

7. It Boosts Antioxidant Defenses

Oxidative stress is caused due to an imbalance in the release of reactive oxygen species in the body.

This leads to a variety of medical conditions like cancer, Parkinson’s disease, heart failure, atherosclerosis, myocardial infarction, etc.

According to a study published by Shin et al.in, 2014 anti-oxidants found in phlorotannins play an important in preventing oxidative stress caused by radiations.

This property of brown algae can protect the eye from damage caused by UV radiation on direct sun exposure. [13]

According to a study published by Kim et al. in 2010, phloroglucinol presents anti-oxidative stress. [14]

What does this Mean? Kelp contains phlorotannins and phloglucinol that are bioactive compounds with anti-oxidative potential. Kelp can thus be used for relieving oxidative stress.

7. It Helps in Weight Loss

Kelp containing diets are gaining immense importance for weight loss therapies.

According to a study published by Loy et al. in 2016, marine algae serve as anti-obesity agents due to the presence of bioactive compounds like fucoxanthin, alginates, fucoidans and phlorotannins in it.

These compounds were found to inhibit the absorption and metabolism of lipids, a feeling of fullness and inhibition of differentiation of the adipose tissue. [15]

Consumption of brown algae like kelp can prevent excessive weight gain.

Another study published in Marine Drugs in 2015 suggested that fucoxanthin found in brown seaweeds can be used as functional food products to avoid obesity i.e. excessive weight gain. [16]

What does this Mean? A variety of bioactive compounds resent in brown marine algae like kelp help in weight loss by controlling various mechanisms that store fat in the body. Kelp containing diet and supplements are gaining extreme popularity as an effective therapy for weight loss.

9. It Benefits Brain Health

Fucoidans are sulfated polysaccharides found in kelp that play an important role in treating brain related disorders and improving brain help.

According to a study published in European Journal of Neuroscience in 2005, Fucoidans present in brown algae inhibits the accumulation of beta Aamyloid proteins that cause neurotoxicity.

Thus, seaweeds like kelp that are a good source of fucoidans can be used for protection of neurons in the brain. [17]

Another study published in Marine Drugs in 2011 mentioned the neuroprotective effects of fucoidans found in seaweeds.

In an experiment carried out on rat models for evaluating benefits of fucoidans for Parkinson’s disease it was found that protected the body from effects of agents that cause the disease along with other benefits like preventing peroxidation of lipids, functioning of certain enzymes including anti-oxidant enzymes like glutathione. [18]

What does this Mean? Fucoidans present in kelp have an important role to play as drug candidates in the healthcare industry as they are capable of improving brain health as well as other brain related disorders.

10. It Lowers Cholesterol and Protects Liver Health

It is important to keep a check on cholesterol levels as high cholesterol can increase the risk of heart diseases and harm the liver too.

An experimental study evaluated the benefits of brown algae on hyperlipidemia.

Results found that treatment with fractions of the brown algae rich in phlorotannins significantly reduced triglycerides, total cholesterol, and bad cholesterol levels.

It also increased levels of good cholesterol in the rat models. [19]

Another study confirmed that phlorotannins found in brown seaweeds have the ability to lower total cholesterol levels.

They have an improving effect on the fatty liver and protect the liver from injuries. [20]

What does this Mean? Phlorotannins present in kelp can play an effective role in improving cholesterol levels in the body as well as maintaining liver health.

Dosage

There is no specific dose of kelp for hyperthyroidism.

Kelp has received GRAS (Generally Recognized As Safe) status. Mean intake of kelp in Japanese has been observed to be 7g per person per day. [21]

According to the FDA, the intake of kelp should be limited to a dose of 0.15- 0.25 mg as a source of iodine. [22]

This should be around 1g of kelp, but the iodine contents vary with every species of kelp.

It is best to consult a health practitioner before consuming kelp in any form if you are suffering from thyroid-related issues.

The book, Drug Abuse Treatment Using Biochemistry mentioned that Kelp is seaweed that can be consumed raw but is usually processed in the powdered and dried form so that it can be used as a flavoring agent in dishes and can be easily included in the diet.

It is rich in nutrients and is mostly available as a supplement in the market. [23]

In a research study 1-2g of powdered kelp was found to restore the function of the thyroid gland by bringing about normal levels of thyroid stimulating hormone. [24]

Precautions

Kelp has a variety of health benefits, but some general precautions must be considered before incorporating it into the daily diet.

It has been found that foods containing algal species often contain high amounts of metal ions and excessive uptake of such foods can lead to metal toxicity.

Arsenic content is found to be high in these brown algae that can lead to harmful effects on the body and cause cancer. [25]

Being a marine vegetable mild allergic reactions like inflammation may occur. One must avoid its consumption if any side effects are observed.

You can begin the dosage in small amounts and gradually increase its dose if no side effects are experienced.

Kelp containing food products and supplements must be bought from safe and trusted places, and the recommended dose for a particular condition must be followed strictly.

Excessive intake can cause problems like toxicity.

Pregnant and lactating women should avoid consumption of kelp as a vegetable or in the form of supplements.

Those who have cancer or other diseases and on medications must consult a doctor before its consumption.

A gap must be maintained of 3-4 hours between medication and kelp containing supplements to avoid interactions between the two.

Conclusion

Kelp has a variety of health benefits that are mainly due to its rich nutritional composition. It has tremendous potential of being marketed as a functional food.

Its dietary intake on a regular basis can help treat and prevent the development of a variety of medical conditions.

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