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Seaweed could help weight loss treatments

By Colin Ricketts - 09 Dec 2011 4:20:0 GMT
Seaweed could help weight loss treatments

Seaweed via Shutterstock

Seaweed could help you lose weight - not with some magical calorie-shrinking chemical reaction but by making you feel fuller. The research was carried out by scientists at the Faculty of Life Sciences at the University of Copenhagen who used fibres from the unappetising sounding brown algae in their tests.

High fibre diets are known to be good for keeping weight steady and this study shows that alginates, which are extracted from brown algae, help people feel fuller quicker thus reducing the amount they eat.

Morten Georg Jensen, a PhD student who made the findings, said: "Over a three-year period, we have studied the effect of taking different alginate doses. We are able to demonstrate that the healthy subjects who took alginates and were also allowed to eat as much as they wanted felt less hungry and ate less than the subjects not drinking fibre drinks with alginates."

In a study lasting 12 weeks, 96 men and women who were overweight were put under the microscope. Half of them drank an alginate drink, while the others were given a placebo drink.

Not all the subjects finished the study, but of the 80 who did, those who had drink alginates showed much greater weight loss and the researchers found the loss was down to a reduction in the percentage of body fat.

The seaweed drinkers lost, on average, 1.7kg more than their placebo drinking counterparts.

"A probable explanation of the weight loss is that the alginates form a gel in the stomach which strengthens the gastrointestinal satiety signals to the brain because the gel takes up space in the stomach," Jensen said. "The overweight subjects thus ate less than usual."

The developed world is going through an obesity epidemic and Jensen and his colleagues hope in time to use their research to help treat overweight patients with the first seaweed drink.

There are three types of seaweed, green red and brown and Jensen's team used the brown algae, palm seaweed.

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Topics: Obesity