September 01, 2022

Is Red Algae (Astaxanthin) Good for You?

Is Red Algae Good For You?

A diet rich in fruits and vegetables carries myriad benefits—but with so many superfoods available, it’s hard to parse out which one’s right for you. Red marine algae recently went mainstream and for good reason: red algae’s benefits are potent and plentiful.

What Is Red Algae?

Seaweed and algae have been used in cooking and as medicine in eastern cultures for centuries due to their high nutritional value. You may have already heard of blue-green algae (spirulina) and green algae (chlorella), and red algae is no different: Its high fiber content supports digestion, and algae is a valuable dietary source of vitamins and nutrients that boost skin health, regulate blood sugar levels, and improve the immune response. We included it in our Daily Essentials multi-bites for these very reasons.

What Are The Benefits of Red Algae?

Many sea vegetables are rich in B-group vitamins, particularly B1, B2 (riboflavin), and B6, as well as beta-carotene and vitamin E. They also provide a good source of antioxidants. A study conducted by researchers in Malaysia and the UK analyzed the antioxidant value of Eucheuma denticulatum, a species of red algae, and concluded that extracts of red algae helped promote anti-obesity, anti-inflammatory, and anti-diabetic properties due to its high levels of carotenoids. Additionally, the antioxidant capacity of red algae compared to other species has the highest ability against peroxyl radicals.

In comparison with other algaes, red algae contains a high level of calcium, sodium, and potassium, although significantly lower levels of zinc and iron. Research also shows that among the various types of marine algae, red and green algae contain higher levels of protein when compared to brown algae. This is especially helpful for those following a vegan or vegetarian diet that require alternative sources to animal protein.

Plus, it’s proven effective in reducing cholesterol, improving skin health, supporting thyroid function, as well as strengthening or preserving your health in other ways. So, to answer the question: is red marine algae good for you? The short answer is yes. Here’s a deeper look at some of red algae’s benefits.

Benefits of Red Algae: Lowers Cholesterol

A non-protein amino acid in marine red algae helps lower cholesterol in the bloodstream. A study conducted by researchers from the University of Putra Malaysia found supplementing a high-cholesterol/high-fat diet with five percent seaweed reduced plasma total cholesterol by 7.1 percent, plasma low-density lipoprotein cholesterol by 27.3 percent, and plasma triglycerides by 2.4 percent.

Furthermore, a medical review conducted by researchers from Pukyong National University in Busan, Korea, University of Cambridge in the UK, and Chonbuk National University in Jeonju, Korea focuses on the health benefits of fucosterol, a chemical compound that can be isolated from algae, especially red and brown varieties. They found this compound may be used to treat hypertension, diabetes, and high blood cholesterol.

Benefits of Red Algae: Improves Skin Health

The carbohydrates found in red marine algae help prevent or reduce hyperpigmentation, wrinkles, skin inflammation, dry skin disorders, and skin cancer. The presence of vitamin A and vitamin C also provide antimicrobial and skin brightening effects.

Red algae extracts have also been identified as a better humectant than hyaluronic acid as a moisturizing compound for the skin. Since it contains electrolytes, including sodium and potassium, algae preserves your skin’s natural moisture levels.

Benefits of Red Algae: Supports Thyroid Function

Seaweed provides thyroid support due to its level of iodine. The recommended dietary allowance of iodine for adults is 150 micrograms per day. Because the body does not make iodine naturally, it’s important to have a dietary supplement to prevent a deficiency in thyroid hormones. Thyroid hormones help the body use energy and keep the body functioning as it should. A deficiency can lead to goiters or hypothyroidism, which could lead to fatigue, weight gain, and muscle weakness.

Benefits of Red Algae: Regulates Blood Sugar Level

A study authored by researchers from Hanyang University in Seoul, South Korea tested the effects of seaweed supplements on blood sugar levels. Subjects of the study were randomized into either the seaweed supplementation group or the control group of patients with type 2 diabetes.

Those in the former group received powdered seaweed supplements three times a day for four weeks for a total daily consumption of 48 grams. Following the test period, the subjects receiving the supplements exhibited decreased blood lipids, increased antioxidant enzyme activities, and had a total dietary fiber intake two and a half times higher than the control group.

Benefits of Red Algae: Promotes Gut Health

Red algae contains unique proteins and peptides that have shown prebiotic effects to aid in digestion and prevent inflammation. For starters, red algae has approximately 47 percent of dry weight protein, higher than green or brown algae, and a good source of dietary fiber.

Together with the functions of their natural compounds, red algae has been linked to changes in microbial activity that promotes positive activity in the gut and reduces exposure to potential carcinogens. Red algae has also been linked to research that shows potential for immunity stimulation and antioxidant activity, deeming it a functional superfood, one that provides health benefits beyond its nutritional value.

Benefits of Red Algae: Protects the Immune System

Researchers have studied the positive effects of marine algae polysaccharides (MAP) and the activities they promote within the body, including protection of the immune system. MAPs can interact and trigger activation of the immune response. They may attack cancer cells and block viral adhesion to cells. As one example, a study conducted at the Universite de Bretagne in France showed evidence that MAPs isolated from two red algae varieties inhibited replication of HIV and herpes. 7 These polysaccharides were composed of sulfate, galactose, and uronic acids.

Is Red Algae Safe?

There are multiple studies and ongoing research illustrating the effectiveness of red algae, and for the majority of people, red algae is safe to consume. Since algae is grown and harvested in various parts of the world ranging in conditions, some seaweed may have higher levels of lead, mercury, or arsenic, although these levels are regulated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for fresh seaweed. Additionally, some seaweed varieties may interfere with certain medications due to high levels of sodium, potassium, and vitamin K.  Take precaution if you have pre-existing health conditions and speak with your doctor if you’re unsure about adding any new algae supplements to your diet.

This article is based on scientific research and/or other scientific articles and contains trusted sources.

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