Q.: I read somewhere that increasing my kelp intake will help me manage my weight. Is this true? Pamela
ANDREA DU PLESSIS REPLIES:
Kelp is well known for its role in supporting weight management in cases of an underactive thyroid gland. Kelp is one of nature’s richest sources of iodine, which is essential for the healthy functioning of the thyroid gland. However, although many individuals believe that their weight problems are linked to an underactive thyroid gland, few of them have confirmed this with medical testing. It’s important to confirm the diagnosis of an underactive thyroid before taking an iodine or kelp supplement, as too much iodine can be detrimental, especially if the thyroid gland is overactive.
However, for those with a confirmed underactive thyroid gland, further benefits of kelp in supporting weight management have recently been highlighted. A team of researchers from Newcastle University, lead by Dr Iain Brownlee and Professor Jeff Pearson, showed that alginate, a fiber naturally found in kelp, can help reduce dietary fat absorption by up to 75%.1 It is believed that alginate inhibits the function of lipase, the digestive enzyme that breaks down dietary fats, resulting in excretion of the undigested dietary fat through the digestive system. Typically, this causes diarrhea, but it seems that the alginate fiber of kelp helps prevent this unwanted side-effect.
It is interesting to note that alginate from kelp has been under the research spotlight as a source of dietary fiber, as well as in the management of cholesterol in overweight individuals.2,3
However, while nutritional supplements can play a supportive role in achieving optimal results, the key to healthy weight management and energy metabolism is still a good, balanced diet and exercise programme, as part of a healthy lifestyle.
- Seaweed to tackle rising tide of obesity. Newcastle University Press Office. Published 22 March 2010. http://www.ncl.ac.uk/press.office/press.release/item/seaweed-to-tackle-rising-tide-of-obesity
- Brownlee I, et al. Alginate as a source of dietary fibre. Crit Rev Food Sci Nutr 2005; 45(6); 497-510.
- Paxman J, et al. Alginate reduces the increased uptake of cholesterol and glucose in overweight male subjects. Nutr Res 2008; 28(8): 501-505.