Brown seaweed consumption could help type 2 diabetes management, study shows

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Brown seaweed could be a great nutritional supplement for some diabetes patients.

A new South Korean study, published in the journal Nutrients, revealed that eating certain algae could be a promising strategy for blood glucose management.

Researchers at the Seoul National University of Science and Technology, within the Department of Food Science and Biotechnology, investigated how different diets have been recommended for type 2 diabetes management.

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Certain seaweeds contain “various functional components” that have reported benefits related to blood glucose regulation, improved intestinal health and enhanced lipid profiles, according to the study.

Researchers analyzed 23 studies from various databases that explored the effects of brown seaweed and its extracts on various populations, including both healthy participants and those with pre-diabetes and type 2 diabetes.

A new study found that eating brown seaweed could help manage and prevent type 2 diabetes. (iStock)

Among the seaweed-consuming group, the result showed “significant improvements” to levels of post-meal blood glucose, glycated (sugar-linked) hemoglobin (HbA1c) and homeostatic model assessment of insulin resistance (HOMA-IR), which is a measure of insulin resistance.

However, fasting blood glucose and insulin levels did not significantly react with seaweed consumption, the study found.

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Higher doses of seaweed — 1,000 mg or more — showed more benefit than lower doses.

Brown seaweeds and algae, including Ecklonia cava, Laminaria digitata, Undaria pinnatifida, Acophyllum nodosum and Fucus vesiculosus, were found to be most effective.

wakame in soup

Brown kelp, also known as Wakame or Undaria pinnatifida, is often used in sushi and other Japanese dishes. (iStock)

“Based on our research, seaweed supplementation appears to be a promising strategy for reducing postprandial blood glucose, HbA1c and HOMA-IR levels, thereby enabling better blood glucose management and leading to a decreased risk of type 2 diabetes,” the researchers concluded in a discussion of the findings.

Fox News Digital reached out to the study authors for additional content.

“Seaweed, being a natural and potentially cost-effective supplement, could offer a complementary approach alongside traditional diabetes treatments.”

California-based emergency medicine physician Dr. Joe Whittington weighed in on the study findings, calling the indication of certain seaweeds “compelling.”

“These results suggest that seaweed could be a valuable addition to dietary strategies aimed at managing or even preventing type 2 diabetes, especially in terms of post-meal blood sugar spikes,” he told Fox News Digital.

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The doctor noted that the effects were more beneficial at higher doses and longer consumption periods, specifically over a 12-week period.

“This information is crucial for anyone considering seaweed as a supplement for diabetes management, as it indicates that both dosage and duration are important factors for effectiveness,” he said.

seaweed in water

Researchers say seaweed supplementation is a “promising strategy for reducing postprandial blood glucose, HbA1c, and HOMA-IR levels.” (iStock)

While the rise in global seaweed consumption is a “positive trend,” Whittington pointed out that there’s still a need for safety assessments of factors, including “concerning iodine levels, heavy metals and other potential contaminants.”

The physician also highlighted some study limitations, including “significant publication bias and a lack of studies on different extraction methods of seaweed.” 

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“Future research should address these gaps, including the comparative effects of brown, red and green algae, to provide a more comprehensive understanding of their potential in diabetes management,” Whittington said.

As a health care professional, Whittington shared his appreciation for the “value of integrating evidence-based dietary interventions into holistic care plans for patients,” as the role of diet in managing chronic conditions is receiving “growing recognition.”

bladder wrack seaweed

While the rise in global seaweed consumption is a “positive trend,” one medical expert pointed out that there’s a need for safety assessments. (iStock)

“Seaweed, being a natural and potentially cost-effective supplement, could offer a complementary approach alongside traditional diabetes treatments,” he said.

“However, it’s crucial to integrate such findings into clinical practice cautiously, considering individual patient profiles and potential interactions with existing therapies.”

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Whittington suggested that “more research is needed, especially in diverse populations and in conjunction with conventional treatments.” 

He also said, “As always, patients should consult with health care professionals before starting any new supplements, especially those with chronic conditions like diabetes.”

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