Fucoxanthin for Weight Loss, Can Seaweed Help you Lose Weight?

By on January 24, 2015
Fucoxanthin for Weight Loss

Fucoxanthin is an antioxidant that is extracted from a particular kind of seaweed called Undaria pinnatifida, more commonly known as wakame, which many of you might have tried in sushi restaurants as the green chewy salad that is served as ‘seaweed salad’. Fucoxanthin is a bright orange pigmented carotenoid, which is in the same class of antioxidant as that of carrots.

Some carotenoids, like beta carotene, are also ‘precursors’ to Vitamin A, however fucoxanthin is not. Fucoxanthin may be an interesting substance, however, in that in at least one study has shown that it has a higher amount of free radical quenching ability than beta carotene and other carotenoid-based antioxidants (1). These ‘free radicals’, also called ‘reactive oxygen species’ are substances formed from oxygen that cause the damage to cells that we think of as aging. We literally ‘rust’ or ‘oxidize’, hence the need for ‘anti-oxidants’ to protect us from oxidation from oxygen.

Cancer Studies

As with many carotenoids and other antioxidants, they often show cancer preventing or cancer treating abilities in studies, and fucoxanthin is no different. Several studies have shown the ability of this phytonutrient to prevent and ever reverse several different types of cancer in laboratory studies. Colon cancer(2), prostate cancer(3), and even in leukemia cells(4).

However, caution should be exercised in thinking that these studies might translate to reduced cancer incidences in humans who supplement with fucoxanthin since, unfortunately, several long term studies on beta carotene for cancer prevention showed protection from cancer only in conjunction with several other known cancer reducing antioxidants, and possibly only in those who are Vitamin A deficient. While fucoxanthin has some unique properties, and may well be a better antioxidant that beta carotene, it’s simply not been given any long term human studies that would confirm it’s a better cancer fighter than beta carotene, at least in supplement form. (5)

Fucoxanthin for Weight Loss

The big buzz about fucoxanthin, however, is not its anticancer and antioxidant capabilities, but it’s potential to help with weight loss. And indeed, the research does show that fucoxanthin may have some unique properties that might help in the fight against weight loss.

“Fucosterols and polyphenols are also known to show beneficial health effects.
Furthermore, we found a synergistic effect of omega-3 HUFA
on the anti-obesity effect of fucoxanthin.”
The carotenoid fucoxanthin from brown seaweed affects obesity

Indeed, preliminary studies do show that Fucoxanthin may very well be a substance that might help with weight control in unique ways. By far the most intriguing of these is that fucoxanthin has been shown in mice to be able to have fat deposit as ‘good’ brown fat rather than ‘bad’ white fat. When we think of fat, we think of white fat, the stuff that sits on our waist and makes us look fat. Brown fat, on the other hand, can actually decrease overall fat levels in the body by increasing ‘thermogenesis’, or fat BURNING. If you want to lose weight, being able to increase the amount of brown fat is a proven way to do it. Increasing brown fat is one of the main reasons why exposure to cold, a procedure called cold thermogenesis, is an effective way to lose fat. Fucoxanthin  does increase the amount of brown fat in mice, while decreasing the amount of white fat. That’s an ideal weight loss substance.

Unfortunately for humans, we are not mice, have little brown fat, and only a few studies on us have been done using fucoxanthin to find out if it will help us lose weight. Indeed, at least two human studies showed a significant amount of weight loss using the supplements, but one showed no effects(6)(7). So, while fucoxanthin certainly shows potential, without more human studies on weight loss, it’s far from conclusive that it will help the general population lose weight.

My Review

I was generously supplied a bottle of Bri Nutrition Fucoxanthin , and I ended up purchasing another bottle and finishing two bottles in total before writing this review, in order to better judge whether there were any effects of the fucoxanthin. In the first month, I did not notice anything at all and also did not lose any weight, however, most of that time included both Thanksgiving and the run up to Christmas, which was why I went ahead and trialed a second bottle. During the second month of taking Fucoxanthin consistently, I did lose a total of 5 pounds. However, this time period was just after the holidays and I was on a ketogenic diet for virtually all of that time. So, whether the fucoxanthin was the cause of the weight loss, or the ketogenic diet, or simply the aftermath of the holidays, it’s impossible to know.

I noticed nothing else positive or negative after taking  Bri Nutrition Fucoxanthin for a total of two months. However, fucoxanthin does seem to be quite safe, and seeing as it also has antioxidant and anti-cancer activity, I would not see any reason not to try it if one wanted to do a trial of it to see if it might help them to lose weight. At less than $20 for a one month supply on Amazon at the time of this writing, you could do worse for your health than to buy a bottle of antioxidants; and if you lose a bit of weight at the same time, consider it a nice bonus.

(1) Fucoxanthin as the major antioxidant in a common edible seaweed.
(2) Fucoxanthin induces apoptosis and enhances the antiproliferative effect of the PPARγ ligand, troglitazone, on colon cancer cells
(3) Fucoxanthin induced apoptosis in human prostate cancer cells
(4) Apotosis inducing effect of fucoxanthin on human leukemia
(5) Chemoprevention from carotenoids
(6) Nutrigenomics and Proteomics in health and disease
(7) The Effects of Xanthingent supplementation on body composition

About Kerri Knox, RN

The author is a Registered Nurse and Functional Medicine Practitioner. With 20 years of experience in health care, she has the unique perspective of being solidly grounded in both Conventional Medicine and Alternative Medicine. She can help you to to find and repair the underlying causes of chronic illness, while empowering you to take charge of your own health. She is the owner and author of this blog and website.

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