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Seaweed Versus Green Tea: Which is a Better Antioxidant?

People have eaten seaweed, sometimes called “sea vegetables” for thousands of years. It is coming under more and more scientific scrutiny and what they are finding is pretty amazing.  Chemically, seaweed has many similarities to the human body. The mixture of vitamins, minerals and trace elements found in seaweeds so closely resembles that of the human body that the minerals and other healing elements found in seaweed are easily absorbed through the skin and digestive tract and into the blood. Some people are beginning to believe seaweed alone is an almost perfect solution to many health woes. 

Seaweeds are virtually fat-free, very low calorie and are the richest sources of minerals in the vegetable kingdom. Because they grow in the sea, seaweeds naturally absorb an abundance of the minerals found in the ocean. Sea vegetables contain large amounts of calcium and phosphorous and are extremely high in magnesium, iron, iodine and sodium. Seaweed also contains a wide variety of vitamins including vitamin A, B1, C and E, concentrated protein and healthy carbohydrates. It may well be the most nutritionally-packed food on the planet. There are many kinds of seaweeds, generally broken down into reds and browns and each type has its own nutritional and health profile. Some of the newest discoveries related to seaweed focus on compounds in brown algae, specifically new compounds found in the seaweed called Ecklonia cava. These compounds are being hailed as super” antioxidants.
One such compound, Eckol, has been shown to protect lung cells from oxidative damage. Fibroblast cells from hamster lungs were exposed to hydrogen peroxide and other known oxidizers to intentionally induce cellular damage. Eckol was shown to scavenge these radicals and thus prevent damage. The oxidation of lipids is one of the causes of cardiovascular disease and blocked arteries. Oxidized lipids are also implicated in the blood clots leading to heart attacks and strokes. Eckol actually reduced cell death in the lung cells exposed to the hydrogen peroxide!
Another substance found in seaweed is triphlorethol-A, which is a special compound called phlorotannins.  Phlorotannins have a unique structure that gives them biological functions not found in land-based plants. As with the Eckol previously mentioned, triphlorethol-A dramatically decreased induced cellular damage in lung cells. This compound also scavenges some of the most notorious free radicals including Peroxynitrite.
What makes seaweed such a superior antioxidant?   This is due to its chemical structure. The extract in Ecklonia cava (ECE), is made up of 8 interconnected rings giving it 10 to 100 times the free radical scavenging ability of other polyphenols which usually have 3 rings, sometimes 4. For example, green tea catechins have found recent popularity as an antioxidant. These substances only have 4 rings so are much less powerful.  ECE is 40% fat-soluble giving it a half-life of 10 to 12 hours, compared to 30 minutes for water-soluble, land-based polyphenols, therefore are active in the body for extended periods of time. ECE has the ability to cross the blood-brain barrier which polyphenols from land-based plants cannot do which may make it appropriate for the treatment of certain brain diseases.
Much scientific research has been done for the last 14 years by Dr. Haengwoo Lee, a Korean biochemist now living near Seattle, Washington. He and his team of PhDs’ research has included test-tube experiments, animal models, and now more than seven human trials. Objective clinical results have been noticed in fibromyalgia, diabetes, weight loss, heart disease, high blood pressure and erectile dysfunction.
Department of Biochemistry, College of Medicine and Applied Radiological Science Research Institute, Cheju National University, Jeju-si 690-756, Republic of Korea.


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