Written by Slawomir (“Swavak”) Gromadzki, MPH
Kelp is a seaweed and the highest natural source of iodine – a trace mineral vital for the proper functioning of the thyroid gland which plays a vital role in the development and metabolism of the human organism.
Up to 80 per cent of iodine in the body is found in the thyroid and deficiencies can have a serious negative impact on thyroid hormone production.
The BBC released a report in April 2011 demonstrated that iodine deficiency has become rampant in the UK. A study involving more than 700 teenage British girls found more than two-thirds had a deficiency, suggesting the necessity of using natural iodine supplements in the form of kelp.
Iodine combines with the amino acid tyrosine to create T3 and T4, thyroid hormones which regulate metabolism and other physiological functions.
Since today most of us are deficient in iodine (due to the soil depletion of this mineral), taking kelp can be very beneficial as it should boost metabolism by activating thyroid gland in people with underactive thyroid function (hypothyroidism).
Howell (1998) found that all participants in the trial who used algae supplements lost weight (between 4 and 30 pounds).
Obesity is rare among people who incorporate seaweeds as a regular part of their daily diet. Polynesians can be a very good example.
As a food additive kelp may also be used to reduce fat absorption and thus obesity.
In 2010 a group of researchers in the University of Newcastle found that a fibrous material called alginate in sea kelp was better at preventing fat absorption than most over-the-counter slimming treatments in laboratory trials.
However, it is believed that instead of being only a weight loss agent, kelp has the ability to normalize body weight, which means that it may help skinny people to gain on weight.
Kelp is also known as one of the richest natural sources of vitamins and minerals, omega 3, folate, iron, potassium, zinc, or vitamin K.
It contains the highest natural concentration of calcium of any food – 10 times more than milk (which weakens bones).
Containing antioxidants such as Beta carotene & Vitamin E, kelp can keep skin looking younger and firmer.
Kelp can also help to prevent early loss of elasticity of the skin and therefore keep skin looking firmer and younger for longer.
A 2008 study showed that the form of iodine in kelp effectively removed free radicals – harmful atoms that accelerate ageing – from human blood cells.
It also supports a strong and healthy immune system. Studies have demonstrated that kelp supplementation assists with the immune response to a wide range of diseases.
Research by Howell (1998) which involved British athletes found that the addition of kelp to their diet significantly boosted their energy and endurance levels and also improved competitive performance.
IODINE CONTENT IN KELP
In 1000mg (1g) of Kelp (usually about 3 tablets), there can be about 500mcg of iodine.
RDA (recommended daily intake) is set at 150mcg and SUL (safe upper limit) per day is 500mcg.
SAFETY & RISK OF OVERDOSING IODINE
When taking Kelp, the body will actively extract only the amount of Iodine needed from the Kelp (minimal risk of an overactive thyroid or side effects).
– Read also about even more fascinating superfood – CHLORELLA >
– Concerning possible contaminants present in kelp read: Eating Kelp Isn’t Going to Make You Radioactive >
Avoiding Iodine Deficiency
By Dr Michael Greger
Why does this 15-year-old look so unhappy? Maybe it’s because of the iodine deficiency in her diet that gave her this goiter. Everyone needs iodine, but this is especially important for people who want to eat well, since many healthy plant foods like flax, soy, and broccoli have what are called goitrogenic compounds, which can interfere with thyroid function in people with marginal iodine intake. So does that mean we shouldn’t eat broccoli? Of course not. We just need to get enough iodine in our diets. It’s actually really simple to do. Rather than using natural sea salt, use iodized salt, and you’ll probably get all the iodine you need. But if, for good reason, we don’t add salt to our food, we just need to get our iodine somewhere. Cow milk drinkers get it because iodine-containing disinfectants are used to disinfect the milk tanks, and so the iodine sort of leaches into the milk. The best source is sea vegetables, or you can get it in a multi-vitamin.
But I do encourage people to develop a taste for seaweed. It’s a wonderful food—dark green leafies of the sea. It may even prevent cancer. Seaweed inhibits human cancer cell growth, and this new study suggests it may even have a therapeutic potential for people battling liver cancer. Sea vegetables have lots of B vitamins and minerals—particularly the trace minerals, like iodine. The problem with seaweed is that we can actually get too much iodine. The recommended daily intake is 160 micrograms a day, but the World Health Organization places the safe upper limit at 1,000 micrograms a day. So that’s not a huge amount of wiggle room. And it’s less for kids—300 micrograms or so may be too much for a five-year-old. This much laver or nori—a 2 ounce bag—has enough iodine to last an adult a week. This much dulse; a month. This much wakame; two months. And one little bag of kelp; five years. A quarter gram a day of kelp is too much. And it would be hard to spread that little amount of kelp over five years, so I recommend going with one of these other sources.
Do not, however, eat hiziki. The reason sea vegetables are so wonderful is that they are packed with trace minerals; they just soak them up right out of the seawater. Hiziki, though, may also absorb bad minerals like arsenic. One seaweed species in particular, hiziki, sucks up so much arsenic that governments around the world are now warning consumers not to eat it. From the US EPA, to the British government, to New Zealand, to Canada—even the Chinese government. Here’s what it looks like. Note the two different spellings. No longer should anyone eat this—at least not on a regular basis. Lots of other wonderful types of seaweed out there without this problem, so we can get the anti-cancer benefits without the arsenic.
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– Pearce EN, Andersson M, Zimmermann MB (May 2013). Global iodine nutrition: where do we stand in 2013? Published in Thyroid: official journal of the American Thyroid Association. Retrieved May 16, 2013 from: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23472655
– Nicolantonio D’Orazio, Eugenio Gemello, Maria Alessandra Gammone, Massimo de Girolamo, Cristiana Ficoneri, and Graziano Riccioni (March 2012). Fucoxantin: A Treasure from the Sea. Published in Marine Drugs. Retrieved July 10, 2013 from: www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3347018
– Howell, D. Algae: the history of life back forthe future (1998).
– Fleurence, J., Morancais, M., Durmay, J. et al.What are the prospects for using seaweed in human nutrition and for marine animals raised through aquaculture. Trends in Food Science & Technology(2012). 27(1) 57-61.
http://www.mskcc.org/research2012 Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Centre. Research
– Barry, Dr W.T. The Astonishing, Magnificent, Delightful Algae. Revised 1994. p.13.Graphic Press.
– http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-1303458212 April 2011. Worrying levels of iodine deficiency in the UK.
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