Fucoidan was discovered in 1913 by Professor Kylin of Uppsala University in Sweden, is a specific source of sliminess only found in Brown Algae such as Wakame (Mekabu) and Mozuku, and a type of water-soluble dietary fiber. Chemically it is a sulfated polysaccharide, which gives it a range of health benefits. Researchers at the top universities and health centers across the world have been looking at fucoidan for its anti-tumor, anti-allergic, anti-viral and anti-inflammatory effects.
What is Fucoidan
Kombu, mozuku and mekabu have one common feature: sliminess or gooiness on their surfaces. It comes from polysaccharides, or long chains of simple sugar molecules – primarily the sugar fucose. That sliminess is actually good for you. Seaweed fucose has been revealed in recent studies to have beneficial effects on human health, contributing to everything from strengthening the immune system from viruses and bacteria to protecting the body against inflammation and the formation of cancer. While polysaccharides as a group have long been known to have medicinal benefits – for instance, the health effects of agaricus mushrooms and aloe are based in large part on their polysaccharide components – fucose polysaccharides like fucoidan may be even more health-enhancing.
Fucoidan extracted from different types of seaweed has different structures thus different functions
To understand what fucoidan does, we have to take time to understand what it is as a chemical. As previously mentioned, ona molecular level fucoidan is a polysaccharide. The long chains of sugars in seaweeds include xylose, mannose, fucose and others, each uniquely affecting the human body. Of these, fucose is one of the most important: a six-carbon atom molecule by itself used in certain cosmetics and anti-aging compounds, fucose becomes especially powerful when combined with sulfate, creating what are called “sulfate groups”, or fucans.
Fucoidan from different seaweeds has different arrangements of the other sugars, but sulfate and fucose make up the backbone of most, and lend them their characteristic immuno-stimulative properties.
The process of isolating fucoidan from seaweeds is fraught with missteps, as producers tend to misunderstand its chemical nature. Extraction of fucoidan without extraneous minerals, pigments or proteins, as many tend to do, only reduces the potency. Seaweeds tend to be rich in magnesium, iron and zinc, all of which contribute to proper cell function; while the stripped out green pigment has beneficial beta carotene and cholorophylls. Likewise, since the aforementioned sulfate groups are directly linked to immune modulation, it makes sense to select seaweeds highest in sulfate groups for fucoidan extraction (Mozuku or Mekabu) – which again does not always happen.
Only high molecule Fucoidan would activate the immune system
Also important to note, current scientific research suggests the beneficial properties of fucoidan stem from its high molecular weight. There is a way to extract sulfated polysaccharides from seaweed and simultaneously fractionate them for better absorption into the blood steam. There has been no evidence to suggest the lower molecular weight fucoidan that results is more beneficial or even beneficial at all. So far, experiments show only that large, unbroken sulfated polysaccharide molecules activate the immune system.