Fucus vesiculosus, or ‘bladderwrack’ to give it its more common name, is the typical brown/green seaweed you find on beaches all over the world. Fucus has been used as a dietary supplement for many thousands of years, as it was believed to have a beneficial effect on the heart and liver.
Today we know that fucus is indeed an excellent, healthy food, largely due to its iodine content. Iodine is needed by the human body, and specifically the thyroid gland, in order to control and regulate levels of thyroid hormones. If there is an iodine deficiency, low levels of thyroid hormones result and the effect can be lethargy, decreased energy levels and weight gain.
Conversely, high levels of thyroid hormones can lead to increased energy levels and metabolic rate, and appetite suppression due to the hormones’ stimulation of the neurotransmitter serotonin. This of course is an excellent metabolic state in which to achieve weight loss, and fucus is indeed utilized in a variety of weight loss formulas. The beneficial effects of fucus with regard to weight loss and increasing physical ability is optimally utilized in combination with a smart diet and exercise program.
Some studies suggest that fucus may actually be one of the only foods in the world that can permanently increase metabolic rate, and therefore burn fat and sugar faster. Investigations are currently underway into these claims.
Iodine then, is essential for maintaining a healthy body weight and keeping energy levels high. Fucus is a great source of iodine, and can be effective as part of weight loss supplements to help promote a beneficial hormonal environment for weight loss, and in exercise supplements to maintain energy, alertness and focus. It is also sometimes employed more general as a mild stimulant, believed to give energy levels a lift and help people keep going a little longer. In its solo form, fucus is often supplied as a patch, like a nicotine patch to boost energy levels.
The evidence in support of fucus as a healthy dietary component shows that it contains substances which reduce the likelihood of blood platelets to clump together and form a clot, so it can be effective in reducing the risk of cardiovascular problems, including sudden clotting that can cause strokes and heart attacks. Fucus has also been shown to reduce blood sugar levels in some patient, which may make it effective as a future diabetes therapy, and it can even inhibit the activity of the HIV AIDS virus, though to what extent and the precise mechanism behind this is not yet fully understood, and so a comprehensive therapy is not yet forthcoming.
Fucus contains the highest levels of antioxidants of any seaweed known to us. Antioxidants, we now know, are critical in combatting the negative effects of chemicals called free radicals, which are basically oxidants released by the body as a side-effect of the energy release process. Left alone, these free radicals can bind to healthy cells in the body and attack them. In some cases, such as free radicals binding to fatty acids in the blood, this can cause a build-up of plaque in the arteries, leading to high blood pressure and increasing the risk of sudden heart attack and strokes. When free radicals attack other cells, they can cause abnormal regeneration, and therefore cancer. So having high levels of antioxidants in your diet is always a good thing, and fucus contains plenty of antioxidants to help prevent heart disease and cancer, amongst other things. In fact, extracts of fucus are already certified for the treatment of breast cancer in Japan, and other countries may soon follow suit based on the available evidence.
Fucus is also an excellent source of dietary fiber, which helps to cleanse the colon and ensure good digestive function, and contains many trace elements that the body needs for a variety of functions, as well as over thirty different minerals. Fucus is very much a rich source of everything!
Some doctors use fucus as a kind of dressing for wounds, applied topically in the form of a poultice, the nutrients in fucus are believed to speed the recovery process and help prevent infections. This is backed by studies which show fucus to have anti-toxic properties.
Fucus contains very high levels of quality collagen. If you have ever picked up some on the beach, you may recall its slick, rubbery texture. This is due to collagen fibers. Collagen fibers are what keep all of the cells in our bodies in shape, structurally speaking, and are especially prized in beauty treatments because they can regenerate skin, adding moisture and elasticity and essentially making skin look younger and healthier. Fucus is therefore an essential component of many cosmetic produces, especially face masks, cleansers, face creams and also shampoos and conditioners.
High doses of iodine are not recommended as they can cause health problems of their own, so fucus should be taken in moderation, preferably under the supervision of a medical professional. Hyperthyroidism caused by excess iodine can cause symptoms such as insomnia and anxiety, weakness and heart palpitations which can be very dangerous.
There is no standardized recommended daily amount of fucus, though individual
supplements set their own doses and reasons for such.
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