The Council of Agriculture’s Fisheries Research Institute yesterday said it has developed a multistage method that improves the extraction of fucoxanthin — a carotenoid found in brown seaweed and algae which can help reduce the risk of illnesses including cardiovascular diseases, cerebrovascular diseases and malignant tumors.
The institute said that according to 2008 data from the Department of Health, malignant tumors, cardiovascular diseases and cerebrovascular diseases are the top three causes of death by disease in Taiwan and that these illnesses are not only connected with eating habits, but also with obesity.
Obesity has been considered a risk factor in many chronic diseases, the institute said, adding that research showed that the rate of death from disease can increase if a person’s weight exceeds the normal range to a certain degree.
With the perspective that prevention is better than treatment, the search for fat accumulation prevention methods and anti-obesity bioactive substances have become a popular topic of discussion in scientific circles, it said.
The fucoxanthin extracted from seaweed can boost metabolism in fat cells, reduce fat accumulation and also clean out the oxidized free radicals which are harmful to cells, the institute said, adding that overseas researchers have proved that rats fed with fucoxanthin lost about 5 to 10 percent of their body weight.
In addition, several types of seaweed have been a regular part of the daily diet in some Asian countries for thousands of years and recent studies have shown that consuming seaweed may reduce blood pressure and blood lipid levels and could also have anti-carcinogenic, anti-inflammatory and immune system-strengthening properties, the institute said.
Aside from improving the extraction rate, the new extraction technology yields fucoxanthin that has high oxidation stability and is dissolvable in both water-based and oil-based solutions — important features for further developing it into a dietary supplement, it said.
The institute said that if the extraction method is commercialized, it is expected to be of high economic value and can be greatly beneficial to human health.