Fucoidan supplement health benefit, side effects, safety, research studies - Extract from brown seaweed, role in cancer, weight loss by Ray Sahelian, M.D.
Feb 26 2014

Fucoidan substances are sulfated polysaccharides extracted from brown algae and have been studied for diverse biological activities. It appears this substance has blood thinning properties and has an influence on the immune system. Some are promoting fucoidan supplements for weight loss. I have seen fucoidan being promoted as an antiviral agent and antioxidant. As of 203, I have not come across reliable human studies to give me a clue of the clinical uses of this algal extract. I do not know the appropriate dosages, benefit and side effects of fucoidan supplements. There is some early laboratory and animal research that indicates it could have certain health benefits.
   Fucoidan (sulfated alpha-L-fucan) is a sulfated polysaccharide and found primarily in the cell walls of several species of brown seaweed, such as kombu, limu moui, wakame, hijiki, and bladderwrack. Lending a slippery texture to these sea plants, it also provides protection for them, even in strong sunlight and harsh environments. This substance has also been found in varying forms among marine animals such as the sea cucumber.

Fucoidan prevents C epsilon germline transcription and NFkappaB p52 translocation for IgE production in B cells.
Biochem Biophys Res Commun. 2006.
In this study, we investigated the effect of fucoidan on IgE production and intracellular events in B cells in vitro. Fucoidan inhibited the production of IgE and C epsilon germline transcription in murine B cells induced by IL-4 (100 ng/ml) and anti-CD40 antibodies (10 microg/ml), whereas it stimulated cell proliferation. A significant effect of fucoidan on IgE production was observed when B cells were stimulated with a higher dose (5 microg/ml) of anti-CD40 antibodies, but not when stimulated with lower doses (1.25, 2.5 microg/ml), regardless of the IL-4 concentrations. Moreover, nuclear translocation of NFkappaB p52, but neither that of NFkappaB p65, nor the phosphorylation of JAK1 and STAT6 was reduced by fucoidan. These results suggest that fucoidan inhibited IgE production by preventing the NFkappaB p52-mediated pathways activated by CD40.

Anticoagulant, blood thinner
Use of sulfated fucans as anticoagulant and antithrombotic agents: future perspectives.
Curr Pharm Des. 2004.
Sulfated alpha-L-fucans from brown algae have complex and heterogeneous structures but recent studies revealed the occurrence of ordered repeat units in the sulfated fucans from several species. Another source of sulfated alpha-L-fucans (and their parental compounds sulfated alpha-L-galactans and fucosylated chondroitin sulfate) is marine invertebrates. The invertebrate polysaccharides have simple, ordered structures, which differ in the specific patterns of sulfation and/or position of the glycosidic linkages within their repeating units. The algal and invertebrate sulfated fucans have potent anticoagulant activity, mediated by antithrombin and/or heparin cofactor II.

Anticoagulant activity of fucoidan from brown algae Fucus evanescens of the Okhotsk Sea.
Bull Exp Biol Med. 2003.
In vitro and in vivo experiments showed that anticoagulant activity of sulfated polysaccharide from Fucus evanescens (brown algae of the Okhotsk Sea) was similar to that of heparin. Anticoagulant properties of fucoidan are determined by thrombin inhibition mediated via plasma antithrombin III.

Immunostimulating and anticoagulating activity of fucoidan from brown algae Fucus evanescens of Okhotskoe sea
Antibiot Khimioter. 2003.
Fucoidan is freely soluble in water and acid solutions. Immunotropic and anticoagulating properties of the compound were evaluated in comparison with heparin. It was demonstrated that fucoidan in wide range of doses stimulated phagocytic and bactericidic activity at leucocytes of mice peritoneal exudate. Heparin on the contrary demonstrated depressive effect on these functions at high dose. It was shown that fucoidan has dose-dependent anticoagulating activity in vitro and in vivo comparable with heparin activity. The results of investigation demonstrated possibility of fucoidan application as immunomodulating and anticoagulating agent of plant origin.

Cancer and tumors
Food Chem. 2013 Nov 15. The fucoidans from brown algae of Far-Eastern seas: anti-tumor activity and structure-function relationship. The sulfated polysaccharides from brown algae - the fucoidans - are known to be a topic of numerous studies, due to their beneficial biological activities including anti-tumour activity. In this study the effect of fucoidans isolated from brown algae Saccharina cichorioides, Fucus evanescens, and Undaria pinnatifida on the proliferation, neoplastic transformation, and colony formation of mouse epidermal cells JB6 Cl41, human colon cancer DLD-1, breast cancer T-47D, and melanoma RPMI-7951 cell lines was investigated. The algal fucoidans specifically and markedly suppressed the proliferation of human cancer cells with less cytotoxic effects against normal mouse epidermal cells. The highly sulfated (1→3)-α-l-fucan from S. cichorioides was found to be vitally important in the inhibition of EGF-induced neoplastic transformation of JB6 Cl41 cells. In colony formation assay the fucoidans from different species of brown algae showed selective anti-tumour activity against different types of cancer, which depended on unique structures of the investigated polysaccharides. These results provide evidence for further exploring the use of the fucoidans from S. cichorioides, F. evanescens, and U. pinnatifida as novel chemotherapeutics against different types of cancer.

The Role of NK cells in Antitumor Activity of Dietary Fucoidan from Undaria pinnatifida Sporophylls (Mekabu).
Planta Med. 2006.
Fucoidan from Mekabu (sporophyll of undaria pinnatifida), a dietary alga, exerts antitumor activity possibly through enhancing the immune response. The present report describes the effects of dietary Mekabu fucoidan on the tumor growth of mouse A20 leukemia cells and on T cell-mediated immune responses in T cell receptor transgenic mice. The animals were fed with a diet containing 1 % Mekabu fucoidan for 10 days and subcutaneously inoculated with A20 leukemia cells. Thereafter, the mice were fed with the diet containing fucoidan for 40 days which inhibited tumors by 65 %. Our findings suggested that Mekabu fucoidan mediates tumor destruction through Th1 cell and NK cell responses.

Immunomodulating activity of arabinogalactan and fucoidan in vitro.
J Med Food. 2005.
Mouse spleen lymphocytes became cytotoxic to tumor cells after culture with arabinogalactan and fucoidan which suggest they are activators of lymphocytes and macrophages. This property may contribute to their effectiveness in the immunoprevention of cancer.

Does it help with liver cancer?
   I am not aware of such human studies with hepatic tumors but this report is interesting:
Mar Drugs. June 2013. Fucoidan derived from Undaria pinnatifida induces apoptosis in human hepatocellular carcinoma SMMC-7721 cells via the ROS-mediated mitochondrial pathway.

Immune system
J Nutr. November 2013. Supplementation of elderly Japanese men and women with fucoidan from seaweed increases immune responses to seasonal influenza vaccination. The elderly are known to have an inadequate immune response to influenza vaccine. Mekabu fucoidan (MF), a sulfated polysaccharide extracted from seaweed, was previously shown to have an immunomodulatory effect. We therefore investigated antibody production after influenza vaccination in elderly Japanese men and women with and without oral MF intake. A randomized, placebo-controlled, double-blind study was conducted with 70 volunteers >60 y of age. They were randomly assigned to 1 of 2 groups, consuming either MF (300 mg/d) or placebo for 4 wk, and then given a trivalent seasonal influenza vaccine. Serum was sampled at 5 and 20 wk after vaccination to measure the hemagglutination inhibition titer and natural killer cell activity. The MF group had higher antibody titers against all 3 strains contained in the seasonal influenza virus vaccine than the placebo group. Titers against the B/Brisbane/60/2008 (B) strain increased substantially more in the MF group than in the placebo group over the product consumption period. The immune response against B antigen met the European Union Licensure criteria regarding the geometric mean titer ratio in the MF group (2.4), but not in the placebo group (1.7). In the MF group, natural killer cell activity tended to increase from baseline 9 wk after MF intake. However, in the placebo group no substantial increase was noted at 9 wk, and the activity decreased substantially from 9 to 24 wk. In the immunocompromised elderly, MF intake increased antibody production after vaccination, possibly preventing influenza epidemics.

HIV virus protection
Defensive effects of a fucoidan from brown alga Undaria pinnatifida against herpes simplex virus infection.
Int Immunopharmacol. 2008.
The effects of fucoidan were examined on in vivo viral replication and the host's immune defense system. Oral administration protected mice from infection with HSV-1 as judged from the survival rate and lesion scores. Phagocytic activity of macrophages and B cell blastogenesis in vitro were significantly stimulated. Oral administration of the fucoidan produced the augmentation of NK activity in HSV-1-infected immunosuppressed mice. Our results suggest that oral intake of the fucoidan might take the protective effects through direct inhibition of viral replication and stimulation of both innate and adaptive immune defense functions.

Fucoidan protects against radiation damage
Radioprotective effects of fucoidan on bone marrow cells: improvement of the cell survival and immunoreactivity.
J Vet Sci. 2008.
Recently, we demonstrated that fucoidan stimulates the antigen-presenting functions of dendritic cells. In this study, we investigated the radioprotective effects of fucoidan on bone marrow cells (BMCs), which are the main cellular reservoir for the hematopoietic and immune system. To evaluate the effects of fucoidan, we assayed cell viability and immune responses. In a viability assay, fucoidan significantly increased the viability of BMCs. Based on the results of flow cytometric analysis, the increased viability of fucoidan-treated BMCs was attributed to the inhibition of radiation-induced apoptosis. Furthermore, fucoidan altered the production of immune-related cytokines from BMCs and increased the capability of BMCs to induce proliferation of allogeneic splenocytes. Taken together, our study demonstrated that fucoidan has radioprotective effects on BMCs with respect to cell viability and immunoreactivity.

Fucoidan side effect and toxicity
Toxicological evaluation of fucoidan extracted from Laminaria japonica in Wistar rats.
Food Chem Toxicol. 2005.
Investigating the toxicity of fucoidan. In this study, the acute and subchronic (6 months) toxicity of varying levels of fucoidan extracted from Laminaria japonica was investigated in Wistar rats after oral administration. The results showed that no significant toxicological changes were observed when 300 mg/kg body weight per day fucoidan was administered to rats. But when the dose was increased to 900 and 2500 mg/kg body weight per day, the clotting time was significantly prolonged. Besides this, no other signs of toxicity were observed. Based on these results, it can be concluded that the no side effect level of fucoidan from L. japonica is 300 mg/kg body weight per day.

Fucoidan and oxalate kidney stone
Renal peroxidative changes mediated by oxalate: the protective role of fucoidan.
Life Sci. 2006.
Oxalate, one of the major constituents of renal stones is known to induce free radicals which damage the renal membrane. Damaged epithelia might act as nidi for stone formation aggravating calcium oxalate precipitation during hyperoxaluria. In the present study, the beneficial effects of fucoidan on oxalate-induced free radical injury were investigated. Male Wistar rats were divided into four groups. Hyperoxaluria was induced in two groups by administration of 0.75% ethylene glycol in drinking water for 28 days and one of them was treated with fucoidan from Fucus vesiculosus at a dose of 5 mg/kg b.wt subcutaneously commencing from the 8th day of induction. A control and drug control (fucoidan alone) was also included in the study. The extent of renal injury in hyperoxaluria was evident from the increased activities of alkaline phosphatase, gamma-glutamyl transferase, beta-glucuronidase, N-acetyl-beta-D-glucosaminidase in urine. There was a positive correlation between plasma malondialdehyde levels and renal membrane damage indicating a striking relation between free radical formation and cellular injury. Increased protein carbonyl and decreased thiols further exemplified the oxidative milieu prevailing during hyperoxaluria. Decreased renal membrane ATPases accentuated the renal membrane damage induced by oxalate. Renal microscopic analysis showed abnormal findings in histology as an evidence of oxalate damage. The above biochemical and histopathological discrepancies were abrogated with fucoidan administration, indicating its protective role in oxalate mediated peroxidative injury.

Herb and ingredient suppliers sell fucoidan from brown seaweeds in various extract concentrations including 50 percent fucoidan and 70 percent fucoidan.

Q. I have chronic progressive MS, and at 66 have been diagnosed since age 35 with same. Your thoughts or suggestions relative to fucoidan for usage to help would be appreciated. Have taken copaxone for four years, seemed to help, not certain, take 4-Amino pyridene, and low dosage Naltrexone, evening primrose, 2000mg day.
   A. I have not studied fucoidan enough to know how it would influence MS.

Q. What is the best way to take Fucoidan, by drinking or by capsule. It also seems there are some multi level marketing companies out their, and you would think manufacturer's would try to market it through regular channels to places the consumer would trust. It seem a little scrupulous.
   A. I do not have enough practical experience with fucoidan to know these answers since it is relatively new as a supplement and we have not gotten to it yet to see how it works when ingested.

I am a college professor in marketing who gets students coming by all the time with new products that they are being asked to sell, usually in a multi-level marketing manner. I have gotten pretty good at sniffing out the scams, I believe, and help them all I can. Your site, which I just found last week, will really help me help them. Thanks so much!

Q. I have been reading a lot about Limu and products with Fucoidan, there have been over 600 medical studies, please check this out! I was wondering if you would be carrying anything with fucoidan product in the future?
   A. We would like to see a couple of human studies with fucoidan to determine what kind of an effect a fucoidan supplement has on the body.

Q. I am a distributor of Original Limu and took it religiously for over a year, with wonderful results (energy, sleep, arthritis, etc). The recommended dose is 2 to 4 oz. a day, but the company also says that since it has a six-second flash process when it is formulated, it has live enzymes, is a live food, and cannot hurt you (you can drink as much as you want, with no harm). Obviously, the company has never said that it will heal or cure anything either. After about a year, my husband and I noticed that it was making our hair terribly dry and straw-like. My husband's skin also became very dry and itchy. I didn't make the connection between these symptoms and the Limu, until one of my downlines (who has been a hairdresser for 30 years) called and said she was stopping the Limu because of what it was doing to her hair. Then the lightbulb went off and I knew what had been causing our problems. When we stop, our hair clears up....when we start up again, it comes back. Of course, my uplines don't quite believe me and say no one else has ever had this problem. And, of course, that's because at first Limu makes your hair very soft and nice. But my husband and I were drinking more than the recommended dose, per day, and I think we got too much of some ingredient or reached toxic levels or something. I have been researching for hours on the Internet on Fucoidan, alginic acid, etc. One thing I found was that too much alginic acid (which is in the seaweed in Limu) can leach important nutrients out of your system. This is as close as I've come to finding something.
   A. I have not come across any significant research in humans with fucoidan, let alone long term research. Hence I don't know what the effects of fucoidan or Limu ingestion would be if used for prolonged periods. Dry hair is sometimes caused by low thyroid levels, or mineral imbalances, alterations in fatty acid synthesis such as omega-3s, but there are other causes for dry hair. I often tell my patients to take a break from the use of supplements, at least one day off a week, and one week of every month or two. Taking breaks is even more important in regards to new supplements that have been introduced with little knowledge of their long term effects.

Q. Recently, I was given an invitation to add a beverage to my daily diet which is rich in fucoidan. What do you know about the research.
   A. As of 2013, I have not come across long term human research with a fucoidan supplement. I would guess that it is a healthy addition to one's diet, but I would not use it daily for the time being until we have more data.

Q. What's the difference between fucose and fucoidan?
   A. Fucose is a sugar and the fundamental sub-unit of the fucoidan polysaccharide.

Q. What do you know about this product called Sissel? They are really promoting FuCoyDon which contains Limu Moui Puree. This seaweed and fruit concentrations are supposed to be the cure-all for so many things. I decided I would try it based on the recommendation of a friend who says it helped her walk again. I donít doubt her, however, know the mind is ever powerful too. When I first started the product, my mouth and especially my tongue got very red and soreófelt like I had burned it with a hot beverage. I called the company, they told me to back off of taking 1 oz. and take only half oz. They also recommended taking a Benadryl which surprised me since they are not MDís. Besides, I donít tolerate Benadryl, puts me to sleep for a full day. I have taken half oz. now for a week and awakened last night with an irregular heart beat and some pounding in my chest. Iím prone to those because I have a very low tolerance for drugs, however, they have really been controlled in the past two months or so by exercise and reducing digoxin that I take for paroxysmal atrial tachycardia. I am so leery of these multi-level products because they arenít regulated by the FDA and especially soy based products because I also have a tendency to grow tumors. I realize soy doesnít cause tumors but tumors feed on soy. Sissel doesnít seem to have soy but Iím just not sure about all these exotic fruits. Iím going to subscribe to your newsletter and hopefully in the future I will see some remarks about Sissel.
   A. I had not heard of Sissel product until this email so I am not familiar with its benefits or side effects.

I recently bought Flucoidan in a gel preparation called UMI marketed by the company AGel . I am not sure whether this is the caught of my extreme fatigue today . I took a sachet last night and found difficulty falling asleep and woke up unrefreshed and very tired. I have gone without sleep before and usually do quite well. I believe if it is such a powerful anticancer agent and immune booster then perhaps it can also cause symptoms.