Fucoidan is a natural substance found in the cell walls of certain kinds of brown seaweed called kelp. It provides a remarkable array of health benefits from the sea. Although getting enough fucoidan means eating pounds of kelp every day, doing so is impractical. Fortunately, you can get exactly what you need in a good fucoidan supplement.
What does fucoidan do for the body? The health benefits of a fucoidan extract reveal a phenomenal variety of actions (2011). They include protection from viral infections, blood clots, osteoarthritis, kidney and liver disease, chemotherapy and radiotherapy damage, and even snake bites. At the top of the list, though, are the abilities of fucoidan to mobilize stem cells and to block cancer cell growth.
What Is Fucoidan?
The name fucoidan refers to a group of highly complex polysaccharides. It consists of several kinds of simple sugars that are linked together in a large matrix. In addition, a key component of fucoidan is sulfate. Scientists refer to fucoidan as a sulfated polysaccharide.
One of the simple sugars in fucoidan is fucose. Fucose is the fundamental sugar subunit of fucoidan. Fucose gets a lot of scientific attention because it occurs widely on cell surfaces in humans and other mammals, in plants, in insects, in kelps and in mushrooms.
The biological activities of fucoidan in animals are at least partially due to the role of fucose in cell to cell communication.
Fucoidan and Stem Cells
Stem cells are like cellular magicians due to their ability to transform into different kinds of cells. We rely on stem cells to replace cells that we lose from aging and other sources of cellular damage. They are literally our inner fountain of youth.
Fucoidan is known as a highly effective stem cell mobilizer. This means that it acts to help move stem cells to where they are needed for cellular replacement. In addition, fucoidan has been shown to amplify populations of certain kinds of stem cells (2007).
Boosting stem cells in the face of “aging” due to damage from chemotherapy and radiotherapy is now under study for its use in recovery from cancer treatments. This is just one aspect of the potential clinical value of fucoidan.
In addition, fucoidan has been shown to rescue aging stem cells that are important for rebuilding the inner walls of damaged blood vessels (2015).
Fucoidan and Cancer
We know that fucoidan can help overcome damage from chemotherapy and radiotherapy. The question now is, does fucoidan fight against cancer directly?
Recent research shows that fucoidan does, indeed, have multiple effects against various kinds of cancer (2015). Two such effects are particularly valuable. One is the activity of fucoidan to help regulate key molecules that drive the destruction of tumor cells. Another is fucoidan’s ability to slow down the formation of vascular tissue that feeds tumor growth.
Fucoidan also acts as an adjuvant that synergizes with anti-cancer chemotherapeutic agents. This is a key property that makes chemotherapy more effective at lower dosages, thereby reducing its toxic effects.
Bonus Anti-Aging Benefit of Fucoidan
The most recent and perhaps most exciting anti-aging benefit of fucoidan is its role in activating a key enzyme that influences lifespan. It is called sirtuin 6, which is one of seven sirtuin enzymes that influence a wide range of cellular processes in humans.
Modern medical research is looking hard for substances that can activate sirtuins. Sirtuin 6 is particularly important because it controls healthy aging by regulating genome stability, oxidative stress, and glucose metabolism. Sirtuin 6 is a promising target for several age-associated diseases, such as chronic inflammation, metabolic syndrome, obesity, and insulin-resistant type-2 diabetes.
The most recent research on fucoidan reveals its ability to strongly activate sirtuin 6 (2017). In fact, at this time it is the only polysaccharide that is known to stimulate sirtuin 6. Furthermore, early research suggests that fucoidan could also be activating other sirtuins.
Fucoidan Side Effects
While natural supplements often have unwanted side effects, this is not the case with fucoidan. Even in the largest doses used in clinical studies on cancer patients, fucoidan showed no lasting side effects (2015). At worst, high doses of several grams a day may cause temporary diarrhea, which disappears with continued use.