Algae – cardiovascular and anti-cancer benefits

Why would anyone want to eat sea vegetables? Because they offer one of the broadest ranges of minerals of any food, containing virtually all the minerals found in the ocean - and not surprisingly, many of same minerals found in human blood. The also offer a variety of unique phytonutrients, including their sulfated polysaccharides (also called fucoidans). Unlike some other categories of vegetables, sea vegetables do not appear to depend on carotenoids and flavonoids for their antioxidant benefits, because in additional to these two important categories of antioxidants, sea vegetables contain several other types, including alkaloid antioxidants. Sea vegetables are an excellent source of iodine and vitamin K, a very good source of the B-vitamin folate, and magnesium, and a good source of iron and calcium, and the B-vitamins riboflavin and pantothenic acid. They also contain measurable amounts of vitamins C and E.

Multiple Benefits from Sulfated Polysaccharides
Many of the cardiovascular benefits of sea vegetables can also be attributed to their sulfated polysaccharide content. Extracts from sea vegetables are sometimes referred to as "heparin-like extracts" because they exhibit some of the same properties as this widely used anticoagulant medication. In fact, heparin itself can be described as a sulfated polysaccharide, and like the sulfated polysaccharides found in sea vegetables, it can decrease the tendency of blood platelet cells to coagulate and form clots. (A blood clot can also be called a "thrombus" - thus giving rise to the term "antithrombotic" in description of sulfated polysaccharides.) In addition to their anticoagulant and antithrombotic benefits, however, sea vegetables have also been shown to help lower total cholesterol and LDL cholesterol and to improve cardiovascular health in this way.

Anti-Cancer Benefits
Not fully understood but of increasing interest to researchers are the anti-cancer benefits of sea vegetables. Research interest in this area has tended to focus on colon cancer, with a special emphasis on the loss of calcium-sensing receptors (CaSRs) in colon cancer cells, and the ability of sea vegetable extracts to alter CaSR-related events. But since chronic, unwanted inflammation and chronic oxidative stress are both risk factors for development of cancer, it would be quite natural for scientists to be interested in sea vegetables are anti-cancer foods not only in the case of colon cancer, but for other types of cancer as well. Sea vegetables are well-researched as containing a variety of anti-inflammatory and antioxidant compounds, and this nutrient combination is likely to result in some risk-lowering benefits in the case of colon cancer and other cancer types. Although much more research is needed in this area, we expect the anti-caner benefits of sea vegetables to become more firmly established over time.

Source: World’s Healthiest Foods


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