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Seaweed’s Exceptional Fibres

Dietary fibre or roughage, is the portion of plant-derived food that cannot be completely broken down by human digestive enzymes. It has 2 main components:

  1. Soluble fibre – which dissolves in water – is readily fermented in the colon into gases and physiologically active by-products
  2. Insoluble fibre – which does not dissolve in water – is inert to digestive enzymes in the upper gastrointestinal tract and provides bulking.

Dietary fibre content in a sample is measured in the laboratory by what is called an enzymatic-gravimetric method.  Here are some dietary fibre contents of seaweeds, expressed as percentage of dry weight. On a dry weight basis the dietary fibre content of seaweeds varies from 30% to over 50%, which is quite high.

SolubleInsolubleTotalReference
Red (carrageenan)
Nori – Porphyra17.916.834.7Jimenez-Escrig
26934MacArtain
Dulse– Palmaria191534MacArtain
Gigartinapistillata21.97.429.3Gomez-Ordonez
 
Brown
Hijiki – Sargassum32.916.349.2Jimenez-Escrig
Wakame – Undaria30.05.335.3Jimenez-Escrig
30535MacArtain
Kelp/kombu – Laminaria33538MacArtain
17.113.130.2Gomez-Ordonez
Sea spaghetti – Himanthalia25.77.032.7Jimenez-Escrig
 26733MacArtain
 23.613.537.1Gomez-Ordonez
 
Green
Sea lettuce – Ulva21.316.838.1Jimenez-Escrig
211637MacArtain
20.534.454.9Yaich

What are the Effects of Dietary Fibre?

The effects of dietary fibre can vary depending on whether it is soluble or insoluble, upon its composition and structure and whether or not it is fermentable by our microbiota (bacteria in our bowels).   The benefits of dietary fibre include:

  • laxation
  • attenuation of blood cholesterol and blood glucose
  • prevention of bowel diseases such as bowel cancer, as a result of fermentation of fibre polysaccharides by bowel bacteria.

What Role Can Seaweed Play?

Here are some of the fibres in seaweed, characterised with their known degree of colonic fermentability,  which effects vary according to groups & types:

Brown Seaweeds:
Alginates
Laminarans
Fucans

Red Seaweeds:
Sulphated galactans
Xylans

Green Seaweeds:
Ulvans
Xylo-galactans

Sources:
Red seaweeds & gut function
Prebiotics from marine macroalgae for Health
Prebiotics: metabolic & health benefits
Probiotics, prebiotics, and synbiotics
jimenez-2000-nutrition-research-20

Disclaimer: This material is provided for educational purposes only and IS NOT intended as a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This information is generic and may not include the latest research. We encourage you to do your own research and discuss your findings with a qualified health practitioner who can help you validate the outcomes in the context of your specific & individual health situation.

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