Fucoidan Relieves Inflammatory Bowel Disorder?


A new study out of Tasmania suggests the seaweed extract may have potential to alleviate ulcerative colitis.

Researchers in Tasmania have announced that fucoidan, a seaweed extract, may be effective at combatting the symptoms of certain inflammatory bowel disorders, based on a recent animal study published in PLoS One.

Extracted from the Fucus vesiculosus species of seaweed, fucoidan is a polysaccharide that has been marketed for its immune-boosting potential and a variety of other therapeutic benefits. This latest study out of the University of Tasmania builds on a growing body of research behind fucoidan’s potential to alleviate inflammatory bowel conditions, such as ulcerative colitis.

“Although previous reports have demonstrated anti-inflammatory activities of fucoidan and fucoidan-containing extracts in different experimental models in vitro and in vivo, this is the first report to demonstrate that dietary fucoidan extracts from Fucus vesiculosus are highly effective in ameliorating experimental colitis through a consistent down-regulation of a significant number of pro-inflammatory cytokines,” wrote the researchers.

The fucoidan extracts used in the study were provided by Marinova Pty Ltd (Hobart, Tasmania, Australia).


Study details

For seven days, mice with acute colitis were treated once daily with either a fucoidan extract by oral administration or intraperitoneal injection, and then compared to a group of untreated mice. After analyzing the colons and spleens of the mice for macroscopic evaluation, cytokine measurements, and histology, researchers found that oral administration of fucoidan alleviated macroscopic pathologies such as body weight and stool consistency, in addition to significantly reducing underlying intestinal inflammation.

Cumulative histological disease scores for the distal colon were reduced by up to 36.3% in the oral fucoidan group compared to the untreated group. Weight loss, which can often be an undesirable side effect of colitis, was also reduced by more than 50% in the oral fucoidan group, according to a press release from Marinova. Fucoidan administration by intraperitoneal inject did not produce the same promising results.

“This study extends our current understanding of oral administration of fucoidan extracts during acute colitis, which is a crucial step towards its use as a mainstream treatment of colitis in humans,” says Nuri Guven, an author of the study and associate professor at the University of Tasmania. “To show that fucoidan can reduce inflammation and retain epithelial integrity is extremely encouraging. Coupled with the possibility of oral delivery, these findings certainly justify further investigations into fucoidan as a therapeutic alternative for patients suffering from inflammatory bowel disorders.”

The results of this study prompted Marinova to extend its collaborative research arrangements with the University of Tasmania and sponsor further studies in the area of fucoidan and gut health over the next two years.


Lean QY et al. “Fucoidan extracts ameliorate acute colitis.” PLoS One. Published online June 17, 2015.


Read more:

Scottish Seaweed Helps Iodine Insufficiency

2015 Ingredients to Watch: Algae


Michael Crane
Associate Editor
Nutritional Outlook Magazine


Photo © iStockphoto.com/BryanToro

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