Sourcing high-quality dietary supplement ingredients from seaweed: A fucoidan case study

Nutritional OutlookNutritional Outlook Vol. 25 No. 2
Volume 25
Issue 2

How to ensure quality when sourcing marine ingredients

Photo from Marinova Pty Ltd.

Photo from Marinova Pty Ltd.

Like the ocean itself, the quality of marine ingredients available to the dietary supplement market is both vast and variable. As more dietary supplements begin incorporating bioactive compounds derived from seaweeds, it is important that premium supplement brands maintain their focus on sourcing only high-quality ingredients with validated efficacy. Ahead, we look at the challenges of and best practices when sourcing one type of marine ingredient in particular: fucoidan.

The variability in the quality of marine ingredients is well illustrated in the global fucoidan market. Fucoidans are high-value compounds found naturally in brown seaweeds. These unique marine extracts are increasingly being incorporated into nutraceuticals in the immune support, gut and digestive health, and healthy aging categories. With over 2,300 published peer-reviewed papers now attesting to the potential beneficial properties of fucoidans, it is a fitting time to shine a spotlight on the importance of fucoidan quality.

A comprehensive fucoidan review paper describes the growing regulatory approvals for the use of fucoidan ingredients in foods and dietary supplements.1 High-purity, certified-organic fucoidans now hold FDA-notified GRAS status in the U.S. and Novel Food approval in the EU, for instance. (Disclosure: This review paper was authored by employees of the company I represent, Marinova Pty Ltd.)The review also noted that not only do global regulatory approvals continue to expand, but that so, too, does the quality of commercially available fucoidan extracts. Studies showed that some fucoidan preparations sold commercially for use in food and dietary supplements may not contain fucoidan as stated—particularly from suppliers unable to substantiate provenance and transparency. Some preparations are alternative polysaccharides, while others may be substituted with glucose or cellulose.

Sourcing Quality

Two key determinants of fucoidan quality are the method of extraction and the quality of the seaweed from which the fucoidan has been derived. Traditionally, fucoidan manufacturers have utilized solvents to precipitate the fucoidan polymer from crude seaweed extracts. This methodology previously resulted in solvent residues and other contaminants being present in the final extract. Fucoidans manufactured in this way can suffer from many shortfalls—not only can their quality be inconsistent, but their chemical integrity may be compromised and their bioactivity may be affected.

Revolutionary aqueous extraction technology now exists that produces efficacious, high-purity fucoidan extracts that are certified organic. These advanced technologies do not use organic solvents, and they produce fucoidan extracts that remain unadulterated in chemical structure and that are free from solvent residues. The mild, aqueous “green chemistry” process also ensures the resulting extracts comply with the most rigorous quality standards and global regulatory requirements.

Fucoidan from two species of brown seaweeds have been extensively researched and clinically tested: Undaria pinnatifida, commonly known as wakame, and Fucus vesiculosus, or bladderwrack. These two seaweeds are sustainably harvested on a seasonal basis from some of the world’s most pristine waters.

A critical determinant of fucoidan quality is the aquatic environment from which the seaweeds are derived. Seaweeds grown in clean ocean waters consistently produce superior fucoidan extracts compared to those grown in waters prone to industrial, agricultural, or human contamination. Today’s most progressive fucoidan manufacturers are committed to the sustainable hand-harvesting of wild seaweeds from pristine ocean waters in accordance with global best practices.

In this—the decade that the United Nations deemed the “Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development”—we are witnessing an increasing number of countries placing growing emphasis on seaweed farming and the subsequent development of novel marine bioproducts to support human health. An exciting example of the global focus on the burgeoning seaweed industry is occurring in Australia. Australia recently announced a $270 million national Marine Bioproducts Cooperative Research Centre (MBCRC) to accelerate its rapidly expanding marine export industry.2 (Disclosure: Marinova Pty Ltd. is one of the participants in this cooperative.) A consortium of approximately 70 dynamic partners are leading a 10-year research program that will focus on the global bioproducts market projected to be worth an astonishing $780 billion by 2035. With the world’s third-largest marine area, Australia is one country firmly focused on ocean-based research.

Key players in the marine bioproducts industry not only recognize the value of innovative research collaborations but the importance of superior and sustainable products. Quality certainly is—and will continue—driving the future of the marine ingredients market long into the future.

Amanda Mackinnon is the marketing and communications manager at Marinova Pty Ltd. (Cambridge, Australia), a global leader in fucoidan science.


  1. Fitton JH et al. “Therapies from fucoidan: New developments.Marine Drugs, vol. 17, no. 10 (October 2019): 571
  2. Marine Bioproducts Cooperative Research Centre website.
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