sargassum

New study shows promise that Sargassum sp. improves blood biochemistry profiles

Marine algae have anti-oxidant, anti-inflammatory, antidiabetic, and anti-cancer potential. Sargassum sp. is a type of brown algae that possess pharmacological properties, such as anti-oxidant, anti-inflammatory, anti-hypertensive, anti-bacterial, and anti-viral activities. These pharmacological properties are a result of the biological activity of metabolites such as alkaloids, steroids, terpenoids, saponins, polyphenols, phlorotannin, and fucoidan.

In a recent study, researchers used a rat model to assess treating in vivo stress (swimming model) with Sargassum by measuring levels of glucose, triacylglycerol, total cholesterol, and cortisol, and liver histopathology.

The results were very promising. Rats fed Sargassum (450 mg/kg) has similar results as when treated with diazepam (0.18 mg/kg). The Sargassum treatment improved blood glucose, triacylglycerol, total cholesterol, and cortisol levels and liver histology by decreasing the severity of inflammation.

This news couldn’t come at a better time. Sargassum is currently overrunning beaches due to ocean warming and eutrophication. Even better, this study simply used dry powdered Sargassum. There were no costly extraction methods, meaning anyone simply eating Sargassum could potentially benefit.

This work was published in the journal of Preventive Nutrition and Food Science.

What will Mexico do with all that sargassum?

Due to climate change and nutrification of coastal environments, algal blooms are becoming more frequent and exaggerated. Algal blooms are typically in reference to microalgae, however, there can be blooms of macroalgae as well. For example, right now over 100 million tons of Sargassum are headed to the Mexican shores. For many coastal industries, this is a big problem, harbors become blocked and resort beaches become deserted. That’s why President López Obrador is bringing out the big guns, the Mexican Navy. The help is coming after an outcry of resorts failing to keep the beaches clear. The Cancún-Puerto Morelos hotels association has estimated that cleaning the beaches of sargassum will cost at least 700 million pesos (US $36.7 million) this year.

It’s unclear what the Navy has planned for 100 million tons of seaweed, our guess is to throw it all in a landfill. One thing is clear, any entrepreneurs that figure out how to make that seaweed into a revenue stream will become extremely wealthy. Hotel chains are already willing to pay millions for someone to take it away. There is opportunity for production of, fertilizers, nutraceuticals, protein, or cosmetics.

Read an article about the Mexican navy involvement here