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Ecklonia Cava Research

July 11, 2011 Written by JP       [Font too small?]

What do natural health aficionados and oceanographers have in common? Well, for one thing, they’re part of a small minority of people who are familiar with an edible brown algae known as Ecklonia cava. In alternative and integrative medical circles, a “unique polyphenol complex” derived from E. cava is marketed under the name of Fibroboost or Seanol. The manufacturer and resellers of the product claim that it possesses both fat and water soluble antioxidants which are capable of addressing and improving a wide array of conditions and diseases. But are the implied claims made in the product literature and on various websites accurate and responsible?

According to JP Renew Distributors, LLC, the developers of Seanol, their product is the culmination of “more than 15 years and $35MM of focused developmental research and funding”. Among the many studies they cite in their Seanol Science document are unpublished data demonstrating benefits ranging from relief of fibromyalgia symptoms to an improvement in erectile dysfunction. However, due to a lack of peer reviewed scientific scrutiny, some alt-med experts such as Dr. Andrew Weil don’t place much importance on these preliminary reports. To quote Dr. Weil, “Brown algae is just the latest in a long list of products based on clever marketing without any real science. Be skeptical of claims that you can achieve good health by taking any supplement said to deliver improbably wide ranging results. Most of the time, the only change you’ll observe is a lightening of your wallet.” (1)

It would be inaccurate to imply that Ecklonia cava is unrepresented in the medical literature. There are currently 50 studies published about this particular algae and/or components of it in peer reviewed journals. In fact, there’s enough data available that a summary article was published in the November-December 2010 issue of the journal Biofactors. In it, scientists from Pukyong National University in Korea describe that E. cava is a rich source of “bioactive derivatives” known as phlorotannins which have exhibited “various beneficial activities” including anticancer, antidiabetic and antihypertensive effects. What’s more, additional areas of scientific interest include a proposed therapeutic impact of phlorotannins in Alzheimer’s disease, bacterial infections, communicable diseases (influenza) and even protection against sun damage. The trouble with the majority of the research included in the review and elsewhere is that it’s based almost entirely on in vitro and in vivo studies conducted in animal models. Such data cannot be reliably extrapolated to human populations without adequate corroboration. (2,3,4,5,6)

Ecklonia Cava Contains A Unique Class of Antioxidants Known As Phlorotannins

Source: Nutr Res Pract. 2011 Apr;5(2):93-100. (link)

To date, there are only two peer reviewed human studies on Ecklonia cava. The latest appears in the June 30th, 2011 edition of the journal Phytotherapy Research. The 12 week, double-blind, randomized trial involved 97 overweight men and women with an average age of 40. The test subjects were split into three groups and were given: 1) a placebo; 2) a low dose (72 mg/day) of Ecklonia cava polyphenols (ECP); 3) a high dose (144 mg/day) of ECP. A pre and post-trial comparison revealed that both the high and low dose ECP groups “showed significant decreases in BMI (body mass index), body fat ratio, waist circumference, waist/hip ratio, total cholesterol, low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol, total cholesterol/high-density (HDL) cholesterol and atherogenic index” as compared to those receiving the placebo. However, only the high dose ECP group demonstrated a decline in blood glucose and systolic blood pressure and a significant elevation in HDL (“good”) cholesterol. No adverse reactions were noted in any of the groups. The second study published in February 2010 determined that adding ECPs to a sports drink improved “endurance performance” and marginally reduced post exercise blood lactate levels in a group of 20 college aged swimmers. (7,8)

Ecklonia cava presents an interesting case study for evaluating the current environment in the natural health marketplace. How is a critical, yet open minded, health care consumer supposed to decide whether ECP is worth trying? One the one hand, you have a company that claims to have spent many years and millions of dollars to establish the efficacy and safety of their product. Also on the plus side of the equation, you’ll find many positive anecdotal accounts posted by customers who are apparently using products containing ECP with success. I performed a cursory review of two of the most popular online stores and found that, on average, these products received impressive customer ratings – 4 to 4.5 stars out a possible 5 stars. There are even some well regarded integrative physicians, such as Dr. Stephen Sinatra, who endorse and sell it. On the flip side of the coin, you’ll find critical assessments of E. cava by more conservative members of the natural health community including Dr. Andrew Weil and Dr. Ray Sahelian. In addition, if you’re anything like me, there’s always that nagging suspicion that anything that seems too good to be true, must be so. Unfortunately, there’s no simple way to cut through all of the murk and provide a definitive answer. My best advice is to review the available evidence and then if you decide to try Ecklonia cava, make sure to monitor your reaction carefully. By this, I mean keeping track of changes in symptoms and following up with basic blood tests (chemistry panel and complete blood count) to determine its relative safety for you as an individual.

Note: Please check out the “Comments & Updates” section of this blog – at the bottom of the page. You can find the latest research about this topic there!

Be well!

JP

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4 Comments & Updates to “Ecklonia Cava Research”

  1. Aida Says:

    Hi,

    We eat sea weeds and can Ecklonia Cava be eaten raw.

    Cheers,
    Aida

  2. JP Says:

    Hi Aida,

    I’m not sure. I looked into the matter, but didn’t find any specific information about it. However, I did find this interesting paper on various seaweeds and their use as human food:

    http://www.fao.org/docrep/006/y4765e/y4765e0b.htm

    “Hizikia is a very dark colour and contains higher than usual amounts of a pigment, phlorotannin, that gives it an astringent, bitter taste. Further processing involves boiling in water for 4-5 hours with another brown seaweed added, Eisenia bicyclis or Ecklonia cava. Boiling removes some of the pigment from Hizikia and it has been found that the addition of Eisenia or Ecklonia provides it with replacement colour. After boiling, the seaweed is steamed for 4-5 hours to remove the phlorotannins. Then it is cut into short pieces and sun-dried. The product is called hoshi hiziki. It is sold packaged in dried, black, brittle pieces that are soaked for 10-15 minutes before use. Typically it is cooked in stir fries, with fried bean curd and vegetables such as carrot, or it may be simmered with other vegetables.”

  3. JP Says:

    Update 05/19/15:

    http://pubs.rsc.org/en/Content/ArticleLanding/2015/FO/C4FO00940A#!divAbstract

    Food Funct. 2015 Mar 11;6(3):853-8.

    Efficacy and safety of a dieckol-rich extract (AG-dieckol) of brown algae, Ecklonia cava, in pre-diabetic individuals: a double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled clinical trial.

    The effects of 12 weeks of supplementation with a dieckol-rich extract (AG-dieckol) from brown algae, Ecklonia cava, on glycemic parameters, serum biochemistry, and hematology were investigated in this study. Eighty pre-diabetic male and female adults were enrolled in a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial with parallel-group design. Subjects were randomly allocated into two groups designated as placebo and AG-dieckol (1500 mg per day). Compared with the placebo group, the AG-dieckol group showed a significant decrease in postprandial glucose levels after 12 weeks. The AG-dieckol group also showed a significant decrease in insulin and C-peptide levels after 12 weeks, but there was no significant difference between the AG-dieckol and placebo groups. There were no significant adverse events related to the consumption of AG-dieckol, and biochemical and hematological parameters were maintained within the normal range during the intervention period. In conclusion, these results demonstrate that AG-dieckol supplementation significantly contributes to lowering postprandial hyperglycemia and in reducing insulin resistance. Furthermore, we believe that based on these results the consumption of phlorotannin-rich foods such as marine algae may be useful for the treatment of diabetes.

    Be well!

    JP

  4. JP Says:

    Update 05/19/15:

    http://online.liebertpub.com/doi/abs/10.1089/jmf.2011.1996

    J Med Food. 2012 Nov;15(11):1038-44.

    Effects of Ecklonia cava polyphenol in individuals with hypercholesterolemia: a pilot study.

    We evaluated the efficacy and safety of Ecklonia cava polyphenol (Seapolynol™, a polyphenol antioxidant and anti-inflammatory agent purified from E. cava) during a 12-week treatment period (400 mg orally once daily) in individuals with hypercholesterolemia and performed subgroup analysis for metabolic syndrome (MetS). As a noncomparative study, forty-six individuals (M:F=22:24, mean age=54±11 years) with fasting total cholesterol concentration >240 mg/dL or low-density lipoprotein cholesterol (LDL-C) concentration >130 mg/dL were enrolled. Hip circumference (100±7 cm vs. 98±7 cm, P<.01), total cholesterol (244±25 mg/dL vs. 225±37 mg/dL, P<.01), LDL-C (161±24 mg/dL vs. 146±34 mg/dL, P<.01), and C-reactive protein (2.51±3.55 mg/L vs. 1.37±1.32 mg/L, P<.05) were significantly decreased without significant adverse effect. A differential assessment according to the presence [MetS(+) group, n=18] and absence [MetS(-) group, n=28] of MetS showed that Hb(A1c) decreased significantly following 12-week Seapolynol treatment in the MetS(+) compared with the MetS(-) group (-0.3%±0.5% vs. 0.1%±0.3%, P<.01). In conclusion, although our results showed that Seapolynol treatment is effective and safe without significant adverse events or abnormal laboratory findings during a 12-week period in individuals with hypercholesterolemia, more research in a larger population with a longer-term follow-up period in a randomized placebo-controlled study is needed to confirm the results.

    Be well!

    JP

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