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Fucoxanthin Scam Exposed!

The Truth About Brown Seaweed And The Fucoxanthin scam:
Thin Evidence For Big Weight Loss Claims

It started in september 2006 with a BBC news story and a headline that said, "seaweed anti-obesity tablet hope"

I started reading and didn't get even three words into the story when I saw the writing on the wall:

Rodent study!

Alas, we are not rats and rat research does not transfer to humans.

So then I went to the pub med data base and found two abstracts... didnt bother to read full text studies

This one came out in September 2007: (a rat study)

J Agric Food Chem. 2007 Sep 19;55(19):7701-6. Epub 2007 Aug 23. Dietary combination of fucoxanthin and fish oil attenuates the weight gain of white adipose tissue and decreases blood glucose in obese/diabetic KK-Ay mice.Maeda H, et al.Faculty of Fisheries Sciences, Hokkaido University, Japan.

Fucoxanthin is a marine carotenoid found in edible brown seaweeds. We previously reported that dietary fucoxanthin attenuates the weight gain of white adipose tissue (WAT) of diabetic/obese KK- A(y) mice. In this study, to evaluate the antiobesity and antidiabetic effects of fucoxanthin and fish oil, we investigated the effect on the WAT weight, blood glucose, and insulin levels of KK- A(y) mice. Furthermore, the expression level of uncoupling protein 1 (UCP1) and adipokine mRNA in WAT were measured. After 4 weeks of feeding, 0.2% fucoxanthin in the diet markedly attenuated the gain of WAT weight in KK- A(y) mice with increasing UCP1 expression compared with the control mice. The WAT weight of the mice fed 0.1% fucoxanthin and 6.9% fish oil was also significantly lower than that of the mice fed fucoxanthin alone. In addition, 0.2% fucoxanthin markedly decreased the blood glucose and plasma insulin concentrations in KK- A(y) mice. The mice fed with the combination diet of 0.1% fucoxanthin and fish oil also showed improvements similar to that of 0.2% fucoxanthin. Leptin and tumor necrosis factor (TNFalpha) mRNA expression in WAT were significantly down-regulated by 0.2% fucoxanthin. These results suggest that dietary fucoxanthin decreases the blood glucose and plasma insulin concentration of KK- A(y) along with down-regulating TNFalpha mRNA. In addition, the combination of fucoxanthin and fish oil is more effective for attenuating the weight gain of WAT than feeding with fucoxanthin alone.

Here's the original one from 2005 that was written up in the news media... you guessed it... mouse study

Biochem Biophys Res Commun. 2005 Jul 1;332(2):392-7. Fucoxanthin from edible seaweed, Undaria pinnatifida, shows antiobesity effect through UCP1 expression in white adipose tissues.Maeda H, Hosokawa M, et al. Laboratory of Biofunctional Material Chemistry, Division of Marine Bioscience, Hokkaido University, Japan.

Mitochondrial uncoupling protein 1 (UCP1) is usually expressed only in brown adipose tissue (BAT) and a key molecule for metabolic thermogenesis to avoid an excess of fat accumulation. However, there is little BAT in adult humans. Therefore, UCP1 expression in tissues other than BAT is expected to reduce abdominal fat. Here, we show reduction of abdominal white adipose tissue (WAT) weights in rats and mice by feeding lipids from edible seaweed, Undaria pinnatifida. Clear signals of UCP1 protein and mRNA were detected in WAT of mice fed the Undaria lipids, although there is little expression of UCP1 in WAT of mice fed control diet. The Undaria lipids mainly consisted of glycolipids and seaweed carotenoid, fucoxanthin. In the fucoxanthin-fed mice, WAT weight significantly decreased and UCP1 was clearly expressed in the WAT, while there was no difference in WAT weight and little expression of UCP1 in the glycolipids-fed mice. This result indicates that fucoxanthin upregulates the expression of UCP1 in WAT, which may contribute to reducing WAT weight.

That's it. All this internet hype based on two mouse studies that reference the "anti obesity" effect.

As a source of carotenoids and omega 3 (n-3) fatty acids, it's possible that fucoxanthin may provide some legitimate health benefits. If you look up my reviews on krill oil, you will see that there are some very powerful antioxidants in the krill, (which feeds on algae). If algae products may provide some valuable nutrients, it makes sense that seaweed could as well. So if you want to call this a "health food," go ahead - I won't complain. However...

I know there have been several nutrition "gurus" promoting this fuco stuff as a far burner for years. One advertisement on a very popular health site published as far back as 2006 said, "human study to be published in 2007." Well, 2007 came and went, and there still was no human study. That's not the way it works in real science. You make a claim after you have proof, not before!

Not a single human study (Abidov) was published in a peer reviewed journal until 2010. And while the results of the Abidov study certainly look good for fucoxanthin, the results of a single Russian study can hardly be taken as conclusive - see below for the update.

If fucoxanthin provides similar potential anti obesity effects as the EPA and DHA in fish oil does, keep in mind that those are very very small effects, and you might as well just take fish oil instead, as that has plenty of human research backing up its efficacy. See my Fish Oil Review

So far, there's very little proof (only one study) that fucoxanthin will do anything for you in the weight loss department. However, based on the two previously published studies, if you have an overweight hamster or guinea pig, it might help your furry pet slim down.

There is no miracle weight loss pill. It doesn't exist. If you're not satisfied with your results, it's NOT because you have a "diet pill deficiency."

If you'd like to learn how to burn fat naturally - without drugs or so-called fat burner pills, visit the Burn The Fat home page for a free presentation.

Train hard and expect success,

Tom Venuto, fat loss coach
author of Burn The Fat, Feed The Muscle

2010 Research Update

As a fitness and nutrition writer, author and publisher, I scour the scientific journals to stay abreast of the latest developments in the field and I receive alerts when new studies break.

A human study was finally published, which researched the effects of fucoxanthin on fat loss. Here's the citation:

The effects of Xanthigen™ in the weight management of obese premenopausal women with non-alcoholic fatty liver disease and normal liver fat, Abidov M, et al, Diabetes Obes Metab. Jan;12(1):72-81. 2010. Institute of Immunopathology, Russian Academy of Natural Sciences, Moscow, Russia.

The purpose of this study was "to investigate the effects of orally administerd fucoxanthin, Pomegranate seed oil (PSO) and their combination in obese, non-diabetic premenopausal women with non alcoholic fatty-liver disease.

Subjects were divided in groups including placebo, PSO, fucoxanthin or PSO/fucoxanthin combination. At the end of the 16 week study, the fucoxanthin/PSO group lost 6.9 kg, while the placebo group lost only 1.4 kg.

Researchers concluded that 300 mg of PSO + 300 mg of brown seaweed extract containing 2.4 mg fucoxanthin had "clinically relevant anti obesity properties in reducing body weight, body fat and liver fat content."

Supplement companies are now holding up this lone human study as "proof" that fucoxanthin is an effective fat burner.

However, even when a single study shows what seem like promising results, I always want to see it replicated by an independent (unbiased) research group before I would ever recommend it. It's astonishing to see how many supplement-company sponsored studies are never replicated by any other research group. Or, other research groups refute the findings of the first study after addressing flaws in the original study design.

More research is needed on the mechanism of action as well. While some people see these results as "incredible" I see these results as "in-credible" (not credible), as the magnitude of weight loss does not seem to match the mechanisms proposed.

Previous research identified possible mechanisms of action including effects on mitochondrial uncoupling protein 1 (UCP1), leading to increased energy expenditure, suppression of adipocyte differentiation and downregulation of peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor y (PPARy) responsible for adipogenic gene expression. However, all these previous studies were on rodents and the results may have been species-specific. This new human study did not examine the expression of UCP proteins.

Unlike rodents, humans only have small amounts of Brown adipose tissue (BAT) so how much the expression of UCP1 contributes to the regulation of energy balance in humans is a big question mark. Theoretically, if UCP can be activated in tissues other than BAT by food supplements, then there might be potential anti-obesity potential in humans.

Some independent researchers have been intrigued enough to suggest that more research is worthwhile. Until the confirming studies in humans are published, I would not recommend this product.

Related articles:

Fish Oil And Fat Loss

About Fitness Coach and Fat Loss Researcher Tom Venuto

Tom Venuto is the author of the #1 best seller, Burn the Fat, Feed the Muscle: Fat Burning Secrets of the World's Best Bodybuilders and Fitness Models. Tom is a lifetime natural bodybuilder and fat loss expert who achieved an astonishing ripped 3.7% body fat level without drugs or supplements. Discover how to increase your metabolism, burn stubborn body fat and find out which foods burn fat and which foods turn to fat by visiting the home page at: BurnTheFat.com

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