Originally published April 27, 2014 issue by the Alaska Dispatch.
(Read the full article on the Alaska Dispatch website.)
Dr. Mary Ann Lila, director of the Plants for Human Health Institute, and Josh Kellogg, a doctoral student in Lila’s lab, were featured in an Alaska Dispatch article on April 27, 2014. The article, “Research suggests Alaska seaweed may be potent weapon against diabetes, obesity,” highlights the scientists’ discovery of powerful health-promoting phytochemicals in seaweed collected along the Alaska coast. The findings suggest that seaweed may provide protection against conditions like obesity, diabetes and cardiovascular diseases.
Plants growing in the waters of Southeast Alaska have to be tough to withstand the strong tides, cold temperatures, relentless summer daylight and abundance of plant-nibbling species.
That toughness, it turns out, can also result in health benefits for the people who eat the plants, according to emerging research by scientists at North Carolina State University.
The scientists, at N.C. State’s Plants for Human Health Institute, have found extremely high levels of “bioactive phytochemicals” in edible plants gathered from waters and beaches in the Sitka area.
One study, published last year in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, evaluated the chemical compounds of six species of seaweed and one tidal plant. The tested species were four kinds of brown algae — bladderwrack, sugar wrack, kelp and winged kelp — one type of red algae commonly known as laver, one type of green algae commonly known as sea lettuce and a shore plant commonly known as goosetongue.
The results: All seven species contained compounds with potent antioxidant powers, though in varying forms and combinations. For people who eat them, the plants could offer protection against conditions — like obesity, diabetes and cardiovascular diseases — that are linked to oxidative-damaged cells.
The tested plants have antioxidant qualities far superior to commercially harvested vegetables and fruits, said Mary Ann Lila, director of N.C. State’s Plants for Human Health Institute. She is working with doctoral student Joshua Kellogg, the lead researcher on the seaweed project.
“There’s nothing in the grocery store that can really compare to the levels that we’re seeing in the Alaska seaweed,” Lila said.