The Power Of Fucoidan In Gut Health, Immunity And Cancer

Monday, November 19th, 2018

For hundreds of years, brown seaweeds have been utilised and consumed for their significant therapeutic value. Many benefits of brown seaweed have been attributed to fucoidan, a bioactive polysaccharide naturally found in the cell walls of seaweed. Fucoidan has a protective role in nature and defends seaweed from damage caused by marine pathogens and UV light. When consumed, research has confirmed the protective effects that fucoidan can also offer in human health.

Fucoidan has long been prized in Asian cultures as a complementary medicine ingredient. Now, interest is also significantly growing in western cultures as research continues to reveal the diverse bioactivities of fucoidan. Australian biotechnology company and producer of fucoidan, Marinova, leads the research in the key areas of gut health, immunity and integrative oncology.

The latest research shows that fucoidan can inhibit the adhesion of pathogenic bacteria, Helicobacter pylori and E. coli, to human cells. In an in vitro study (Chua 2015), fucoidan reduced adhesion of Helicobacter pylori by up to 55 percent and dislodged the bacteria from human gastric epithelial cells. Helicobacter pylori is the primary cause of chronic stomach inflammation, peptic ulcers and gastric cancers. In the same way, fucoidan inhibited the adhesion of E. coli bacteria to human epithelial cells by up to 72 percent in a study by Marinova. Pathogenic strains of E. coli can cause intestinal infection, diarrhoea, abdominal pain and fever.

In addition to this, the anti-inflammatory properties of fucoidan can be harnessed to benefit gut health. In research conducted by Marinova, fucoidan was shown to significantly inhibit key inflammatory enzymes expressed in the gastrointestinal tract, including COX-1, COX-2 and LOX-15. This has been substantiated by new research showing that fucoidan can inhibit the production of key pro-inflammatory biomarkers that cause acute and chronic gut conditions. When tested in ex-vivo human blood and compared to controls, results showed that fucoidan inhibited the release of three inflammatory mediators; TNF-α, IL-1β and IL-6.

MarinovaTNF-α and IL-1β are drivers of major inflammatory processes. Prolonged and raised levels are linked to inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), which affects 10 million people worldwide and includes Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis. Blocking these chemical messengers can result in a rapid and sustained reduction in disease severity. Fucoidan was found to reduce TNF-α levels by more than 70 percent and IL-1β by more than 54 percent.

The pro-inflammatory cytokine IL-6 also plays a central role in uncontrolled intestinal inflammation. It can alter the balance between pro-inflammatory and immunosuppressive immune cells, and has been associated with IBD and colon cancer. In the study, fucoidan inhibited the production of IL-6 by more than 43 percent. To consolidate this comprehensive suite of research in gut and digestive health, Marinova is now commencing a human clinical trial targeting the gut microbiome.

In addition to gut health, fucoidan has been comprehensively studied and used in complementary cancer. Research undertaken by Marinova at the prestigious McGovern Medical School at the University of Texas, has confirmed that fucoidan has significant cancer-inhibiting properties. Conducted in mice, the studies showed that fucoidan reduced tumour growth in select cancers and significantly improved the effectiveness of the common chemotherapy drug tamoxifen (Burney 2017).

In this study, ingestion of the fucoidan extracts decreased the growth of a human ovarian cancer tumour line by up to 33 percent and a human cervical cancer tumour line by up to 70 percent. Fucoidan also considerably improved the efficacy of tamoxifen towards breast cancer. Fucoidan decreased breast cancer tumour growth in this animal model by up to an additional 26 percent when taken alongside tamoxifen.

These findings build on results from a series of in vitro studies performed under the same research program (Matthew 2016). These studies showed that the two fucoidan extracts did not interfere with key metabolic pathways necessary for chemotherapy function and directly inhibited a number of human cancer cell lines. Strong synergistic activity between fucoidan and both paclitaxel and tamoxifen was also observed, as well as additive activity with topotecan.

These discoveries showed the potential for fucoidan to be safely used as a complementary cancer therapy alongside traditional chemotherapy.

Adding to these findings, the fucoidan extracts enhanced the immune function of cancer-affected mice. Immune markers IgG and IL-6 were both significantly modulated in fucoidan-fed mice, with a 500 percent increase in IgG antibody levels relative to controls after 1 week.

Additional research investigating the immune modulating properties of fucoidan shows a range of beneficial effects including boosting an immune response and mobilising stem cells.  In a series of clinical studies by Marinova, fucoidan was found to increase the levels of key immune cells, cytotoxic T cells and Natural Killer cells, after 3 days. Over the 4-week study period, fucoidan led to a continual increase in phagocytic activity of monocytes and granulocytes (Myers 2011). This immune-priming activity may be useful as a preventative for infections such as seasonal colds and flu.

In an added study, the ingestion of fucoidan was shown to increase the number and release of CD34+ haemopoeitic stem cells after 3 days (Irimeh 2007). Fucoidan also demonstrated a marked increase in chemokine receptors, SDF-1 and CXCR4, on stem cells which may increase their availability to tissues.

With powerful anti-inflammatory, anti-cancer and anti-viral properties, fucoidan shows great promise in nutraceutical applications targeting gut health, immunity and integrative oncology. Marinova continues to research fucoidan in these key areas to uncover the full benefits it has to offer in human health.


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