Latest News » The Re-Balancing Potential of Seaweed by Simon Range (Part 1)

Introduction

The nutritional value of food is in steep decline. An annual analysis of 72 foods between 1940 and 2002 shows an average loss of 19% magnesium, 29% calcium, 37% iron, and 62% copper.[1] Over a similar post-War period, saturated fat in beef and chicken has risen more than 400%, whilst essential omega-3 fats critical to nervous, immune, cardiovascular, respiratory, digestive and eliminatory systems, have declined in the same proportion.[2] For years, industry, agriculture and politicians have pursued the most expedient routes to growth, ignoring the whole health of soil, plants, animals and people. Although support for a more holistic approach, particularly in organic agriculture has grown, as a British Nutrition Foundation scientist recently observed: “The healthiness of a food alone seems to be an important determinant of food choice for only a small sector of the population. For this reason, implicit improvements in the nutrient profile of foods by the food industry are essential to have any substantial influence on public health”.[3] Seaweed responds to these concerns in numerous ways. It contains all the minerals and micronutrients missing from our soils in ideal natural proportions; it is eminently suitable for inclusion in soil, plants and animals; and as a human food ingredient, could rebalance the diet of millions of people worldwide. It is an organic, nutrientrich, low-energy food – exactly what is needed to compensate for declining levels of physical activity among most of the population. This was the logic I applied to develop a small, remote business harvesting wild seaweed in pristine Arctic waters, a decade ago. And more recently a small manufacturing facility in the Outer Hebrides. Today, Seagreens® is a leading seaweed brand, conducting original research with partners in medical practice, the food industry, academia and government. Together with these partners, I want to see marketplace health concerns including cardiovascular disease, obesity, diabetes, cancer and others, reflected in the new product agenda of mainstream food retailers and manufacturers – and, there is cause for optimism. The head of the newly branded Co-operative Food stores, Cathryn Higgs, told the food industry in March this year: “It’s not about yet another new range of the same kind of foods; (what is needed) is a fundamental change in the way we consider reformulations and new products”.[38]

 

In Search of Nutritional Balance

Imbalance of one kind or another has always seemed to me to be causative, whether in the aberrant health or behaviour of a person. When I became involved in harvesting wild seaweed just over a decade ago, after many years in the corporate world, my attention was drawn to the remarkable balance and breadth of its nutritional profile. Remarkable because, whereas land foods typically contain a narrow spectrum of nutrients – hence the need for a varied diet – with a low measure of micronutrients, these wild ‘wrack’ seaweeds provide all the micronutrients including all the minerals and trace elements, in a genuinely complete food, possibly in its most primordial form. In this and in many other ways, seaweed is the opposite of foods we obtain from the land. Where the best land foods are produced in the warmest climes, the best seaweed is found in the coldest; where land plants draw their nutrients from the soil; seaweed has no roots, and so on. Many people confuse seaweed with the blue-green fresh water microalgae like spirulina and chlorella, but these too have the more partial nutritional profile of land vegetables.

 

Practitioner Testimonial

“Different varieties of seaweed have been used as food for thousands of years in different cultures of the world. They provide concentrated amounts of very high quality nutrition. In an English culture we are not used to seaweed; we don’t know how to prepare it and where to get it. Seagreens® have allowed us to overcome this barrier. I am now prescribing Seagreens® to almost all my patients as a natural source of vitamins, minerals, amino acids and other nutrients. I see a lot of health improvements in my patients using Seagreens®: from improved energy and stamina to better memory and skin. It is the only supplement I have found so far that stops children biting their nails. Nail biting is a sign of nutritional deficiencies, until you remove the deficiency no matter what you do, the child will keep re-cycling nutrients by nail biting. Obviously Seagreens® provide the right combination of nutrients to remove that nutritional deficiency”

– Dr Natasha Campbell-McBride

MD MmedSci (Neurology),

MmedSci (Nutrition), Cambridge,

2006; author Gut & Psychology

Syndrome, 2004, and Put Your Heart In

Your Mouth, 2007.

 

From the copious research on our species of European wrack seaweed over many years, it is clear that these remain the most nutritious of all the ocean algae, though many more delectable varieties developed, like the exotic species found at almost every meal in traditional Japanese cuisine. From our own early studies we reckoned that a single gram per person per day (a quarter of a teaspoon) could make all the difference on a daily basis to the balance of a western diet, but only last year I discovered that the traditional Japanese daily intake in 1964 (the last statistical data) was four and a half times this amount, and they had the lowest incidence of cancers and cardiovascular diseases.[4]

The international research also made it clear that our seaweed might play an important, if not dominant, role in regulating the digestive and eliminative, immune, endocrine, and nutrient distribution systems, as well as providing the comprehensive daily nutritional balance the body needs to heal itself.[5] But our founding business idea was just “to get a gram of the best seaweed into the human diet on a daily basis”.[6]In pursuit of this alone, Seagreens® has had to pioneer human food quality seaweed in Europe, focussing especially on the harvesting and production quality, using only peak maturity living plants, harvested in rotation so they would replenish, then immediately warm air drying and granulating them to preserve their nutritional value. When we entered the market in 1998 there was, and still is, only deep-water kelp, a product of industrial scale harvesting, not for the quality of the seaweed, but to extract its alginates (carbohydrate) which are used in numerous industrial processes. We achieved Organic status in 1998, and later Demeter biodynamic approval. Today, thanks to government funded research, I believe we are the only seaweed Certified free of all the likely oceanborne contaminants, as well as toxic metals and microbial pathogens.[7]

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References

[1] Mineral and trace element changes in Britain 1940 to 2002 including fruit and vegetables, meat and meat products, cheeses and dairy products, research by D. E. Thomas, DC, MRNT (2007) based on McCance & Widdowson, The Composition of Foods, 6 Editions, pub. Royal Society of Chemistry and the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (MAFF).

[2] M. Crawford, Institute of Brain Chemistry and Human Nutrition, London Metropolitan University.

[3] R. Foster, Factors affecting improvements in the British diet, National Health Dietician magazine, Issue 29, p21, 2007.

[4] D. W. Miller, Jr, MD, High-dose iodine intake cuts breast cancer and hypothyroid-related illnesses, Caduceus, Issue 75, pp18-21, 2008 (Numerous additional research references are provided).

[5] Healthcare Summary for Practitioners, Seagreens® Information Service (available on request from info@seagreens.com or 0845-0640040).

[6] T. McLoughlin, Organic & Natural Business magazine, Vol 6, Issue 2, p21, 2008.

[7] The British Government funded Food Innovation project at Sheffield Hallam University, 2007-8

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