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Sea kelp are large brown seaweeds that are popularly used as food in some cultures, such as in Japan, Alaska and Hawaii. Their extracts are also popularly used as dietary supplements to promote health, prevent infection, cancer, and heart disease, and enhance weight loss.

As sea vegetables, kelp contains a lot of vitamins (notably folate, a B vitamin) and minerals (especially iodine). The plant is used in food preparations including salads and soups, and are available in groceries that sell Asian food products. Kelp extracts are also incorporated into some multivitamin preparations. They may also come in powdered form, dried sea weeds or as tablets.

Can Sea Kelp Help You Lose Weight?

Some research suggests that sea kelp may help promote weight loss. A recent study involving overweight but healthy males found that eating bread enriched with sea kelp can increase satiety and reduce energy intake in subsequent meals compared to eating wholemeal bread. Although the study was done on a short term basis only, the authors believe that regular intake of kelp-enriched bread can result in a habitual energy reduction of about 500 calories per day, which on a long-term basis, could help reduce weight and prevent diabetes and other conditions related to overweight and obesity.

Another study involving laboratory mice suggests that sea kelp extract called fucoxanthin, which gives the leaves a brown color, can help reduce abdominal fat and promote a five to ten percent weight loss. The study also showed that fucoxanthin can stimulate the liver to produce a compound similar to omega-3-fatty acids, which can reduce 'bad' cholesterol levels. This was supported by another study also involving rats fed with a high-fat diet, which were shown to reduce weight and body fat after daily intake of brown sea kelp extract.

Further research suggests that commercially sold sea kelp capsules can help increase insulin sensitivity in response to a carbohydrate meal. This may have significant effect in metabolism, since a low insulin sensitivity, which is characteristic of obesity and diabetes, can increase blood sugar levels.

The results of these studies are encouraging but preliminary. More research has to be done to prove these benefits on large populations.

Furthermore, the long term effects of taking sea kelp regularly as a weight loss supplement have not been studied.

Recommendations

Health experts believe that one would have to take lots of sea kelp to enjoy its full benefits including weight loss. Eating sea vegetables regularly may increase one's risk for ingesting toxic heavy metals in the sea, such as arsenic. They also warn that kelp contains significant amounts of iodine, which can cause some side effects such as nausea, stomach ache, headache, diarrhea and metallic taste. People who are sensitive to kelp may also experience face swelling, bleeding, bruising, fever, joint pains, and lymph node enlargement. Toxic doses may lead to thyroid problems such as hyperthyroidism, or overactive thyroid gland.

It is therefore best to consult a doctor before taking sea kelp regularly as a weight loss supplement.

The best way to use sea kelp is to eat it as part of a health, balanced diet. You can enjoy its rich flavor in Asian dishes, which may incorporate fresh, dried or powdered kelp. Weight loss is also best achieved by eating a low calorie, nutritionally dense diet, combined with regular physical activity.

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