Fucoxanthin is a carotenoid extracted from wakame and hijiki, a kind of brown seaweed that has been used in Japanese cuisine for many centuries. Recently this seaweed started a new ‘career’ of a key ingredient of weight loss diet supplements, as it is claimed to be very effective in burning abdominal fat. Unfortunately, wakame and hijiki do not help to lose weight when traditionally served, since they do not have enough amount of the active substance. Nevertheless, there are many different products (capsules, softgels, patches and even green tea) on the market that contain fucoxanthin extract.
Structurally, fucoxanthin is similar to beta-carotene or vitamin A, but it does not function as a vitamin. While many other ‘fat burners’ cause weight loss by direct stimulation of nervous system, fucoxanthin’s metabolites are stored in fat cells for a long time and inhibit their proliferation and differentiation. In effect they significantly increase the rate at which adipose tissue (a.k.a. ‘belly fat’) is burned.
Furthermore, fucoxanthin corrects abnormalities in glucose metabolism in muscle tissue and diminishes the level of insulin, which is helpful in case of diabetes and might lead to cholesterol reduction. It is also claimed to decrease the level of fat stored in liver and reduce blood pressure. All these weight loss benefits of fucoxanthin are claimed to be strengthened by combining it with pomegranate seed oil, which also inhibits fat cells growth by reducing their blood supply.
The list of fucoxanthin’s putative benefits is closed by cancer protection, nevertheless it hasn’t been scientifically proved yet. The scepticism concerning this substance comes from the fact that, though very popular and easily accessible, it still has not been clinically tested on humans. So far, the only known research was done on animals.
Products containing fucoxanthin generally receive positive reviews. People claim that it really does help them lose weight and gives them a boost of energy, however they do not notice the jitteriness, insomnia or digestive discomfort characteristic for other weight loss supplements. It is relatively inexpensive too. Notwithstanding, you should be cautious when using fucoxanthin supplements. Given the lack of clinical trial, side effects of this product are unknown.
Any such supplement that is labeled as thermogenic should be avoided. Constipation, hot flashes or hyperthyroidism are the signs to stop the treatment. Attempts to eat the seaweed directly as a source of fucoxanthin are strongly discouraged as well, since to lose weight that way, one would have to eat so much seaweed that it would become harmful because of its other components (namely iodine).
Of course, as always, the fucoxanthin treatment should be considered as an addition to a healthy diet and systematic exercise.