Does Sea Moss Have Health Benefits?

July 13, 2018

Long hailed as a superfood, seaweed, sometimes referred to as Irish seaweed or Irish moss, has now entered the health vocabulary. Proponents claim that seaweed does everything from boosting the immune system and soothing digestion to strengthening joints and improving skin health. So, does seaweed really live up to the hype? Here are five things you should know about this trendy ingredient.

Seaweed isn’t new.
Seaweed is a type of algae that has been a part of the human diet for thousands of years. In addition to being historically consumed in places like the Caribbean and Ireland, seaweed has been used medicinally in other cultures for decades to treat everything from coughs and infections to low libido.

Its benefits haven’t been well studied.
There is a paucity of research on the effectiveness and safety of seaweed on a variety of health outcomes. These include a lack of understanding of potential side effects; interactions with drugs, herbs, or other supplements; appropriate dosing; and precautions based on a variety of medical conditions. Studies on the benefits of seaweed on diseases such as cancer and Alzheimer’s and how it affects immunity have been conducted in the laboratory or in animals, and they have not used standardized forms of seaweed. This leaves unanswered questions about the ideal use of seaweed for humans.

There’s a lot we don’t know.
While there is growing interest in algae as a functional food – there are many variables to consider beyond the nutritional content of this food. Algae may be rich in minerals and antioxidants, but the digestibility and bioavailability of the nutrients are not well understood. In other words, how much nutrients are absorbed from the digestive tract into the bloodstream, and how accessible and available are these nutrients to our cells? Other issues include changes in nutritional levels based on where and how the algae grows, as well as issues related to potential contamination with heavy metals or other environmental toxins.

You may be ingesting too much.
Seaweed is likely to be a rich source of iodine, (although, as mentioned above, levels may vary.) This essential mineral helps produce thyroid hormone. (Although, as mentioned above, levels may vary.) This essential mineral helps in the production of thyroid hormones. The goal with iodine is to consume just the right amount, because too little and too much can throw thyroid hormones out of whack. So yes, you can get too much of the good stuff, and more isn’t better. If you consume seaweed, be careful not to overdo it.

It may be a supplement rather than a food.
Seaweed is sold in many forms, including dried, ground, or in pills or drops. Seaweed products sold as dietary supplements are not regulated in the same way that prescription drugs are. They don’t have to be proven effective or safe before they can be marketed. And there is essentially no way to know if what is stated on the label is exactly what is in the product.

That’s not to say that supplements shouldn’t be used. I believe many supplements are beneficial, but it’s important to use caution and take supplements under the guidance of a doctor or nutritionist who can recommend the correct form, dosage, frequency, and duration of use, or identify any potential precautions to be aware of.

Bottom line It may be nice to occasionally add some seaweed (note: seaweed has natural thickening properties) to smoothies or plant puddings, which may provide some nutritional advantages. But don’t overuse it, don’t expect it to be a cure-all, and don’t blindly accept all claims of its benefits, especially from those who profit from its sale. Most importantly, seek the help of an independent expert before you incorporate any supplement into your daily or regular routine.