Seaweed: a new potential way to treat food allergy

Seaweed Gracilaria

Seaweed is a common food for people lived in coastal cities, and it is quite popular in East Asia Southeast Asia, South Africa, South West England, Scotland, and Ireland.

Seaweed has many health benefits. Recently, scientists find that a type of seaweed (Gracilaria lemaneiformis, a group of red algae) can help counteract food allergy. The finding is published in Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry.

Researchers from Jimei University in China, U.S. Department of Agriculture, University of Nottingham in the UK worked together to conduct the study.

Red algae have been cultivated in Japan for more than 300 years. As a type of daily food, they are high in vitamins and protein and are easily grown.

In the study, researchers extracted a type of complex carbohydrate (Polysacchairdes) from the seaweed, and tested its anti-food allergic effects on mice. These mice were sensitive to a protein that is a major shellfish allergen.

They found that Polysacchairdes were able to reduce allergy symptoms and promote the function of regulatory cells. Compared with mice who were allergic but not fed with Polysacchairdes, allergic mice that received Polysacchairdes recovered faster.

Researchers suggest that Polysacchairdes from red algae may help treat food allergies in the future. This is a very important news because food allergies can cause symptoms and sometimes even threaten life.

In the USA, it is estimated that up to 12 million people have food allergies. The main food allergens include milk, shellfish, peanuts, eggs, wheat, rice, and soy.

Every year, food allergies cause about 30,000 emergency room visits and 100-200 death. In addition, food allergy affects about 5% of infants younger than 3 years old and 3% – 4% of adults.

In the near future, researchers need to test the anti-allergic effects of Polysacchairdes on different types of allergens. This will lead to a better understanding of food allergy treatment.

Citation: Liu QM, et al. (2016). Anti-Food Allergic Activity of Sulfated Polysaccharide fromGracilaria lemaneiformisis Dependent on Immunosuppression and Inhibition of p38 MAPK. Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, 64: 4536–4544. doi:10.1021/acs.jafc.6b01086.
Figure legend: This image is credited to James St. John.