Gut & digestive health
There is rapidly growing interest in the potential for fucoidan extracts to support human gastric health. Published research has reported a range of potential beneficial effects of fucoidan extracts in models of digestive function, including the amelioration of debilitating conditions such as colitis and gastric ulcers. Some fucoidan extracts have been shown to have anti-pathogenic properties that may be beneficial for gastric function, and potentially offering support for liver and kidney health.
The stomach: Helicobacter pylori
Helicobacter pylori (H. pylori) is a pathogen than can cause stomach ulcers. With increasing resistance to existing therapies, new approaches are required to address H. pylori infections. Fucoidan extracts produced by Marinova from both Undaria pinnatifida and Fucus vesiculosus were shown to be highly effective inhibitors of H. pylori adhesion to human gastric epithelia in vitro (Chua, 2015). This result is consistent with clinical work that confirmed increased rates of healing for stomach ulcers following the ingestion of other fucoidan extracts (Juffrie, 2006). In addition, anti-inflammatory effects that were observed in a colitis model have also been observed in the stomach, where fucoidan extracts were shown to successfully alleviate aspirin-induced damage in an animal model (Lean, 2015; Choi, 2010).
The upper and lower intestine: Colitis
Marinova's high purity fucoidan delivered in animal feed was shown to be an effective inhibitor of colitis. In one animal model, clinical signs of inflammation, bowel histology and cytokine analysis all indicated a strong, significant inhibitory effect of the fucoidan extract on the development of colitis (Lean, 2015). Fucoidan extracts may also elicit favourable changes in the microbial environment of the gut. Recent research has shown that dietary consumption of a fucoidan extract in an animal model increased the proportions of beneficial bacteria, Lactobacillus and Ruminococcaceae, in the gut. It also reduced inflammation (Shang, 2016). A combination of direct anti-inflammatory action and favourable changes to the microbiome indicate a potential beneficial role for dietary fucoidan in inflammatory conditions of the gut.
There is a considerable body of scientific evidence reporting the potential protective effects of orally delivered fucoidan extracts on liver function. Studies have shown that fucoidans have potential to protect against damage in toxicity models of liver disease (CCL4, Con A) (Hayashi, 2008; Li, 2016), as well as in alcohol-induced (Lim, 2015) and non-alcohol-induced fibrosis (Kawano, 2007; Kim, 2014). Fucoidan extracts have also been found to be useful in the treatment of patients with chronic hepatitis C, HCV-related cirrhosis and hepatocellular carcinoma (Mori, 2012). In one study, it was shown that a fucoidan extract inhibited the expression of HCV on a dose-dependent basis. It was also shown that HCV RNA levels were significantly lower relative to the baseline after 8 months of treatment. This marked protective effect on liver function may provide further insight into the beneficial effects of fucoidans on other disease processes.
In addition to studies that have demonstrated inhibition of H. pylori adhesion, fucoidan extracts have been shown in animal models to clear Leishmania parasites (Kar, 2011) and potentiate the activity of oral antibiotics (Lee, 2013). In other animal models, orally delivered fucoidan extracts have been shown to protect against damaging endotoxins, which are produced by some infectious disease bacteria. Excess endotoxin production often results in life threatening disease. The protective activity induced by the fucoidan included reductions in inflammatory markers, excess coagulation and organ damage (Kuznetsova, 2014).