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July 2013

Seaweed Studied for Possible Cholesterol-Lowering Benefits

Nutrients from Ecklonia cava seaweed may benefit people who have high cholesterol levels, a study suggests.

Seaweeds are brown or green algae that live on or near the sea floor. Ecklonia cava is a type of seaweed that has been studied for possible health benefits. It is found in some herbal formulas such as Seanol and Seapolynol™.

In the current study, the researchers evaluated the safety and effectiveness of Ecklonia cava polyphenol. They enrolled 46 people who had high cholesterol levels, characterized by a fasting concentration of greater than 240 milligrams per deciliter or a low-density lipoprotein (LDL) concentration of greater than 130 milligrams per deciliter. Some of the subjects had metabolic syndrome. The participants received 400 milligrams of Ecklonia cava polyphenol taken by mouth once daily for 12 weeks. The research team collected information on changes in hip circumference, total cholesterol and C-reactive protein, a measure of inflammation.

The results suggested that hip circumference, total cholesterol levels, and C-reactive protein significantly decreased over the course of treatment. Side effects were found to be lacking. Blood sugar control appeared to improve significantly in the participants who had metabolic syndrome following 12 weeks of Ecklonia cava supplementation, compared to those who did not have metabolic syndrome.

The authors concluded Ecklonia cava polyphenol may be effective and safe as a 12-week treatment for people who have high cholesterol levels. However, they emphasized that further research is needed in a larger population with a longer follow-up period before firm conclusions can be made.

High cholesterol affects about 20% of adults over the age of 20 in the United States. The highest prevalence occurs in women between the ages of 65 and 74. The World Health Organization (WHO) reports that high cholesterol contributes to 56% of cases of coronary heart disease worldwide and causes about 4.4 million deaths each year.

In addition to seaweed, many integrative therapies have been evaluated for possible benefit in reducing cholesterol. There is strong scientific evidence in support of numerous treatments for this purpose, including folate, garlic, niacin, omega-3 fatty acids and soy.

For more information about seaweed, please visit Natural Standard's Foods, Herbs & Supplements Database.


  1. Lee DH, Park MY, Shim BJ, et al. Effects of Ecklonia cava polyphenol in individuals with hypercholesterolemia: a pilot study. J Med Food. 2012 Nov;15(11):1038-44. doi: 10.1089/jmf.2011.1996. 
  2. Natural Standard: The Authority on Integrative Medicine. 

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