New research out of Denmark has affirmed the weight-loss potential of the dietary supplement sodium alginate, a seaweed-based fiber compound that has previously been shown to aid in the burning of excess fat. Scientists from the University of Copenhagen’s Department of Nutrition, Exercise and Sports found that, when taken daily before meals, sodium alginate may be effective at helping some overweight people shed the extra pounds and achieve their weight-loss goals.
Published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, the study found that, among the 96 generally healthy but obese people who participated in the trial, those who took sodium alginate every day before every meal for three months dropped an average of 15 pounds. In comparison, their non-supplementing counterparts lost an average of 11 pounds each.
The participants, aged 20 to 55, were separated into two groups for the study, according to the Chicago Tribune. The first group was assigned to receive sodium alginate in powder form mixed with liquid, which effectively turns it into a thick gel that the stomach processes as a large meal. The other group received a placebo powder with no sodium alginate, but that was otherwise identical in terms of flavor, appearance and calorie content.
Neither the participants nor the facilitators knew which solutions were given to which individuals, which means that the study was conducted using rigorous double-blind standards. All participants drank their assigned solutions dissolved in two cups of water half an hour before each meal, and they were also told to generally cut back on their overall calories during the three-month trial period.
At the conclusion of the study, some 16 participants, including 10 out of 48 from the seaweed group, had dropped out. But among those who remained, those in the seaweed group were found to have lost an average of 36 percent more weight than those in the placebo group, which suggests that sodium alginate may help curb appetite and even help burn calories.
“This gel is really like a pudding that will last in the stomach for hours, gradually degrading and disappearing,” Dr. Arne Astrup, a member of the advisory board to S-Biotek, a Danish company that helped fund the study, explained to the Chicago Tribune.
Sodium alginate may also be helpful in energy regulation
Earlier research, also out of the University of Copenhagen, arrived at similar conclusions with regard to the potential health benefits of sodium alginate. The seaweed compound, Astrup and his team discovered as part of a four-way, placebo-controlled, double-blind crossover trial, appears to help lower overall energy intake, increase feelings of “fullness” and altogether regulate food consumption patterns.
“Although they are somewhat contradictory, our results suggest that alginate consumption does affect satiety feelings and energy intake,” wrote the authors.
Similar to carrageenan, the controversial, seaweed-based food additive commonly used to thicken nut “milks,” ice cream and other processed foods, sodium alginate also comes with potential side effects. It is important to note that some people react negatively to these and other seaweed compounds, which for some people can cause bloating and other stomach pains.
“These results suggest that alginate supplementation as an adjunct to energy restriction may improve weight loss in obese subjects who complete a 12-week dietary intervention,” says Dr. Astrup.
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