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Kelp is used primarily as a nutrient-rich food supplement.
The results of highly preliminary test tube and animal studies have suggested other potential uses for kelp. For example, there is some evidence that elements in kelp might help to prevent infection with several kinds of viruses, including influenza , 1 herpes simplex , 2 and HIV . 3 Similarly weak evidence hints that kelp possesses cancer preventive effects, 4 5 6 7 8 and may lower blood pressure . 9 However, far more research, including double-blind, placebo-controlled studies , would be necessary to know whether kelp is actually helpful for any of these health problems. (For information on why this type of study is essential, see Why Does This Database Depend on Double-Blind Studies? )
Additionally, kelp has been marketed as a weight-loss product , but there are no meaningful scientific studies to indicate that it is effective for this purpose.
Another common claim regarding kelp is that, because of its high iodine content, it can help all kinds of thyroid problems. This claim, however, is misleading and even dangerous. It is true that if you are deficient in iodine, kelp is probably good for you, but iodine deficiency is rare, and taking extra iodine when you don’t need it can causedysfunction of the thyroid (see Safety Issues ).
- Kathan RH. Kelp extracts as antiviral substances. Ann N Y Acad Sci. 130(1):390-7.
- Carlucci MJ, Ciancia M, Matulewicz MC, Cerezo AS, Damonte EB. Antiherpetic activity and mode of action of natural carrageenans of diverse structural types. Antiviral Res. 43(2):93-102.
- Lee JB, Hayashi K, Hayashi T, et al. Antiviral activities against HSV-1, HCMV, and HIV-1 of rhamnan sulfate from Monostroma latissimum. Planta Med. 1999;65:439-441.
- Chida K, Yamamoto I. Antitumor activity of a crude fucoidan fraction prepared from the roots of kelp ( Laminaria species). Kitasato Arch Exp Med. 1987;60:33-39.
- Maruyama H, Watanabe K, Yamamoto I. Effect of dietary kelp on lipid peroxidation and glutathione peroxidase activity in livers of rats given breast carcinogen DMBA. Nutr Cancer. 15(3-4):221-8.
- Teas J. The dietary intake of Laminaria , a brown seaweed, and breast cancer prevention. Nutr Cancer. 1983;4:217-222.
- Funahashi H, Imai T, Tanaka Y, Tsukamura K, Hayakawa Y, Kikumori T, Mase T, Itoh T, Nishikawa M, Hayashi H, Shibata A, Hibi Y, Takahashi M, Narita T. Wakame seaweed suppresses the proliferation of 7,12-dimethylbenz(a)-anthracene-induced mammary tumors in rats. Jpn J Cancer Res. 90(9):922-7.
- Shan BE, Yoshida Y, Kuroda E, et al. Immunomodulating activity of seaweed extract on human lymphocytes in vitro. Int J Immunopharmacol. 1999;21:59-70.
- Chiu KW, Fung AY. The cardiovascular effects of green beans ( Phaseolus aureus ), common rue ( Ruta graveolens ), and kelp ( Laminaria japonica ) in rats. Gen Pharmac. 1997;29:859-862.