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Seaweed could make junk food healthier

Junk food could be made healthier by adding an extract of an exotic type of seaweed, say British scientists.

The highly-fibrous seaweed extract, alginate, could be used to increase the fibre content of cakes, burgers and other types of food which usually contain large amounts of fat and a low degree of healthy nutrients, say the team.

Scientists at the University of Newcastle upon Tyne publish their findings in the academic journal Critical Reviews in Food Science and Nutrition, in a paper detailing alginate's many benefits to the body. They believe it will be a valuable weapon in the international battle against obesity, diabetes and heart disease and diseases such as bowel cancer.

The research paper examines the properties of a brown-coloured seaweed called Lessonia and Laminaria, found in the Far East, South America and parts of Norway and Scotland. The seaweed is processed in the laboratory to produce the extract, alginate, a carbohydrate compound which is a tasteless and odourless off-white coloured powder.

The paper shows that alginate has been proved to strengthen mucus, the body's natural protection of the gut wall, can slow digestion down, and can slow the uptake of nutrients in the body.

Moreover, alginate is high in fibre and has been proved to be palatable and safe, and as such is already in widespread use by the food industry as a gelling agent, to reconstitute powdered foods, and to thicken the frothy head of premium lagers.

Studies have shown that eating high-fibre diets can help reduce the incidence of diseases such as bowel cancer. Good sources of fibre are fruit and vegetables, brown bread and cereals like bran flakes.

One of the research team, Professor Jeff Pearson, of Newcastle University's Institute for Cell and Molecular Biosciences, said: "We're just not eating enough fibre, yet we need this to keep us healthy. The problem is that a lot of people don't enjoy many of the foods that ar
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Source:University of Newcastle upon Tyne


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