by Dr. Mark Edwards

The incidence of obesity in the U.S. has escalated from 13% to 34% over the last 30 years. Childhood obesity for children 6–11 increased from 7% in 1980 to 20% in 2008. By 2008, more than one third of children and adolescents were overweight or obese. A majority of obese children have risk factors for cardiovascular disease, such as high cholesterol or high blood pressure. Obese children are prone to diabetes and are at much higher risk than normal children for bone and joint problems, sleep apnea, and social and psychological problems such as stigmatization and poor self-esteem.

Obese children are likely to become obese as adults and are at much higher risk for heart disease, type 2 diabetes, stroke, respiratory problems, several types of cancer, and osteoarthritis. The annual cost of obesity in 2006 was estimated at 10% of medical spending, about $86 billion. A study released at the “Weight of the Nation” conference in Washington DC in April 2012 predicts 42% of Americans will be obese by 2030. Failing intervention, obesity-related medical costs are projected to rise $66 billion a year by 2030.

Fast foods, sugary drinks and lack of exercise are the primary drivers of childhood obesity. Empty calories from added sugars and solid fats contribute to 40% of daily calories for typical American children. Undernutrition from food insecurity disrupts eating patterns and increases the risk for low dietary quality. Undernutrition includes malnutrition from empty calories and negatively impacts overall health, cognitive development and school performance.

Algae compounds offer several therapeutic strategies to moderate obesity and the broad array of disease follow-ons that are associated with added body weight.

High nutralenceNutrient availability and density – ends empty calories and provides more essential micronutrients per bite.
Soluble fibersSubstantially more soluble fibers per bite, which slows the release of blood glucose after a meal.
SatietyFeeling of fullness quickly, which substantially diminishes the nosh drive.
Less fat and cholesterolHelps avoid obesity and the many associated diseases.
Bioavailable nutrientsImmediately bioavailable nutrients allow consumers to gain full nutrition with less food.
Algae polysaccharidesAlgae polysaccharides enhance digestion, which result in more absorbable nutrients from food.
Hypoglycemic effects and glucose uptakeAlgal compounds that moderate hypoglycemic effects and glucose uptake in the liver and muscles.

Therapeutic functions of Algae help avoid Obesity


Modern industrial foods suffer from hidden hunger where the produce or grain looks good but are deficient in essential nutrients. Consumers eat food high in empty calories – calories that are high in fat and cholesterol but low in nutrients. Algae-based foods offer significantly more total nutrients and higher nutrient density. For many foods, algae nutrients have higher bioavailability, which assures higher nutrient utilization by the body.

Quinoa, the grain-like seed grain from Bolivia has received considerable attention for its nutritional value. Quinoa is a plant in the goosefoot family (other members include spinach and chard). Twenty years ago, a NASA research report recommended Quinoa as a potential astronaut food for its superior nutrient density. The UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization claims quinoa as “the only plant food that contains all the essential amino acids, trace elements and vitamins and contains no gluten.” The FAO enthusiastically promotes quinoa and has declared 2013 the International Year of Quinoa and even runs a Facebook fan page for it. Algae foods also provide more of all the essential amino acids, trace elements and vitamins per ounce and contain no gluten.

Some growers use algae biofertilizers to increase the nutralence of field produce. Three years of field trails by the author have demonstrated that algae biofertilizers can increase the nutralence in produce by 300%. Produce benefiting from more micronutrients grows faster, and larger with superior color, taste, texture and aroma. In blind taste tests at Arizona State University, melons infused with algae biofertilizer were preferred 17:1 over melons grown with industrial fertilizer.

Soluble fibers

Doctors recommend a high fiber diet for weight loss because fiber assists in shedding pounds, helps lower cholesterol and reduces the risk of developing heart disease and diabetes. Consumers need to be cautious with fibers because some fibers can cause an upset stomach. Many protein and fiber bars and drinks that are marketed as health foods are loaded with artificial sweeteners to improve taste but they leave out essential vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. Instead of helping with weight loss, added sugars contribute to weight gain. These bars and drinks are often packed with synthetic fiber from artificial sources. Artificial fibers create indigestion and stomach pain for many people.

All natural fibers are not created equal. Soluble fiber dissolves in water and insoluble fiber does not. Soluble fiber, found in algae, oatmeal, lentils, fruits, nuts and many beans helps lower cholesterol. Foods containing soluble fiber benefit from available water. Consumers need to drink lots of water in order to reap the nutritional benefits. Soluble fiber also delays digestion, giving a feeling of fullness.

Insoluble fiber, found in whole grains, wheat bran, seeds, nuts, barley, and dark leafy vegetables, speeds up the digestion process and helps control irritable bowel syndrome symptoms. This kind of fiber is not absorbed by water and passes through your body quickly. Both soluble and insoluble fibers are useful for a healthy diet.

The plentiful soluble dietary fibers in algae help avoid obesity and diabetes. The total fiber content of several algae species, (6 g/100g), is more than double that of fruits and vegetables promoted for their fiber content:  prunes (2.4 g), cabbage (2.9 g), apples (2.0 g), and brown rice (3.8 g).

Macroalgae, seaweeds or sea vegetables are particularly rich in dietary fibers. Seaweeds evolved with strong fibers so they could withstand the pounding of the surf where they grow in the intertidal zone. Sea vegetables have a total dietary fiber content varying between 30 and 72% on a dry weight basis. The majority of algae fibers are water-soluble but some species have 15 to 50% insoluble fibers.

Algae fibers

Algae fibers

Processed foods do not yet contain algae fibers but several companies are experimenting with new high-fiber food products. Algae fibers such as alginates are used to make foods more attractive and edible. Algae offer an excellent source of fibers presenting chemical, physic-chemical and rheological diversities that are beneficial in nutrition. Rheological characteristics define the stability and appearance of foods, e.g., creaminess, juiciness, smoothness, brittleness, tenderness, and hardness. Algae components such as alginates are used to change rheological characteristics with emulsions, spreads and pastes.

Other research shows that viscous dietary fiber moderates insulin resistance syndrome and other coronary heart disease risk factors. The properties of alginate solutions and gels suggest a suite of biomedical and pharmaceutical uses. No alginate food or medical products are yet on the market but many foods and medical products contain alginates.

Algapreneurs have extraordinary business opportunities with algae-based foods and medicines.