Dietary supplements containing fucoidan from seaweed may amplify the immune response to seasonal influenza vaccinations in the elderly, a population known to have an inadequate immune response to ‘flu vaccines, says a new study from Japan.
Four weeks of supplementation with fucoidan, a polysaccharide derived from the widely used edible seaweed ‘wakame’ traditionally consumed in Japan, prior to a vaccine against three strains of flu produced higher antibody titers against all 3 strains, compared to the placebo, according to findings published in the Journal of Nutrition .
“Our study showed a possible adjunctive role of Mekabu fucoidan in antibody production in the elderly, although further studies on the underlying immunomodulatory mechanisms are needed,” wrote researchers from Aijinkai Healthcare Corporation and Mukogawa Women’s University in Japan.
“It is hoped that the popular seaweeds eaten daily in Japan, though almost unknown around the world as a nutritional source, will be consumed outside Japan for possible immunopotentiation and for attenuating the burden of infectious diseases in the elderly.”
Fucoidan – ‘a powerful, immune-priming agent’
The new research was applauded by Marinova, an Australian biotech company and leader in fucoidan science and extraction. Dr Helen Fitton, Chief Scientist at Marinova, told NutraIngredients-USA: “We’ve known about this area of fucoidan bioactivity for quite some time and these research findings reinforce the potential of fucoidan as a powerful, immune-priming agent.
“Elderly people do not generate protective immune responses well, so this boosting effect is clinically very useful,” she added.
Dr Fitton said that Marinova conducted an open-label, mixed dose, immune priming study in 2010 involving its Maritech fucoidan and the company continues to conduct research into the ability of its natural extracts to enhance human immune function (2011, Biologics , Vol. 5, pp. 45-60).
The company is also participating in the infectious (anti-viral) disease screening program being conducted by National Institutes of Health. “Participating in this program has confirmed that Maritech fucoidan extracts are very strong inhibitors of several strains of influenza including H1N1 and Influenza B,” she said.
“When combined with the immune priming seen in healthy normal subjects, this anti-viral activity establishes fucoidan as an effective natural defense against seasonal respiratory illnesses.”
Although Dr Fitton feels that more research is required in this area, she said that there is little doubt about the bioactivity and market potential of these sustainable seaweed extracts.
The Japanese study used Riken Mekabu Fucoidan by Riken Vitamin. Supplements were composed of 300 mg per day of fucoidan and 300 mg/d of indigestible dextrin (Fibersol-2), while the placebo was 600 mg/d of the indigestible dextrin.
Seventy people over the age of 60 were recruited for the randomized, placebo-controlled, double-blind study. Participants were given either the fucoidan supplement or placebo for four weeks prior to the flu vaccine, and then followed for another 20 weeks.
In addition to the produced higher antibody titers against all three strains, results showed that participants in the fucoidan group tended to have higher natural killer cell activity from the start of the study until 9 weeks after fucoidan, but this result did not reach statistical significance.
“In the immune-compromised elderly, [fucoidan] intake increased antibody production after vaccination, possibly preventing influenza epidemics,” concluded the Japanese researchers.
Source: Journal of Nutrition
Published online ahead of print, doi:10.3945/jn.113.179036
“Supplementation of Elderly Japanese Men and Women with Fucoidan from Seaweed Increases Immune Responses to Seasonal Influenza Vaccination”
Authors: H. Negishi, M. Mori, H. Mori, Y. Yamori