Brown seaweed may help you burn away excess fat

That tasty miso soup you had for lunch may be more than delicious -- it could help you burn away excess fat.

That's the conclusion of preliminary research presented Monday at the American Chemical Society's annual meeting, in San Francisco.

Researchers led by Kazuo Miyashita, a chemistry professor at the Hokkaido University Graduate School of Fisheries Sciences in Japan, investigated the effects of brown seaweed, Undaria pinnatifida -- a type of kelp called wakame that is widely consumed in Japan.

They found that fucoxanthin, the brown pigment in the seaweed, promoted a 5 percent to 10 percent weight loss in mice and rats by shrinking abdominal fat. The compound appeared to stimulate a protein that causes fat oxidation and conversion of energy to heat. This protein is found in white adipose tissue -- belly fat -- and that means fucoxanthin might be particularly effective at shrinking oversized guts, the researchers hypothesized, informs Forbes.

According to Reuters, Miyashita and colleagues also found that fucoxanthin has "strong" anti-diabetes effects by promoting the synthesis of DHA in the liver. DHA is an important fatty acid found in fish oil supplements. Animals fed fucoxanthin plus soybean oil showed an increase in DHA levels in the liver, comparable to that seen with fish oil supplementation, they note.

Prior studies by Miyashita's group have shown that fucoxanthin also helps promote the death of human prostate cancer cells in culture.

This finding, coupled with the team's current findings, suggest that this multi-tasking compound holds promise as a preventive agent for a variety of diseases.