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Fucoxanthin is a carotenoid found in most types of brown seaweed which has been found to have some very interesting effects in laboratory and clinical studies.  Of primary interest to women with PCOS are its abilities to reduce body weight and fat mass, improve insulin sensitivity and significantly reduce the amount of fatty disease in the liver.  Women with PCOS are at a significantly greater risk than the general population for obesity, insulin resistance leading to diabetes and non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD).

Fucoxanthin is stored in the fatty tissues of the body, where it induces fat loss by speeding up the metabolism and restricting the growth of new fat tissue.  It does this through two mechanisms: inhibiting cell differentiation and proliferation and by making white fat act more like brown fat through increasing the activity of Uncoupling Protein 1 (UCP1), which uncouples a step in mitochondrial respiration thus indirectly increasing the metabolic rate.  Brown fat is more metabolically active than white fat, but as humans age the amount of brown fat decreases.  Brown fat is most abundant in newborn infants, where it serves to keep the infant warm by thermogenesis.  As humans grow older and develop the ability to keep themselves warm through movement and artificially through clothing, the levels of brown fat significantly reduce.  The activity of UCP1 is one of the key factors which differentiate white fat from brown fat.

Fucoxanthin has a molecular structure quite similar to vitamin A and its precursor, beta-carotene as well as bearing some similarities to the potent antioxidant astaxanthin which is derived from krill oil.  It is classed as a xanthophyll, but does not have vitamin-like activity in the human body.

As fucoxanthin is a fat-soluble nutrient, it is absorbed better when taken with other fatty acids, such as with a meal containing fats.  In studies of rats, medium-chain triglycerides (MCTs) were shown to improve absorption.  Coconut, olive, macadamia and avocado are all excellent sources of MCTs.

Positive results have been shown in studies using between 2.4 mg and 8 mg of fucoxanthin per day.  Fucoxanthin takes up to 4 months to accumulate sufficiently in the fat cells and begin working.  Once this has been achieved, however, study participants were found to:

  • Reduce the amount of fat in the liver by around 11%


More Information:

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Yim MJ, et alSuppressive effects of Amarouciaxanthin A on 3T3-L1 adipocyte differentiation through down-regulation of PPAR? and C/EBP? mRNA expressionJ Agric Food Chem. (2011)

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Suppressive Effects of Amarouciaxanthin A on 3T3-L1 Adipocyte Differentiation through Down-regulation of PPAR? and C/EBP? mRNA Expression


Cytoprotective effect of fucoxanthin isolated from brown algae Sargassum siliquastrum against H2O2-induced cell damage

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