Bladderwrack: Does it Really Aid Weight Loss?
Diet products promise near-effortless weight loss and are readily available from pharmacists and supermarkets. These days we often hear of bladderwrack supplements for weight loss. But is there any real evidence for these claims? Is there any point in taking them?
What is bladderwrack?
Bladderwrack (Fucus vesiculosus) is a brown seaweed or algae. As a dietary supplement, bladderwrack is often used to stimulate metabolic rate and promote fat and weight loss. Like many seaweeds, bladderwrack has a relatively high concentration of iodine.
What are the possible benefits of bladderwrack?
Varying claims have arisen about the possible benefits of taking supplements containing bladderwrack.
The most popular media and marketing claims are:
- Increases levels of thyroid hormones
- Promotes weight loss and “fat burning”
- Increases energy levels
- Improves skin tone and health
What is the alleged mechanism of action?
The primary theory explaining how a brown seaweed can help increase energy levels and stimulate weight loss is that bladderwrack contains a relatively high concentration of iodine. One of the key functions of iodine is in the thyroid gland, which requires it to produce adequate levels of thyroid hormones. Low levels of thyroid hormones are associated with reduced energy levels and weight gain. Therefore, maintaining optimal levels is a key factor in promoting stamina and healthy body weight. In some cases, people battling for years to control their weight have eventually come to find their thyroid levels are low. With the help of their doctors, they find a solution. Thus, there are sound theoretical reasons for including such supplements in the diet.
Research & Scientific Support (What’s the evidence?)
Although the underlying theory for using bladderwrack as a dietary supplement for increased energy and weight loss appear to be logical, there is not even one clinical study to support these speculations.
However, some preclinical work with bladderwrack has confirmed the following activities: antioxidant, reduction of platelet aggregation, reduction in blood glucose, and inhibition of enzyme activity associated with HIV. One clinical study exists with bladderwrack acting as an antioxidant in a “body-contouring” product and producing favorable results (Reilly and Reeve, 2000).
There are no accepted dosage recommendations for bladderwrack. It’s very rare to find bladderwrack as a stand-alone supplement. It is typically present only as a part of various herbal blends targeted to weight loss, cellulite reduction, increased energy, or thyroid support. You should presumably start with a small dosage and increase until you find your proper dose.
You should avoid taking bladderwrack in high doses or for prolonged periods of time because of the high iodine content and the risk of iodine overdose, causing thyroid imbalance. Depending on the source waters that bladderwrack is harvested from, there is concern for the risk of heavy metal contamination.
Closing thoughts: Is this supplement worth the expense?
Ultimately, the key to weight loss is to burn more calories than you take in. This is best achieved through a combination of diet and exercise. Nonetheless, people take supplements in the hopes of boosting their weight loss. Bladderwrack is one such herbal supplement, although research does not support its supposed weight loss effects. Its primary value is probably as a crude source of iodine (but an expensive one at that). Don’t waste your $$$ on bladderwrack supplements.
Don’t waste your $$$ on bladderwrack supplements!
crude source of iodine7
weight loss and "fat burning" effect2
increasing energy levels2