While fucoidans were relatively new entrants to the US market, there was a “small but growing” body of science about their benefits, covering everything from anti-viral and anti-inflammatory effects to stem cell modulation, Marinova told NutraIngredients-USA.com.
Marinova had also been “inundated with requests from Japan [where fucoidan is well-established] as they are concerned about their own seaweed supply due to possible radioactive contamination”, revealed business development manager Kevin Krail.
“Marinova is really the only western company that is in this space and we have unique IP to extract fuucoidan to high concentrations. This is in addition to being clean and green and organic, sourcing from the pristine waters off of Tasmania, Canada and Patagonia. Our competition is mainly from Japan, Okinawa and China, with the Chinese supply having the typical quality, purity and low cost issues.”
He added: “The Japanese scientific literature also contains several reports on both fucoidan and Undaria pinnatifida [Wakame seaweed] having health benefits related to the prevention of radioactive poisoning.”
Fucoidan vs glucosamine/chondroitin?
There had been several recent launches in the US supplements market featuring fucoidan, said Krail, citing the LifeExtension Optimized Fucoidan product containing Marinova’s Maritech 926 extract (pictured): “It will take years for the good science to get out there about fucoidan but we’re already starting to see a domino effect of interest in this category of ingredients."
Marinova had three new clinical studies in the works, but was also finding more research was being conducted by others from Asian and western scientific institutions, added Krail.
“The key areas of investigation are for anti-inflammation and joint health, anti-viral activity and cancer research. There is also a lot of interest in stem cell modulation, although research in this area is at the very early stages.”
He added: “Joint health is probably one of the biggest opportunities for us as fucoidan offers an alternative to glucosamine/chondroitin. We’ve got a small clinical study [recently submitted for publication] suggesting that fucoidan can provide relief more quickly than glucosamine/chondroitin, and there is also another study in the works.”
Meanwhile, Shanghai-based Cactus Botanics, which is also targeting the US with a new range of fucoidan extracts, said it had had several expressions of interest from US firms in the supplements arena interested in healthy ageing and immune health along with manufacturers interested in developing functional foods and drinks.
All of its extracts were rigorously screened for contaminants and grown in an area free from pollutants, added general manager Carol Cheow.
"Our fucoidan 85% is typically used in gels and supplements, but we have also had some pharmaceutical manufacturers show interest and we are updating our facility to a GMP-certified one. Some customers use our fucoidan in beverages as well."
Healthy cellular growth
Fucoidan was a series of sulfated polysaccharides (complex carbohydrates) with different forms, said Cheow. "Our fucoidan is extracted from Laminaria japonica, which contains highest purity U-fucoidan. The combined action between sulfate and polysaccharides enhances its anti-atherosclerotic efficacy, supports healthy blood, and serves to protect the body’s major organs including the heart, brain and kidneys."
She added: “One exciting finding is that Fucoidan encourages normal and healthy cellular growth. It has also been found to support and enhance the immune system in several ways, including stimulating the body's natural killer cells and increasing certain proteins that are produced by white blood cells."
Owing to technical challenges, competition was "not sharp", she claimed. "Arsenic and lead control are the first challenge to assure safety. And then controling suitable ratios of F-Fucoidan and U-Fucoidan is very important to reflect their different levels of efficacy.”
Herpes, chicken pox and HIV ...
Fucoidan is claimed to demonstrate anticancer, anti-blood clotting, antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects, although research has also looked at its inhibitory activity against viruses from Herpes and Chicken pox to HIV.
Its ability to enhance natural killer cell activity has also made it popular ingredient in products claiming to strengthen immunity during the cold and flu season, said Cheow.