Seaweed Fights Breast Cancer

Did You Know… adding seaweed to your diet may help slash your risk of breast cancer by nearly a half?

Scientists have discovered an interesting inverse relationship.  It seems that the more seaweed a woman eats, the lower her risk for breast cancer.  We can look to the low breast cancer rates among the Japanese population for empirical evidence of this link.

Japanese women have a 15 in 10,000 incidence of breast cancer; however, their risk increases to 105 in 10,000 after 10 years of living in the United States.  Even with the higher rate of breast cancer among Japanese immigrants, their risk is still lower than an American’s.

Dietary differences, particularly the Japanese proclivity for ocean vegetables like seaweed, is cited as the primary reason Japanese women are so well shielded against breast cancer.

A Sheet of Seaweed a Day 

Scientists have been examining the ability of seaweed broth to destroy cancer cells for over a decade now.  Following on the heels of a study that demonstrated the cancer-prohibitive properties of wakame seaweed, a 2001 study presented in the Japanese Journal of Cancer Researchanalyzed the anti-cancer effects of the Japanese seaweed mekabu.

In vitro, a solution of mekabu kindled cancer cell death in 3 types of breast cancer cells.  As part of daily drinking water, the mekabu solution also suppressed mammary gland tumors in rats.  Researchers noted that the anti-cancer effects of mekabu were stronger than those of a widely used breast cancer chemotherapy drug.  The authors of the study concluded: “Our results suggest that mekabu has potential for chemoprevention of human breast cancer.”

Not only has seaweed proven effective as an anti-cancer agent when testing in vitro (via a test tube or petri dish), but it’s also been shown to exhibit a protective influence in human population studies.  Researchers analyzed the effects of Korean seaweeds gim and miyeok on breast cancer risk.  Results from the study, published in the British Journal of Nutrition in 2010, indicated that premenopausal women with a high daily intake of gim were 56% less likely to be diagnosed with breast cancer than were premenopausal women who ate the least amount of gim daily.

Postmenopausal women who ate the most gim daily had an even higher breast cancer reduction risk—a 68% decrease!  Miyeok consumption did not seem to exert any influence on breast cancer incidence.  Scientists concluded: “These results suggest that high intake of gim may decrease the risk of breast cancer.”

Seaweed’s Super Powers

Where does seaweed get its super powers?  Scientists aren’t sure, but here’s what we know about seaweed:

  • It modulates levels of the hormones estrogen and estradiol; helping to lower levels of these hormones may help decrease the risk of breast cancer
  • It’s loaded with iodine, a trace mineral not found in most other foods—insufficient intake of iodine is linked to a higher risk of breast cancer

Concentrated with calcium, seaweed also helps prevent osteoarthritis and promotes healthy thyroid function.  It even controls PMS symptoms and improves fertility issues.  Arm yourself with some stellar green super powers by adding a sheet of seaweed to your daily meal plan… your health will thank you!