Seaweed uses and utilization

Seaweed Products

Seaweeds are used in many maritime countries as a source of food, for industrial applications and as a fertiliser. The major utilisation of these plants as food is in Asia, particularly Japan, Korea and China, where seaweed cultivation has become a major industry. In most western countries, food and animal consumption is restricted and there has not been any major pressure to develop seaweed cultivation techniques. This present and potential uses of seaweeds. Industrial utilisation is at present largely confined to extraction for phycocolloids and, to a much lesser extent, certain fine biochemicals. Fermentation and pyrolysis are not been carried out on an industrial scale at present but are possible options for the 21st century.

The present uses of seaweeds at present are as human foods, cosmetics, fertilisers, and for the extraction of industrial gums and chemicals. They have the potential to be used as a source of long- and short-chain chemicals with medicinal and industrial uses. Marine algae may also be used as energy-collectors and potentially useful substances may be extracted by fermentation and pyrolysis. The picture shows some of the many seaweed products or products containing seaweed available today, all of these are made by Irish companies and/or from Irish seaweed.

Currently, biologically active natural products are becomingmore and more popular among consumers, both in the form of food supplements and cosmetic products, and as medicines. Highly active sulphated polysaccharides isolated from seaweed have numerous important properties: immunomodulatory, antitumor, neuroprotective, antilipidemic, antidiabetic, anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, renoprotective, hepatoprotective, etc. In addition, sulphated polysaccharides are used for controlled drug delivery, wound healing, and regenerative medicine. The therapeutic potential of sulphated polysaccharides allows them to be use for cell therapy and tissue engineering. The use of seaweed sulphated polysaccharides is attractive not only from their unique properties, but also from their low cost, the virtual absence of toxicity and the formation of resistance of pathogens, good solubility, significant reserves of natural sources, and the possibility of seaweed cultivation. All these advantages undoubtedly make these substances promising candidates for the creation of biologically active additives and new generation drugs for the prevention and treatment of diseases of various origins (for further information see here).

Important report on food and food suplements from algae (including seaweeds):

Araujo, R., Peteiro, C., (2021). Algae as food and food supplements in Europe JRC Technical Report. pp. [i-iii], 1-34, 4 tables. Luxembourg: Publications Office of the European Union. [Download PDF]