Davao scientists developing seaweed-based, cancer-fighting foods

Subscribe Now June 20, 2013 at 10:40am

Since seaweed is recognized to have "anti-oxidant" properties, scientists at an aquatic technology school in Davao del Sur are trying to validate whether seaweed-based carrageenan powder as a blending agent in processed foods can fight cancer and other ailments.

A report released by the Philippine News Agency (PNA) said that scientists from the Southern Philippines Agri-Business Marine and Aquatice School of Technology (SPAMAST) are working closely with members of the seaweed industry to develop value-added products that use seaweed-based carrageenan powder in foods such as cakes, pastries and cured meat products like sausages, hotdogs and chorizos.

“We’re trying to make these products more nutritious by adding more vitamins, while blending them with carrageenan,” Dr. Jesebel Besas, a food scientist at SPAMAST, told consultants of the Japan International Cooperation Agency during a recent industry meeting at the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) regional office.

One reason why they are focusing on seaweeds is because of its medicinal properties. “It’s a real possibility that we’ll try to verify and validate at our laboratories – that blending seaweed powder in processed foods can fight cancer. We still need to validate this,” Besas pointed out.

Seaweeds are reportedly used to treat or prevent goiter, glandular troubles, stomach disorders, intestinal and bladder difficulties, unusually profuse menstrual flow, high-blood pressure, and high plasma-cholesterol level.

In Asia, seaweed is a popular ingredient in some traditional recipes. China’s “zicai,” Korea’s “gim” and Japan’s “nori” are actually sheets of dried Porphyra species—the same seaweeds used to wrap sushi. Chondrus crispus, commonly known as "Irish moss" or "carrageenan moss" is a red alga used in producing various food additives. Affectionately called “dulce” in northern Belize, seaweeds are mixed with milk, nutmeg, cinnamon, and vanilla to make a rich beverage.

Commercially, seaweeds are valued for their colloids, particularly agar, carrageenan, and alginate. Both agar and carrageenan are extracted from red seaweeds, while alginate is extracted from brown seaweeds.

Agar is used in making jellied desserts, as stabilizer in pie fillings, piping gels, icings, cookies, cream shells, and as thickening and gelling agent in poultry, fish and meat canning.

Carrageenan, on the other hand, is used in making ointments, as emulsifying agent in water-insoluble drugs and herbicides, and as texturing agent in toothpaste and powder. It is also used in salad dressings and sauces, dietetic foods, and as a preservative in meat and fish products, dairy items and baked goods.

Globally there are over 9,000 species of seaweed divided into three major types: green, brown and red. Red is the most species-rich group (6,000) followed by brown (2,000) and finally green (1,200).

The Philippines is home to various kinds of seaweeds of which 390 species have been identified as having economic value as food, animal feeds, fertilizers, diet supplement, medicines, and raw materials for industrial products.

Source: gmanetwork.com

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