There is seemingly no end to what we’ll try to keep trim: down spoonfuls of apple cider vinegar and even combine coffee with lemons. Now, enter the new It-Girl of weight loss: sea moss.
The spiny plant, which grows abundantly in the ocean, has been used for ages as a thickening agent, because of a compound called carrageenan. Now, people are eating spoonfuls of the stuff in the hope that it’ll shift kilos, clear up skin and boost their health.
What is sea moss?
Sea moss is a sea vegetable that’s used commercially to thicken foods. Scientifically, it’s known by the name Chondrus crispus, and it’s a type of algae that grows along Atlantic coasts. It’s also known as Irish Moss. It grows in different colours, from purple, white and green, and each have their own benefits.
What are the benefits of sea moss?
“Up until recently, sea moss had not been extensively studied, but its benefits are believed to be like those of other seaweeds,” says registered dietician Cally Frost of Nutritional Solutions.
They contain a few vitamins and minerals that have escalated their status from overlooked seaweed to certified superfood. Per the USDA, sea moss is low in calories and has a moderate amount of protein, while being high in fibre. It’s also high in calcium, iron, magnesium, copper and zinc. Because it’s a sea veg, sea moss supports thyroid health because it’s high in iodine, a micronutrient that’s clutch for healthy thyroid function. They’re also touted to be imbibed with live bacteria, which supports a healthy gut.
“There are, however, many factors that can reduce the bioaccessibility and bioavailability of seaweed components and further randomised controlled clinical trials are required in large human cohorts.,” says Cally.
Sea moss also supports your immune system, since they’re rich in bioactive compounds like proteins, peptides and amino acids. These “are responsible for imparting various health benefits and immune system support,” says Cally. But they’re not the Holy Grail.
“Whilst these elements are important, it is by no means superior to supporting your immune system through a healthy lifestyle such as eating nutrient rich food sources, regular exercise, cessation of smoking and alcohol etc,” Cally cautions.
So, does sea moss work for weight loss?
It might. But that’s only due to a few factors, the biggest of which is its high fibre content. Fibre isn’t digested in the gut, which leads to a feeling of satiety for longer, making you eat less in the long run. But tons of foods are high in fibre, like lentils, beans and complex carbohydrates. So filling up with those could mitigate the need to add sea moss into your diet.
Next, sea moss is full of a compound, fucoxanthin, which some studies in rats have found can help with fat metabolism and could prevent the absorption of fat. But we need more studies to understand this process more fully in humans.
“By adding sea moss to the diet, a person may inadvertently be improving other factors of their diet at the same time, which may contribute to weight loss,” says Cally. “There are currently no scientific articles or research to support the claim that sea moss directly facilitates weight loss.”
What are the downsides?
Before using any product, it’s important to do your research and see if the ingredient list stacks up. Since it’s a key contributor of iodine, you’d need to make sure you don’t take too much, especially if you’re struggling with hyperthyroidism or take thyroid medication. Then there’s the issue of heavy metals. “Seaweeds possess the risk of accumulating heavy metals such as arsenic, mercury and lead. This depends on where it has been harvested from,” Cally notes.
“There is still so much to learn about the efficacy and safety of sea moss, and it is important to be aware of the potential risks and to not get caught up in the hype of the next trend, especially if the source of information is not coming from an accredited health care professional.”