Fucoxanthin - A New Weight Loss
Fucoxanthin - A New Weight Loss
Ingredient in the Weight Management Category
Fucoxanthin is a naturally occurring brown pigment
that belongs to the class of non-provitamin A carotenoids. Carotenoids
are 40-carbon organic molecules that consist of two groups: xanthophylls
if their structure contains oxygen, and carotenes if there is no oxygen
in their chemical formula. Fucoxanthin is a xanthophyll whose distinct
structure includes a simple sugar fucose and an unusual allenic bond(1).
Fucoxanthin is typically found in the chloroplasts of
brown seaweed, giving them a brown or olive-green color. Seaweed is a
group of multicellular marine organisms that obtain energy via
photosynthesis. Although often referred to as “marine plants” because of
their ability to conduct photosynthesis, seaweed species are not
classified as plants. They are closer to cyanobacteria (unicellular
algae) than to plants, including marine plants such as seagrass. In
general, there are three major types of seeweed: green, red and brown
(the latter is a source of fucoxanthin).
Similar to other carotenoids, fucoxanthin possesses
antioxidative properties. The difference, however is that fucoxanthin
acts as an antioxidant under anoxic conditions whereas other carotenoids
have practically no quenching abilities. Most tissues under
physiological conditions have low oxygen presence. Furthermore, the
typical antioxidants are usually proton donors (ascorbic acid, α-tocopherol,
glutathione). Fucoxanthin, on the other hand, donates electron as a part
of its free-radical quenching function. A combination of these distinct
properties is very rarely found among naturally occurring food-derived
In addition to its unique antioxidant properties,
fucoxanthin has been shown to affect mammal nuclear DNA in such a way
that it results in upregulation of uncoupling protein-1 (UCP-1)
production within the cells, particularly adipose tissue, both brown and
UCP-1 is a member of a family of uncoupling proteins
that occurs in the inner mitochondrial membrane. Up to date, five
different isomers have been described, 1 through 5. Presence of UCP
isomers have been established in various tissues: brown adipose tissue
(BAT), white adipose tissue (WAT), skeletal muscle, and brain (UCP4 and
UCP5 only)(4). UCP-1 was originally given the name thermogenin for its
ability to induce thermogenesis.
Fucoxanthin and Thermogenesis
Thermogenesis is a term that describes generation, or
production of heat. There are two types of thermogenesis: shivering and
non-shivering. Shivering thermogenesis is always associated with
muscular contraction and often occurs as a reaction to the lower
environment temperature. Non-shivering production of heat is a type of
continuous thermogenesis that occurs in both muscle and adipose tissues,
and is dependent on the metabolic rate.
Metabolic rate is the rate at which energy is spent
per unit of time by the body. It is measured in kcal/h, often called
energy expenditure rate. Since many factors cause the metabolic rate to
vary (such as different types of activity), basal metabolic rate (BMR)
is most commonly evaluated. BMR represents energy expenditure rate at
Since the amount of energy derived from oxidation of
the same amount of fats, carbohydrates and proteins is the highest for
fats (9 kcal/g), the latter substrate is the preferred and most
effective form of stored energy in the body. Fat collected in the
adipose tissue represents the depot of unutilized energy the body "puts
away" when the need for energy is less than the caloric value of the
body has at its disposal. Conversion of nutrients (such as fat) to
energy occurs within the cells, more specifically, inside cell
structures called mitochondria.
Mitochondria’s role in energy exchange is well
recognized. Often referred to as cellular “power plants”, mitochondria
are able to convert energy derived from oxidation of various substrates
into the ultimate “mobile” energy unit, – ATP (adenosine triphospate)
molecule for further use in cellular processes such as muscle
contraction, or alternatively, dissipate in the form of heat (thermogenesis).
The most striking difference between the brown and
white adipose tissues is in the amount of mitochondria they contain.
These intracellular organelles make fat cells visibly darker. Brown
adipose tissue plays an important role in the heat production and
maintaining body temperature in human infants and hibernating mammals.
In human adults, however, the amount of brown adipose tissue is
insignificant and irrelevant in terms of maintaining homeostatic body
temperature. Thus, the overwhelming majority of human adult adipose
tissue is white, with an average of 2,000 mitochondria per cell(5).
The efficiency of the ATP generation process within
the mitochondria is never 100%. So-called “mitochondrial proton leak” is
a phenomenon responsible for heat generation that occurs as a result of
not fully aligned (coupled) biochemical reactions aimed to generate ATP.
The balance between ATP production and heat
generation, among other things, is regulated by specialized proteins
called UCP (uncoupling proteins). Research shows that dietary
fucoxanthin supports UCP-1 production resulting in a shift of the
equilibrium toward “proton leak” and heat generation. Consequently,
additional fat breakdown takes place to accommodate production of the
same amount of ATP.(See Fig.3) Thus, UCP-1 uncouples the process of ATP
production, making it “less efficient” in terms of ATP yield and more
efficient in terms of heat generation.
Fucoxanthin-induced thermogenesis support is
non-stimulant in nature because it bypasses adrenergic (stimulatory or
sympathetic) receptors at the surface of the cells that are also known
to be UPC-1 inducing. Instead, it addresses the process of energy
distribution at the level of mitochondria, precisely where conversion of
fat into energy is taking place.
This mechanism has been demonstrated in brown adipose
tissue of experimental animals supplemented with fucoxanthin. However,
it was not until 2003 when a group of Japanese researchers demonstrated
that the same UCP-1 induction and increase in thermogenesis could be
induced in white adipose tissue where UCP-1 has not been previously
described(4). Since white adipose tissue is the only fat tissue of a
clinical significance in adults, this discovery ignited renewed interest
in fucoxanthin from researchers throughout the world.
In 2006, two clinical trials were conducted by a
research group led by Prof. Abidov of Russian Institute of
Immunopathology in collaboration with the National Institute for Sport
Performance, Moscow, Russia. The first pilot-type study dealt with
establishing a therapeutic range based on changes in energy expenditure
rate in human volunteers supplemented with various doses of fucoxanthin
alone and in combination with CLNA (punicic acid from pomengranate seed
oil). The second study was a double-blind placebo-controlled clinical
trial where a total of 110 overweight patients underwent a 16-week
supplementation with positive and statistically significant results. The
full studies are expected to be published in 2008. Thus, these clinical
trials are the first confirmation of the efficacy of orally supplemented
fucoxanthin in humans in terms of weight management(6;7).
Further, the results of the aforementioned clinical
trial revealed that fucoxanthin has particular affinity to visceral fat.
Visceral fat is the type of fat covering organs of the abdominal cavity,
specifically liver and omentum. Excessive visceral adiposity is now
considered to be one of the major health risk factors among the Western
population. At the same time, peripheral (subcutaneous) adiposity by
itself is not deemed to be a significant metabolic risk factor, unless
it’s associated with significant excess of visceral adipose tissue in
the body(8). The ability of fucoxanthin to preferentially address the
problem of visceral adiposity seems promising in terms of the weight and
metabolism management, along with dietary and lifestyle changes.
How Fucoxanthin is Different
How fucoxanthin is different from other ingredients in
the weight management category:
Fucoxanthin is a clinically proven non-stimulant
thermogenic.† Unlike many popular stimulant-type metabolism enhacers (
e.g. ephedra, caffeine, guarana), fucoxanthin has no effect on the
sympathetic nervous system and can be taken without concerns of
cardiovascular exhaustion or blood pressure deregulation.
The mode of action of fucoxanthin is such that it
bypasses the nervous system and shifts energy balance from producing
ATP toward thermogenesis. It occurs in the mitochondria, at the exact
point where the energy becomes available for either capturing it in
the form of ATP or for heat generation. Fucoxanthin does it by
upregulating production of UCP- 1(uncoupling protein 1), also known as
Fucoxanthin preferentially affects visceral adipose
tissue ( fat tissue that surrounds internal organs in the abdominal
cavity, including liver and omentum). Breakdown of visceral vs.
peripheral fat is most beneficial for overall health and longevity.
Fucoxanthin has antioxidant properties that are
different from other carotenoids. Unlike other carotenoids, it is
active in environments with low oxygen presence (most tissues under
physiological conditions have very low oxygen presence). Also, instead
of donating electron, like many antioxidants, fucoxanthin donates
proton. A combination of these two attributes is unique to fucoxanthin
and is most likely due to its unusual chemical structure (presence of
allenic bond in the carotenoid formation).
Note from Christine: Both of Garden of Life’s
Diet 360 weight-loss formulas contain the proprietary
Fucoxanthin discussed and studied in this article.
- Mercandante AZ. (2004) Egeland E.S. Carotenoids
- Nomura T, Kikuchi M, Kubodera A, Kawakami Y. (1997
June) Proton-donative antioxidant activity of fucoxanthin with
1,1-diphenyl-2-picrylhydrazyl (DPPH). Biochem Mol Biol Int.
- Yan X, Chuda Y, Suzuki M, Nagata T. (1999 March)
Fucoxanthin as the major antioxidant in Hijikia fusiformis, a common
edible seaweed. Biosci Biotechnol Biochem. 63(3):605-7.
- Maeda H, Hosokawa M, Sashima T, Funayama K,
Miyashita K. (2005 July) Fucoxanthin from edible seaweed, Undaria
pinnatifida, shows antiobesity effect through UCP1 expression in white
adipose tissues. Biochem Biophys Res Commun. 1;332(2):392-7.
- Widmaier E, Raff H, Strang K. ( 2005) Human
Physiology - The Mechanisms of Body Function. Ninth ed. New York:
- Ramazanov, Z. (2007) The effect of Xanthigen, a
phytomedicine containing fucoxanthin and pomegranate seed oil, on body
- Abidov M, Roshen S. (2007) Effect of Fucoxanthin
and Xanthigen™, A phytomedicine containing fucoxanthin and pomegranate
seed oil, on energy expenditure rate in obese non-diabetic female
volunteers with non-alcoholic fatty liver disease: a double-blind,
randomized and placebo-controlled trial. Unpulished.
- Gosnell M. Killer. (2007 Februarty) Fat. Discover
48-53. Guccione, Bob.