10:59pm Wednesday 16 October 2019

Human trial begins on health benefits of seaweed fibre

People with gut health problems will this week begin a world first human trial to determine if an Australian species of seaweed extract food ingredient produced in the Shoalhaven region can help prevent the onset of chronic disorders such as Type 2 Diabetes.

The BioBelly study is being undertaken by UOW (based mainly at its Shoalhaven Campus) in partnership with Venus Shell Systems Pty Ltd and endocrinologist, Dr Dan Harmelin who also lectures at UOW’s Graduate School of Medicine.

There will be four groups of participants. Each participant will need to provide blood, gut flora (faeces swab) and urine samples twice during the study and will be provided with capsules or food to be taken daily for six weeks. Some volunteer participants will be taking placebo supplements so researchers can compare the results with the effectiveness of the active supplements. Participants also have to complete a questionnaire.

A total of 80 participants are taking part in the BioBelly study.

Associate Professor Barbara Meyer from UOW’s School of Medicine and the Chief Investigator at the Metabolic Research Centre said the seaweed extracts were marine dietary fibres which were considered very safe.

Other project researchers include Dr Pia Winberg who is an Honorary Fellow of UOW’s School of Medicine and the Director of Venus Shell Systems Pty Ltd and PhD candidate from UOW’s School of Medicine, Lauren Roach.

Dr Winberg said the team aimed to measure the potential health benefits of seaweed extracts on gut health including glucose sensitivity, inflammation and cholesterol management – chronic health issues due to western diets.

Seaweed dietary fibres are known to improve the gut and digestive condition of animals. They have also been shown to reduce metabolic stress such as experienced in pre-diabetic condition.

The BioBelly study will be one of the first to test this in people using Australian seaweeds. Researchers believe that the findings could contribute to the development of preventative and complementary health management products for the future.

A report on the study’s outcomes is expected to be released in February 2016.

University of Wollongong.

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