Red algae are an appreciated source of food in several different parts of the world. Red algae are for instance used to make agar agar and carrageenans. In Japan, red algae has been cultivated for at least three centuries to make nori and the species Porphyra yezoensis and Porphyra tenera are especially popular.
Red algae supplements may produce positive effects in people with hypertension. A Korean study, published in the 2006 edition of the journal “Algae,” observed the inhibitory effects of red algae extracts on an enzyme linked to high blood pressure. The angiotensin-1 converting enzyme, or ACE, plays a significant role in controlling blood pressure, according to researchers. Scientists reported that some red algae species produced “remarkable” anti-ACE activities when compared to other marine organisms. Findings suggest red algae have excellent potential for use as an ACE-like inhibitor. However, additional scientific research is needed to conclusively prove the effectiveness of red algae to treat hypertension. Based on observations of mildly hypertensive patients.
The red algae group, phylum Rhodophyta, includes the most species. They are more delicate in structure with pink to dark red coloration due to the phycobilin pigment. Carrageenen and agar, commercially important thickeners and stabilizers, are extracted from red algae. Coralline algae species incorporate calcium carbonate in their cell walls, hence the resemblance to corals.
A few red algae, such as Porphyra, Eucheuma, and Gracilaria, are cultivated. More than 60,000 hectares of sea along Japanese coasts are occupied by “red algal culture.” Thousands of people worldwide are engaged in cultivating red sea weeds.
Fossils of red algae have been found in rocks 500 million years old. Production of calcium carbonate is linked to photosynthetic carbon fixation. Apparently, carbon dioxide fixation results in a pH increase (an increase in alkalinity), which facilitates calcium carbonate precipitation.
Pigments of red algae include chlorophyll a and two classes of accessory pigments: phycobilins and carotenoids. Phycoerythrin, phycocyanin, and allophycocyanin are phycobilins.
An antioxidant in red algae may provide 10 to 100 times more strength in scavenging disease-causing free radicals than most antioxidants, according to medical doctor and alternative medicine pioneer Robert Rowen. The potency of antioxidant-acting polyphenols, or plant-derived chemicals, depends on the number of interconnected rings that make up their structures. While most polyphenols have three rings, the Seanol polyphenol has up to eight. Extensive observations of this disease-fighting component of red seaweed indicate it greatly benefits heart disease, osteoporosis, diabetes, dementia and many other conditions, reports Rowen.
Saltwater-dwelling red algae, a predominant type of seaweed used since 300 BC for its high-nutrient content and medicinal benefits, contains an abundance of vitamin K and calcium. Red algae supplements may help treat hypertension and provide strong antioxidant effects. However, red algae components may also result in several adverse side effects including constipation and blood clots. As with any nutritional supplement, consult your doctor before taking a red algae supplement.