Does Sea Moss Have Health Benefits?

Here's what the science says about this trendy superfood.

Seaweed has long been touted as a superfood. Also called Irish sea moss or Irish moss, some people also consider sea moss to be part of the wellness lexicon.

Proponents have claimed that sea moss does everything from boosting immunity and soothing digestion to strengthening joints and improving skin health. 

So, does sea moss live up to the hype? According to a nutritionist, here are five things you should know about the trendy ingredient. 

Dietary supplements are minimally regulated by the FDA and may or may not be suitable for you. The effects of supplements vary from person to person and depend on many variables, including type, dosage, frequency of use, and interactions with current medications. Please speak with your healthcare provider or pharmacist before starting any supplements.

Sea Moss Isn't New

Sea moss, a type of algae, has been part of the human diet for thousands of years, especially in the Caribbean and Ireland.

Additionally, other cultures have medicinally used sea moss for decades to treat conditions ranging from coughs and infections to low libido. However, there is a lack of research to support many of these claims.

Sea Moss Benefits Aren't Well Researched

The research is scant on the effectiveness and safety of sea moss for various health outcomes. There's a lack of knowledge about potential side effects; interactions with medications, herbs, or other supplements; proper dosage; and precautions based on various medical conditions.

Still, a study published in 2019 in Molecules found the benefits of sea moss in treating diseases like cancer in animal studies. 

Another study published in 2015 in Marine Drugs pointed to the impact of sea moss on helping with Alzheimer's disease. But, again, those researchers used animal studies. 

There is research, as well, on how sea moss can impact immunity conducted in labs or with animals, per one study published in 2016 in Frontiers in Microbiology.

But as of December 2022, there is there is no scientific evidence to support claims that Irish moss boosts libido or improves skin and joint health. Such claims are still largely theoretical and based on the fact that algae contain antioxidants that may protect the skin. 

In addition, the current research does not use standardized forms of sea moss, which leaves unanswered questions about the ideal use of sea moss for humans.

There's a Lot About Sea Moss We Don't Know

While there is a growing interest in algae as a functional food—food with benefits beyond the nutrients it contains—there are many variables to consider.

It is safe to say that algae are rich in certain vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants, although the exact nutritional composition will vary among algae species.

A 2021 overview of sea moss published in the journal Marine Drugs suggests that certain species of red algae, like Irish moss, are a source of vitamin C, vitamin A, iodine, and potassium. Additionally, seaweeds, in general, are also a source of prebiotics, which are important for gut health.

But researchers have yet to thoroughly understand the digestibility and bioavailability of the nutrients contained in algae, according to a 2017 review published in the Journal of Applied Phycology.

In other words, how much nutrition is absorbed from the digestive tract into the bloodstream? And how accessible and usable are those nutrients to our cells?

Other questions include the variability of nutrient levels based on where and how the algae are grown and issues related to potential contamination with heavy metals or other environmental toxins.

You Can Consume Too Much Sea Moss

Sea moss is likely a rich source of iodine. Although, as mentioned above, the levels may vary. Iodine is an essential mineral that helps produce thyroid hormones, according to one study published in 2021 in the Journal of the Endocrine Society.

The goal with iodine is to consume a just-right amount. Both too little and too much can throw thyroid hormones out of balance. So yes, you can get too much of a good thing, and more isn't better. If you consume sea moss, be careful not to overdo it.

Sea Moss May Be a Supplement Rather Than a Food

Sea moss is sold in several forms, including dried, ground, pills, or droppers. 

Keep in mind: sea moss products marketed as dietary supplements aren't regulated similarly to prescription drugs. Before marketing, sea moss supplements do not have to be proven effective or safe. And there is no way of knowing if what is stated on the label is what's in the product.

Still, the regulatory practices of supplements don't mean you shouldn't use them. In fact, many supplements are beneficial.

But it's important to use caution and take supplements with your healthcare provider's guidance. Specifically, a dietitian can recommend the proper form, dose, frequency, and length of use or identify any possible precautions.

A Quick Review

Adding some sea moss to an occasional smoothie or a plant-based pudding (sea moss has a natural thickening property) is fine. And what's more, sea moss may offer some nutritional advantages.

But don't overdo it, count on it as a cure-all, or blindly accept all of the claims about its benefits, particularly those profiting from its sale. Most importantly, consult your healthcare provider before incorporating supplements into your routine.

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