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Minerals and Trace Elements in Seaweed

Seaweed is an excellent source of diverse biological compounds including polysaccharides, proteins, peptides, vitamins, poly-phenols and pigments (Holdt and Kraan, 2011). Nutritionally, seaweed is perhaps best known for its extraordinary mineral and trace element content which together can comprise up to 55% of the seaweed dry weight.

Seaweed contains all of the essential trace elements and minerals which have various essential functions in the body, contributing to better overall health and the prevention of chronic diseases including cancer (Kraan, 2013). For example, in adult dogs, it has been reported that minerals such as calcium, which is present at significant levels in seaweed, can reverse osteoporosis and increase bone density (Krook et al., 1971). However, seaweed mineral content depends on species, season, location and a number of additional environmental factors.

Macro-minerals for Dogs

Macro-minerals required by humans and animals include calcium, chlorine, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, sodium and sulphur. Examples of trace elements, which are required in much smaller amounts than macro-minerals, include iodine, iron, manganese, copper and zinc. Calcium comprises up to about 3-4% of the dry weight of seaweeds such as Ascophyllum nodosum but can comprise over 30% of the dry weight of some calcified species (Kraan, 2013).

Based on substantial scientific evidence, the European Commission has authorised a number of health claims for human foods that contain adequate amounts of calcium. These health claims demonstrate that calcium has important functions with regard to normal blood clotting, metabolism, normal muscle function, neuro-transmission, digestion, bone health and maintenance of normal teeth.

High in Magnesium

Magnesium is also present at a significant concentration in various seaweed species. Magnesium comprises around 0.7-3% (dry weight) of the seaweeds Laminaria digitata, Fucus serratus, Ascophyllum nodosum, Sargassum muticum, Irish moss and Sea Lettuce. as a co-factor for many enzymes, sufficient magnesium intake is important for energy production, protein synthesis, muscle and nerve function, blood glucose control, and blood pressure regulation.

Kelp as a Source of Potassium

For many years, the brown seaweeds, Ascophyllum nodosum, Laminaria digitata and Fucus spp. have been known to be an excellent source of potassium. During World War I, kelp was grown, harvested and burned in order to provide a supply of potassium at a time when alternatives to German sources of the mineral were required (Woodford, 2002). Potassium is essential for normal muscle function, nerve impulses, regulation of blood pressure and maintenance of fluid and electrolyte balance (Pohl et al., 2013). Seaweed is also a source of sulphur (7.3% of Irish Moss dry weight), sodium and phosphorus which together have important roles as components of amino acids, blood pressure regulation and as components of metabolic processes (Kraan, 2013).

Trace Elements for Dogs

In addition to macro-minerals, seaweed is a good source of trace elements such as iodine, iron, manganese, copper and zinc. These trace elements have multiple important functions in the body and as a result the European Commission has also authorised a number of health claims for human foods that contain adequate amounts of the above mentioned trace elements. These claims relate to functions such as oxygen transport, reduction of tiredness, cognitive development, normal bone development, brain function and fertility.

Excellent Source of Iodine

Kelp is probably the best-known source of iodine which is present at concentrations up to 4.7% of the dried weight of certain species (Kraan, 2013). Iodine is a chemical element required by both humans and animals for the synthesis of the thyroid hormones thyroxine and triiodothyronine. These thyroid hormones are multifunctional and have important roles in the regulation of growth, development and metabolism. As triiodothyronine and thyroxine increase basal metabolic rate, an increase in iodine intake can also be associated with increased metabolism of proteins, fats and carbohydrates. As it is known that thyroid disorders are common in the older pet (Meeking, 2005), adequate (but not excessive) intake of iodine should help to prevent problems such as fatigue, congenital disorders, goitre and weight gain.

The unique levels of minerals present in seaweed, together with the abundance of additional bioactive compounds, make seaweed an ideal natural supplement for your pet.