Japanese culture has used seaweed in meals since the Jomon Period. This culture is unique, as seaweed is consumed in very few countries worldwide.
Seaweed is not highly valued because it is not used as a common food ingredient in countries other than Japan. However, owing to the highest life expectancy of the Japanese people, Japan’s unique food culture is gaining attention as it is considered as one of the factors responsible for the excellent health of the Japanese people. The health-promoting Japanese cuisine is currently booming across the world because of its nutrient balance, which is considered to be a key factor for excellent health. Given that traditional Japanese cuisine is highly valued for its degree of diversity and its contribution to good health, it has been recorded as a UNESCO World Intangible Cultural Heritage in 2013.
In recent times, as health is being considered highly importance, Japan’s food culture, which utilizes seaweed as an ingredient, is gaining a great deal of attention worldwide. With the commencement of aquaculture of the red dulse seaweed at Oregon State University, seaweed has garnered attention as a health food in America. In the future, it is predicted that the industry for dulse will become highly commercialized yielding great profits. Our laboratory is on a mission to spread the current knowledge about seaweed to all parts of the world.
One of the factors responsible for the positive effects of seaweeds on living organisms is its sulfated polysaccharides (polysaccharides that have sulfate). Brown seaweeds (such as konbu and mozuku) contain a polysaccharide known as fucoidan, which is widely researched and known for its biological effects. Green seaweed Monostroma nitidum is also known to contain the sulfated polysaccharide rhamnan sulfate. Research on its biological functions has been advancing over the past few years. Our future research aims to investigate whether polysaccharides are present in red dulse seaweed as well.