This release describes what is apparently a summary of studies related to 35 different types of seaweed and their purported health benefits. Only one study is glancingly referenced, and no real, quantitative evidence is presented to back up any of the claims. A single source — the author of books promoting seaweed as a healthier eating option — is quoted, repeatedly. No counter arguments are caveats are raised, other than the overall idea that it is difficult to nail down the health benefits of seaweed. Precisely! Which is why we wonder why this news release was issued at all.
The poor quality of the American diet, and its contribution to a litany of health problems, is well documented. But the idea that adding seaweed to unhealthy foods is going to make a dent in this problem is dubious. And this release doesn’t give us any reason to think otherwise.
There is no discussion of costs in this piece. This is odd for two reasons: 1. Seaweed of certain varieties is readily available in grocery stores and a staple of sushi bars and other restaurants. 2. The authors are advocating that seaweed become a regular part of baking and cooking, which means that costs need to be considered.
There are no actual quantifications of benefits in this release. It says that, “By eating bread containing 4% of dried seaweed the overweight men ingested more dietary fiber (4.5 g more fiber per. 100 g) than when they ate the control whole-meal bread. Another effect was that they consumed 16.4% less energy in the 24 hour period after eating the seaweed enriched bread.” Honestly, we have no idea what this means. Is 4.5 grams more fiber meaningful? Does it have any measurable health impact? Does consuming less energy during a 24-hour period lead to positive health benefits or negative? There’s no help in interpreting this information.
There are some vague references to harms in a list of bullet points at the end of the release. We do not think this satisfies the criteria but, instead, creates more confusion. It says:
What is one to make of that?
There’s very little information provided about any of these studies or the study of the studies purportedly undertaken. What type of studies were these? How many people were involved? Were there any limitations? etc.
The release does not engage in any disease mongering.
The only clue as to why this news release was written comes when it says that the author of the study in question “has authored several books on seaweed as food.” This seems to be promotional material for his books and little more.
No alternatives are discussed. In fact, why not simply talk about less salt instead of salt substitutes. The seaweed being added is at such a marginal percentage as to beg the question: why bother?
We are going to assume here that most people think seaweed is widely available as a food product.
The idea of adding “healthier” ingredients to processed foods to make them better is not new (e.g. fiber, vitamins, potassium, “healthy” oils) and hasn’t produced much if any tangible benefit. Why will seaweed be any different? Many wild claims are made in this release. None are backed up.
Let’s start with the headline:
“Food industry can help lower cardiovascular diseases by adding little seaweed to products.”
There is no evidence presented in this news release to support this statement. Nor this one:
“Seaweed’s content of potassium salts does not led to high blood pressure – unlike the sodium salts, typically encountered in the processed food.”