Kelp. Is it a Superfood or a Health Risk?

Recently kelp – a type of seaweed has hit the Daily Mail as being a natural superfood with many benefits.

It is easy to see why. Kelp is rich in minerals (46 in total) plus it contains 16 amino acids and 11 micronutrients. It contains zero fat and is packed with antioxidants. It seems perfect for adding to your daily diet. Apparently, kelp is showing up on the menus of trendy restaurants across London.

One of the major selling points about kelp for weight loss is that it contains high levels of iodine.


Iodine is a natural mineral, which the body relies on for healthy thyroid function so is crucial for maintaining a healthy metabolism.

Iodine is only found in marine life forms and some experts believe that our need for iodine dates back millions of years to when human life evolved from the sea. Despite the fact that we need iodine, according to some nutritionists, most of us have iodine deficiency in our diet.

Before we all rush to the beach to pick up kelp, or more likely to the health food store, it is important to consider the risks.

Kelp does contain a powerhouse of nutrients but alongside these, there may be other not so beneficial ingredients lurking in kelp supplements or even in the fresh kelp available from some Asian supermarkets.

Kelp can contain mercury and other pollutants and if the waters where the kelp is harvested are polluted, then your kelp will be contaminated too. A woman in the USA suffered from arsenic poisoning following taking a kelp supplement leading researchers to study some commercially available kelp supplements. It made for some shocking reading.

The report published in 2007 in the FDA publication Environmental Health Perspectives, found that 90% of kelp supplements contained higher levels of arsenic than allowed by the FDA.

Even in pure unpolluted form, kelp may not be suitable for everyone. Iodine is essential but your body requires very little and too much iodine can lead to hyperthyroidism.
The RDA is just 150 micrograms and with many kelp supplements exceeding this figure by thousands, bodies such as the American Thyroid Association are expressing real concern about kelp supplements.

This leads us back to the Daily Mail. It is not the first time the paper has featured an article about Kelp.Back in 2010, it was not quite as complimentary. The paper printed a shock horror expose about celebrity WAG Alex Curran (Steven Gerrard’s wife) who was pictured carrying a box of sea kelp supplements.

Back then, the Daily Mail branded sea kelp as becoming the latest celebrity diet and a dangerous craze and Alex Curran was criticised for setting a bad example. Now the paper is recommending kelp for health or weight loss.

So what is the truth?

Perhaps both views are correct. Kelp seems to fall into the unique category of being both a Superfood and a real health risk. Take it at your peril!

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