Skip to 0 minutes and 10 secondsCould seaweed help to beat obesity? Seaweed isn’t technically a plant, but it does have some serious plant power. But first, want to hear some scary numbers? Probably not, so we’ll be quick about it. By 2050 half of the UK population could be obese. Obesity already costs us £4.2Bn per year, and that could double. In the UK, fat makes up about 40% of our diet. That adds up to crisis, for health and the economy. So, what can we do about it? Researchers found that alginate from seaweeds, especially kelp, helps to stop the body from digesting fat. And we don’t get the side effects that come with other obesity treatments.

Skip to 0 minutes and 53 secondsAlginate is in lots of foods we eat, but there isn’t enough to do the trick. So just stop eating your favourite foods, and eat seaweed instead. Just kidding Fat busting alginates are easily extracted and incorporated into other foods. When researchers used it in bread, tasters actually preferred the seaweed bread. No seaweed flavour, same great texture, extra fat busting magic. You won’t even know it’s there, but your body will thank you. This is one more way that everyday plants, and seaweed, are doing amazing things.

Applications of biochemistry and molecular sciences research

Throughout this course we will see a range of examples of research from biochemistry and the molecular sciences. It is important to recognise that these types of studies require significant amounts of funding, which can be provided by governments, industry or other organisations, such as charities.

In the UK a significant amount of research funding is provided by the Research Councils. A major proportion of funding for biochemistry-focused research comes is provided by the BBSRC (Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council) and we will hear more about some of the research they have funded throughout this course. Molecular sciences research is also funded by the EPSRC (Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council) and the MRC (Medical Research Council). There are also many charities that fund research involving biochemistry, often focusing on a specific type of disease. The largest of these charity funders is the Wellcome Trust, which supports a wide range of biomedical research. If you are interested to find out more about these major funders, see the links provided below.

The people who fund research want to see a return on the money they provide and scientists are becoming ever more aware of the need to demonstrate “impact” from their research studies. Examples of societal impact from molecular sciences research will be given throughout this course, with the first of these examples provided below.

Plants vs Obesity

Obesity already costs the UK £4.2bn per year, which may double by 2050 because by then half of the UK population could be obese. That adds up to crisis, for health and economy. Biochemists are trying to identify novel ways to address this problem, as highlighted in this video produced by the BBSRC.

In the UK, fat makes up about 40% of our diet. Researchers found that alginate from seaweed helps to stop the body from digesting fat and it doesn’t give the side effects that come with other obesity treatments. Alginate is in lots of foods we eat, but only in low amounts, so scientists have found ways to extract it from seaweed and incorporate it into other foods. When researchers added it to bread, tasters actually preferred the seaweed bread. This is just example of the way that everyday plants - and seaweed - are doing amazing things.

One of the researchers, Dr Matthew Wilcox from Newcastle University, talks about his research into the slimming powers of brown seaweed on the ICaMB – Inside Cells and Molecules Blog.

Share this video:

This video is from the free online course:

Biochemistry: the Molecules of Life

UEA (University of East Anglia)