Protecting Human Health Using Marine Products ? the Gift of the Sea
Masashi Hosokawa , Associate Professor
Graduate School of Fisheries Sciences (School of Fisheries Sciences, Department of Marine Bioresources Chemistry)
High school : Takikawa High School
Academic background : Graduate School of Fisheries, Hokkaido University
- Research areas
- fisheries chemistry, molecular nutrition
- Research keywords
- marine products, metabolic syndrome, functional food
What are you aiming to achieve?
Marine organisms have a food chain system based on phytoplankton, and a unique metabolic system (Fig. 1), and contain a large range of substances not found in land-based organisms. In Japan, we have eaten many of these marine products throughout history. Among these are foods containing substances that have a preventative effect in regard to obesity and metabolic syndrome (a group of conditions including diabetes, hyperlipidemia and hypertension), which is becoming a great problem not only in Japan but also throughout the rest of the world. The importance of these products is becoming the focus of worldwide attention. I am engaged in discovering these functional substances from marine products, and my research aims to use them effectively to prevent lifestyle-related diseases.
What sort of experiments are you performing?
The first step in this research is to establish how much of what sort of substance is contained in marine products. In order to do this, we use analysis equipment such as that shown in Photo 1, to accurately and sensitively measure the quantity of these substances. We are analyzing unknown substances in collaboration with the Instrumental Analysis Center at Hokkaido University. Once we know what a substance is, we can investigate its effectiveness in preventing obesity and metabolic syndrome by culturing cells (Photo 2) and performing animal experiments, and clarify its health benefits. In our research to date, we have discovered that the fucoxanthin contained in wakame and kombu seaweeds inhibits weight gain in mice due to obesity (Fig. 2). Furthermore, in obesity cases, fat is excessively stored and fat cells become bloated (Photo 3-a), but we have found that by administering fucoxanthin isolated from wakame, it is possible to prevent the fat cells from expanding (Photo 3-b). Furthermore, we have found that fucoxanthin also has the effect of lowering high blood sugar, associated with diabetes, to almost normal levels, as well as being effective in other ways. These research results have led to fucoxanthin being used globally in the development of functional foods, which are now being manufactured.
What are you aiming for next?
Marine products are a gift from the sea, and we know that they contain a wide range of effective substances that are good for our health. It is still not sufficiently understood, however, exactly how these substances work for health inside our bodies. Furthermore, we do not know how these functional substances are created within marine organisms, and what their relationship is to the marine environment. There are still many things that we do not know about marine organisms and the functional substances they contain. In order to be able to sustainably use marine products, we need to solve each of these mysteries. This is what I would like to do.