I am a seaweed fiend, descended in large part from coastal Europeans, and I'm pretty sure seaweed would have made up at least some part of the diet historically. In "Primal Minds, Primal Bodies" there was a blurb about people of Japanese descent being uniquely able to digest seaweed. My first thought was, "Well that's just freakin' racist!" But then I calmed down a bit, and thought about it more, maybe it is true, and somehow coastal people from the rest of the world who incorporate seaweed into their diets perhaps haven't been eating it long enough to truly adapt. Who knows? Do you?
Yeah, they found that Japanpese gut bacteria had stolen a gene from some seaweed bacteria to be able to digest some special carbohydrates in seaweed. I freaking love seaweed and I wish I had that gene. The main consequence for not having it would probably be that some of the carbs in the seaweed might not be completely digested, which might lead to stomach upset. Indeed, I find an upper limit to what I can eat personally. Once I ate a whole package of laver and I was kind of gassy for a day.
It is possible some westerners have similar gut bacteria genes. The Welsh used to eat a fair amount of seaweed, for example. They haven't done very many studies looking for horizontal transfer of gut bacteria.
Well the most important component in seaweed that you may not be sourcing from other food is iodine, but I haven't heard an argument that a particular people are better at absorbing iodine from seaweed than others. If anything, the differences would be along the lines of better absorption with greater deficiency.
Many Coastal First Nations have been harvesting and drying seafood for tens of generations on the west coast of Canada and the US, so it would stand to reason that these people would also digest the seaweed better.
So your gut flora is specifically adapted to digest it more efficiently...I say eat it! It's delicious and good for you!
any concern re the effect of radioactive fallout on the seaweed sources? I've been eating kelp and nori on a daily basis for the past couple of months and someone recently alerted me to the dangers of radioactivity.
iodine supplementation types and amount 2 Answers