Chemical Properties

Unlike plants where the main storage compound is starch, chromists store laminarin (hence the name Laminaria) in the form of chains of mannitol and glucose, and the organelles used for the storage are pyrenoids. Apart from the laminarin in pyrenoids, the cell walls of chromists contain algin, a gum used as a thickener and emulsifier in the food and cosmetics industry (www.biology-online.org). East Asian cultures have traditionally exploited kelp for food and medicinal values. On an average, 100 g of the dry kelp contains 17.1-32.0 g alginic acid, 8.46-28.48 g mannitol, 5.97-18.99 g crude protein, and 19.35-45.29 g ash, including 0.13-0.69 g iodine and 4.35-12.65 g potassium, yielding 262 kcal. Chemical analysis of the kelp shows that it may be regarded

Disc Training Activities
FIGURE 7.2 Life cycle of Laminaria sp.

as a ''health food,'' especially desirable in the winter season in the north when green vegetables are comparatively scarce.

Owing to the balanced nature of the qualitative and quantitative composition of biologically active substances [amino acids, polyunsaturated fatty acid, alginate, vitamins (A, C, D, B1, B2, B3, B6, B12, E, K, PP), macro-and micronutrients (K, Na, Ca, Mg, I, S, Si, etc.)], Laminaria, the giant wonder kelp, is highly effective to ensure normal functioning of the body and aids in treating certain diseases. Minerals mainly present are water-soluble salts of potassium and sodium (chlorides, sulfates). It also possesses relatively large amounts of calcium. The cumulative effect of these substances in varied combinations provides a high therapeutic effect. Most of the medicinal properties of Laminaria are due to the presence of alginic acid. Content of alginic acid in algae ranges from 11 to 60%. This alginic acid is similar to pectin in its function that is present in the berries, fruits, and vegetables. Apart from the above-mentioned elements, Laminaria is also found to possess copper, antimony, lead, gold, chrome, etc.

The medicinal properties of Laminaria depend upon the content and qualitative composition of proteins and carbohydrates. Certain other properties that aid to its therapeutic use are the ability to absorb large amounts of water and increase in volume at the same time and the higher contents of various macro- and micronutrients as compared to the terrestrial plants. Also, possession of colloidal polymer contents such as agar, alginic acid, and others as well as mannitol, specific to the marine vegetation makes Laminaria a very potential medicinal food.

As compared to other marine species, Laminaria has a greater ability to extract minerals from the sea water and hence accumulate a lot of elements, for example, 9-10-fold higher magnesium content, 17-fold higher sulfur, and 13 times higher bromine. Above all, 1 kg of kelp contains as much iodine as it is dissolved in 100,000 l of seawater. On the whole, the amount of iodine in kelp is several thousand times greater than in the terrestrial flora. Also, the boron in Laminaria is 90 times greater than in oats and four to five times higher than in the potato and beet. It contains an average of 0.43% phosphorus, whereas in the dried potatoes and dried carrots, it is almost half.

Laminaria accumulates not only large amount of various micro- and macronutrients but also many vitamins. Laboratory studies show that kelp contains a number of pro-vitamin A, which corresponds to its content in common fruits: apples, plums, cherries, oranges. As far as the content of vitamin B1 is concerned, kelp is no more inferior to the dry yeast. Reports suggest that about 100 g of dried Laminaria contains up to 10 mg of vitamin B12. Laminaria is considered of great interest as food ingredient, as it contains a fairly large amount of vitamin C (100 g of dry kelp contains approximately 15-240 mg). This content stands hand in hand with other citrus fruits of terrestrial origin such as orange, pineapple, strawberries, gooseberries, green onions, and sorrel. In addition to the above vitamins D, K, and PP (nicotinic acid), pantothenic and folic acids are also found in Laminaria (www.authspot.com).

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