The Use of Macrocystis Pyrifera [Kelp] as Source of Trace Elements in Human Nutrition

By G.L. Seifert and H.C. Wood

Summary: As read at the Second International Seaweed Symposium in 1956. Dr. Seifert reports on a study in which “the nutritional value of sea kelp and trace minerals was demonstrated.” In the experiment, the diet of 400 pregnant women—the majority suffering anemia—was fortified with tablets of dried giant bladder kelp (Macrocystis pyrifera). In the majority of the subjects, the anemia disappeared within six to eight weeks of the onset of supplementation. In addition, there was “a spectacular drop in the incidence of colds” among the subjects. (Anemia and a tendency to develop colds is a common problem faced by pregnant women, the investigators note.) Seifert adds that the success of the study is likely a result of the high trace mineral content of the kelp, and that one of the key effects of trace minerals may be their promotion of the actions of vitamins. From Second International Seaweed Symposium, 1956. Lee Foundation for Nutritional Research reprint 133.

[The following is a transcription of the original Archives document. To view or download the original document, click here.]

The Use of Macrocystis Pyrifera as Source of Trace Elements in Human Nutrition[spacer height=”20px”]

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The Importance of Trace Minerals

400 obstetrical patients can’t be wrong! One of the problems of pregnant women is anemia and a tendency to develop colds easily. This is a study in which the nutritional value of sea kelp and trace minerals was demonstrated. Anemia was relieved, and a spectacular drop in the incidence of colds was noted. Conclusion: In certain types of body stress, the difference between health and disease may often be a trace-mineral supplement.

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Presented at the Second International Seaweed Symposium, Trondheim, Norway, July 1955. Read by G.L. Seifert.


A study of 400 obstetrical patients was made in which 5.5-gram tablets of Macrocystis pyrifera, fortified with cobalt and folic acid, were the only source of trace elements used.

It was found that the majority of these young patients were suffering from well-established secondary anemia when they first presented themselves for care. Within six to eight weeks on three tablets per day, the hemoglobin levels had reached an average of 12 mg (85%). Furthermore, in patients who stopped this food supplement during a period of time, there was a rapid drop in hemoglobin levels, which rose again with resumption of the tablets.

In all patients studied, there was a spectacular drop in the incidence of colds. In those colds that were contracted, the intensity and the duration were so much reduced that the annoyance of the infection was minimal. The factor or factors responsible for this effect are not clear, but it is supposed that the general improvement in the body metabolism is responsible.

In all patient groups and particularly the geriatric group, there was a noticeable improvement in physical stamina (“4 o’clock fatigue” being ameliorated)—this probably being due to the beneficial effect of the iodine content on the functioning of the thyroid gland.

In the practices of both authors, the rate of miscarriage is well below that of the population at large. In patients who came with a history of miscarriage, the use of this supplement has apparently been successful. The combination of manganese and cobalt in the tablets is thought to be a major factor in this observation.

The functioning of the G.I. tract was very much improved: digestion, elimination, lack of scouring or constipation from the iron content, etc.

There is in the various organs of the body unusual concentration of essential elements, and the authors are convinced that future research will show the same relation to the glands involved as that of iodine to the thyroid.


Dr. Aleem, Egypt, asked if the people taking part in the experiment were specially chosen from different classes of the community. Dr. Seifert replied that the experiment was based on an average American population from an industrial district.

Mr. Richardson, Scotland, inquired about control groups given dummy tablets. Dr. Seifert denied that they had used any controls this time. Earlier tests had given effects corresponding to a 5 to 6% earlier rise than the controls. Dr. Young wanted to know what amounts of trace minerals might have been given during these experiments. Dr. Seifert stated that no arsenic was present [since] the formula of these tablets had been accepted by the Food and Drug Administration. Analyses for fluorine had also given negative results.

Mrs. Kylin, Sweden, asked if any vitamins were added to the diet, to which Dr. Seifert replied that no other growth substances were given.

Dr. Aleem inquired about the psychological effect in such an experiment and if it had been thoroughly eliminated. Dr. Seifert said that this part of the problem had not been taken into account. He then pointed out the importance of the trace minerals and indicated that some of the effects caused by vitamins might possibly be due to the trace elements present. This ought to be further investigated.

By G.L. Seifert and H.C. Wood (U.S.A.). Reprinted by the Lee Foundation for Nutritional Research from Second International Seaweed Symposium, Trygve Braarud and N.A. Sorensen, Eds., Pergamon Press, London & New York, 1956. 

Reprint No. 133
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Lee Foundation for Nutritional Research
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Note: Lee Foundation for Nutritional Research is a nonprofit, public-service institution, chartered to investigate and disseminate nutritional information. The attached publication is not literature or labeling for any product, nor shall it be employed as such by anyone. In accordance with the right of freedom of the press guaranteed to the Foundation by the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, the attached publication is issued and distributed for informational purposes.


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