Bioactive peptides are protein fragments that have a positive impact on the body functions. Until now, the only known source of these protein fragments was found in milk alone. Seaweed reveals itself as a new alternative source.

Scientist have identified seaweed as a new rich source of healthy food ingredients. Seaweed and other "macroalgae" could rival milk products as sources of these so-called "bioactive peptides," they concluded in an article from the ACS's Journal of Agricultural and food Chemistry.

Maria Hayes and colleagues Ciarán Fitzgerald, Eimear Gallagher and Deniz Tasdemir note increased interest in using bioactive peptides, now obtained mainly from milk products, as ingredients in so-called functional foods. Those foods not only provide nutrition, but have a medicine-like effect in treating or preventing certain diseases.

"Seaweeds are a rich but neglected alternative source," they state, noting that people in East Asian and other cultures have eaten seaweed for centuries: Nori in Japan, Dulse in coastal Europe, and Limu Palahalaha in native Hawaiian cuisine.

Their review of almost 100 scientific studies concluded that that some seaweed proteins work just like the bioactive peptides in milk products to reduce blood pressure almost like the popular ACE inhibitor drugs.

"The variety of macroalgae species and the environments in which they are found and their ease of cultivation make macroalgae a relatively untapped source of new bioactive compounds, and more efforts are needed to fully exploit their potential for use and delivery to consumers in food products," Hayes and her colleagues conclude.

The article was published in the ACS's Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry