People have been experiencing the health benefits of sea moss, an edible red seaweed, for ages. But last year, with the help of a TV show, it got a little bit more notoriety in the U.S.
In a May 2022 episode of “Shark Tank” — ABC’s reality show for entrepreneurs — a CEO named Alexiou Gibson presented his product in a bid for funding from investors (aka the “Sharks”). His company, The Transformation Factory, sells a nutrient-rich wellness sea moss gel, and Gibson had a powerful story behind it.
At 21, Gibson had been morbidly obese when he went on a weight loss journey that resulted in his losing 300 pounds. He claimed that daily sea moss lattes (using this gel) were a big factor in that transformation. He launched his sea moss nutraceutical business, selling “nature’s most powerful superfood,” and made $1.4 million in profits within eleven months. He was asking for more money to grow the company.
Mark Cuban, a “Shark,” and Kevin Hart, a “recurring Shark,” ended up paying $600,000 for 20% of The Transformation Factory’s equity. Hart described sea moss as a “culturally driven product” that was trendy among Black Americans. But it was the weight loss narrative that seemed to hook him. “I think a story behind the product makes a product that much better,” he said.
In the months since, sea moss has been having a moment in the spotlight. But are the wellness claims valid? Here’s a primer on what sea moss can (and possibly can’t) do for your health.
Health Benefits of Sea Moss
Sea moss, also called Irish moss, is harvested from the waters off of the Atlantic Ocean as well as in some of the coastal waters along Asia, South America, Africa and the Caribbean (Gibson sources his from Jamaica). It’s long been valued for containing carrageenan, a natural substance used to thicken and emulsify foods like nut milk and yogurt.
And it does have significant health benefits. Sea moss “may be one of the most nutrient-dense foods on the planet,” Ana Reisdorf, a registered dietitian, told Forbes.
“It is a rich source of many vitamins, minerals, polyunsaturated fats and anti-inflammatory compounds.” Seaweed in general has proven to boost health in many ways, so it’s no surprise that sea moss has inspired attention. Health experts are making a lot of claims about its ability to give you good health and gorgeous skin.
Hailey Bieber included sea moss gel in her recipe for a “Strawberry Glaze Skin Smoothie.” And Kim Kardashian likes to indulge in sea moss smoothies, too, at least based on her Twitter feed:
Sea Moss Smoothies are really good too https://t.co/u3Sicbwe4P
— Kim Kardashian (@KimKardashian) February 4, 2020
With that said, there’s still not enough research to prove exactly how sea moss might improve skin or target specific conditions.
“While sea moss has been harvested and consumed either as food or for healing for thousands of years, there is limited scientific evidence to prove many of these claims,” Dr. Carrie Lam, a physician specializing in family medicine and anti-aging, told Forbes. But with nutrients in sea moss that include folate, vitamin K, vitamin B, iron, iodine, magnesium, zinc and calcium, health experts are actively seeking such evidence.
For example, sea moss is making waves, so to speak, in the increasingly popular wellness realm of gut health.
“Sea moss is high in fiber and rich in prebiotics that help increase probiotics, good gut bacteria, in your gut,” says Tiffone Powers-Parker, a senior registered dietitian and nutritionist at Banner Health. “This creates a favorable environment in your gut, aiding digestion, preventing constipation and improving overall health.”
It’s also a great source of iodine, which is associated with thyroid health. Specifically, it’s integral in the production of thyroid hormones that control metabolism and aid in bone and brain development during pregnancy. And potassium — another big ingredient in sea moss — supports muscle contraction.
“It also has minerals like magnesium and phosphate which are known to support blood pressure regulation and your overall heart health,” Samar Kullab, a registered dietitian and nutritionist, told CNBC’s Make It.
Weight Loss Claims of Sea Moss
With all of these other beneficial effects, it’s unsurprising that people would look to sea moss as a weight loss enhancer. And as a source of metabolism-regulating iodine, sea moss seems to have the potential to help in this regard. But despite Gibson’s claims that sea moss helped him lose weight, “the studies are not strong to support that at all,” Kullab told CNBC Make It.
Dr. Melinda Ring, the executive director of the Osher Center for Integrative Health at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, told The New York Times that it may help you lose weight in an indirect way. She explained that it can be slow to leave our stomachs, which keeps us feeling satiated for a longer period of time.
How To Incorporate Sea Moss Into Your Diet
Kim Kardashian had the right idea about how to eat sea moss. Adding 1 to 2 tablespoons of sea moss gel to a smoothie will give it a quick nutrient boost. You can also add it to soups, sauces or teas. Just don’t consume too much, because an excess of iodine can damage your thyroid.