Miso soup may please more than your palate—it may help you lose weight, say researchers. A team led by Kazuo Miyashita. a chemistry professor at the Hokkaido University Graduate School of Fisheries Sciences in Japan, finds that a substance in brown seaweed—an ingredient of miso soup—may be a powerful fat burner.

In animal studies, his team finds that rodents fed the brown pigment in the seaweed—fucoxanthin—experienced a 5% to 10% weight loss through a shrinkage of abdominal fat. The com-pound is also in a type of kelp called wakame that is widely consumed in Japan.

The Study

Researchers say fucoxanthin appears to stimulate a protein that causes fat oxidation and conversion of energy to heat. This protein is found in belly fat. suggesting that the compound might be particularly effective at shrinking oversized guts, the researchers hypothesized.

In their study, fucoxanthin also stimulated the animals' livers to produce DHA. a beneficial omega-3 fatty acid that reduces “bad" LDL cholesterol. It’s also rich in phytochemicals believed to protect against cancer and other diseases.

The Reaction

“The exciting finding is that fucoxanthin may increase metabolism and weight control,' says Connie Diekman, director of nutrition at Washington University in St. Louis. "But the downside is that this is an animal study, and we can't automatically translate form animals to humans."

Until there's better documentation that eating seaweed can shrink your waistline, Dickman's recommendation is 'don't give up on what we know will work—correct food choices, right portions and regular physical activity"

Still, the Japanese researchers hope that further study could eventually lead to a fat-burning pill containing fucoxanthin.

Miso Soup with Bean Curd and Wakame Seaweed

Bean curd and seaweed may sound unappealing to eat, but it's very tasty in this recipe.


4 cups vegetable stock

1/2 cup dried wakame (a type of seaweed)

1/2 pound soft, medium or firm bean curd. cut into 3/4-inch cubes

2 scallions, cut into very fine rings tune both white and green portions)

2 1/2 to 4 tablespoons miso

Pinch of cayenne


It is first necessary to prepare the seaweed. Place the wakame in warm water, covering it by 1 inch. Let it stand for approximately 15 minutes, or until it is fully reconstituted. Drain in a sieve.

Put the stock into a medium pot and bring to a simmer. Add the bean curd and scallions. Simmer for 30 seconds. Gently stir in the reconstituted wakame. Reduce heat to low.

Put the miso in a stroll sieve and lower it into the soup (you may have to move the bean curd pieces aside). Push the miso through with a spoon.

Turn off the heat, stir once. sprinkle with cayenne and serve.

Makes 2 to 4 servings.

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