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Potential health benefits

Aug 13, 2021

The primary reason sea cucumbers are eaten is for their perceived health benefits. Sea cucumbers have long been a part of Traditional Chinese Medicine, and they have also been the subject of a number of studies looking at the various compounds within the animals.

Antioxidants – the biggest consensus is that sea cucumbers contain high levels of antioxidants. A 1999 Malaysian study found very high levels of antioxidants and suggested they might be a good source for supplements.[2] Antioxidants are compounds that minimize the effect of free radical oxygen molecules, which are oxygen isotopes that are thought to cause damage to cells within the body in excess.

Collagen – A Japanese study found that about 70% of the animal was made up of collagen that was generally inedible, although cooking the animal appears to significantly break down the cell walls allowing the nutrients to be digested.[3] Collagen is known to have a variety of health benefits for heart disease, joint pain, arthritis, and the effects of ageing on skin appearance.[4][5][6][7]

Chondroitin sulphate – sea cucumbers have also been found to contain high levels of chondroitin sulphate, a common dietary supplement often used in conjunction with glucosamine to elevate osteoarthritis.[8] Although widely used and generally considered safe, some studies have cast doubts on its overall effectiveness in alleviating knee pain.[9] However, the Arthritis Foundation has cited recent studies in 2010 and 2011 that suggested that symptoms of osteoarthritis were alleviated by taking chondroitin sulphate.[10]

Amino acids – amino acids are essential for the healthy functioning of the cells and are considered important nutrients in a healthy diet. A recent study found that all species of sea cucumber have high protein levels, low lipid content, and adequate to high amounts of essential amino acids.[11] The rich amino acid variety along with the high protein levels make sea cucumbers compatible with high protein diets.