The gut bacteria in some people have acquired genes for digesting seaweed fibres in a transfer from marine bacteria. We don’t know what effect this has on health, but it could be harmful

The gut bacteria in some people have acquired genes for digesting seaweed fibres in a transfer from marine bacteria. We don’t know what effect this has on health, but it could be harmful

By Michael Le Page
Seaweed contains fibres we normally can’t digest
Amarita/Getty Images
Eating seaweed can genetically alter the bacteria in your gut, as they can acquire genes from marine bacteria for digesting substances unique to seaweeds. It is not known if this affects people’s health, but having gut bacteria that can digest carrageenan, a common food additive derived from seaweed, might be harmful.
“Our microbes are naturally genetically engineering themselves,” says Eric Martens at the University of Michigan.
Seaweeds contain unique dietary fibres – large carbohydrate molecules – that neither we nor the bacteria in our guts can normally digest. For instance, the nori wrappers used for sushi …

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