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Last Updated: Thursday, 30 October, 2003, 11:59 GMT
Laverbread could fight flu
The nutritional benefits of seaweed have been proven
The Welsh delicacy of laverbread could be used in the fight against flu, according to Japanese scientists.

University researchers have said a chemical in seaweed, called MC26, has proved three times more effective than current flu remedies in a series of tests.

The team even believe the substance, called MC26, could be used to fight other viruses such as Aids.

Laverbread is made from black and shiny edible seaweed called laver, and is a regional speciality of south Wales.

Yuto Kamei, who led the Saga University study, said experiments showed MC26 was more successful than amantadine hydrochloride, which forms the basis of many modern flu remedies.

"We are concentrating on influenza at the moment because it is so common and is the cause of a lot of deaths, particularly among the elderly and there is a big demand for it," he said.

"But the substance is certain to have other uses too."

Rory Parsons, owner of Penclawdd firm Parsons Pickles which produces laverbread, said he was not surprised by the study.

I don't think there is a tradition of using seaweed in the treatment of the common cold.
Ron Eccles, Common Cold Centre director

"We've always known seaweed has beneficial properties - it is good to see they have finally isolated one of the seaweed substances which is good for you," he said.

Food writer Angela Grey said she had researched seaweed's nutritional values and agreed about its benefits.

"It is actually very good for you and we should be eating lots more of it," she said.

"One hundred grams a day will give you the recommended daily requirement of a lot of minerals and vitamins, carbohydrate and protein.

But Professor Ron Eccles, director of the Common Cold Centre at Cardiff University, said that although plants provide some of the world's most powerful medicines, he was "a bit sceptical" about the claims.

"I don't think there is a tradition of using seaweed in the treatment of the common cold," he said.

"Usually one would expect over a process of usage over thousands of years, particularly in Wales we would have discovered this."

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