The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that 2.3 billion people will be overweight and 700 million obese in 2015. The reasons for this disastrous trend are attributed to the global tendency toward the reduced magnitude of exercise and physical activity and the increased dietary intake of fats, sugars and calories with reduced amount of vitamins and minerals. To prevent life-style-related diseases, like Metabolic Syndrome (MS), researchers’ attention is increasingly focusing on some of the so called “functional foods” which may be useful for their prevention and treatment. One of these functional ingredients is fucoxanthin (FX), a characteristic carotenoid present in edible brown seaweeds, such as Undaria pinnatifida
(Wakame), Hijikia fusiformis
(Hijiki), Laminaria japonica
(Ma-Kombu) and Sargassum fulvellum
. The increasing popularity of this molecule is certainly due to its anti-obesity effect, primarily detected by murine studies. These works revealed FX mediated induction of
uncoupling protein-1 (UCP-1) in abdominal white adipose tissue (WAT) mitochondria, leading to the oxidation of fatty acids and heat production in WAT. Beyond this important role, in recent studies FX has shown a great antioxidant activity, anti-cancer, anti-diabetic and anti-photoaging properties. The aim of this review is to highlight the main effects of FX on human health.