Nowadays the global tendency towards physical activity reduction and an augmented dietary intake of fats, sugars and calories is leading to a growing propagation of overweight, obesity and lifestyle-related diseases, such diabetes, hypertension, dyslipidemia and metabolic syndrome. In particular, obesity, characterized as a state of low-level inflammation, is a powerful determinant both in the development of insulin resistance and in the progression to type 2 diabetes. A few molecular targets offer hope for anti-obesity therapeutics. One of the keys to success could be the induction of uncoupling protein 1 (UCP1) in abdominal white adipose tissue (WAT) and the regulation of cytokine secretions from both abdominal adipose cells and macrophage cells infiltrated into adipose tissue. Anti-obesity effects of fucoxanthin, a characteristic carotenoid, exactly belonging to xanthophylls, have been reported. Nutrigenomic studies reveal that fucoxanthin induces UCP1 in abdominal WAT mitochondria, leading to the oxidation of fatty acids and heat production in WAT. Fucoxanthin improves insulin resistance and decreases blood glucose levels through the regulation of cytokine secretions from WAT. The key structure of anti-obesity effect is suggested to be the carotenoid end of the polyene chromophore, which contains an allenic bond and two hydroxyl groups. Fucoxanthin, which can be isolated from edible brown seaweeds, recently displayed its many physiological functions and biological properties. We reviewed recent studies and this article aims to explain essential background of fucoxanthin, focusing on its promising potential anti-obesity effects. In this respect, fucoxanthin can be developed into promising marine drugs and nutritional products, in order to become a helpful functional food.
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