Agar is a natural substance extracted from red seaweeds that are found in waters throughout the world. Agar, a tasteless substance, has been used as a food ingredient for centuries. Agar readily forms a gel and is used as a stabilizer, bulking, thickening and gelling agent, and food additive.
Agar is a rich source of water-soluble, indigestible fiber. In the digestive tract, it absorbs water, increases bulk, and stimulates large bowel muscle contractions. Agar's most common therapeutic use has been as a laxative, and it has been used for decades as a daily treatment for chronic constipation. Agar is used in a variety of commercial applications, including production of cloth, paper, and cosmetics. More recently, agar has been used in scientific research laboratories to grow bacteria for use in experiments.
Agar has been studied in several clinical trials as a possible treatment for newborn hyperbilirubinemia, a condition characterized by high levels of the pigment bilirubin in the blood. High levels of bilirubin may result in jaundice, which is a yellow color in the skin and whites of the eyes. Agar has also been investigated to determine if it might have a beneficial effect on glucose intolerance in type 2 diabetes mellitus.
Agal-agal, agal-agal gum, agar (CAS 9002-18-0; EINECS 232-658-1), agar-agar, agar-agar gum, agaro-oligosaccharides, agar powder, agar-tang (Dutch), agarweed, aloe wood gum, Bengal isinglass, Ceylon agar, Ceylon isinglass, China grass, Chinese gelatin, Chinese isinglass, chun chow, colle du Japon (French), dai choy goh, Garacilaria confervoides, Gelidiella acerosa, Gelidium species, Gelidium spp., Gelidium spp. gum, gelosa, gelosae, gelose, Japan agar, Japan isinglass, Japanese gelatin, Japanischer Fischleim (German), kanten, kyauk kyaw, layor carang, macassar gum, puchratka amansova (Czech), red seaweed, Rhodophyceae (Family), seaweed gelatin, vegetable gelatin, woon.
These uses have been tested in humans or animals. Safety and effectiveness have not always been proven. Some of these conditions are potentially serious, and should be evaluated by a qualified healthcare provider.
Preliminary evidence suggests that a diet supplemented with agar may have a beneficial effect on blood sugar and glucose intolerance. However, a diet supplemented with agar may not be significantly better than a low-calorie diet alone. Additional research is needed before a conclusion may be made.
Hyperbilirubinemia in newborns is a condition characterized by high levels of the pigment bilirubin in the blood. Sufficiently high levels of bilirubin may result in jaundice, or yellow color in the skin and whites of the eyes. Agar has been studied to determine if might be effective in the treatment of hyperbilirubinemia in newborns, but results have been mixed. Further research is required before a conclusion may be made.