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Fucoidan is a sulfated polysaccharide (MW: average 20,000) found mainly in various species of brown algae and brown seaweed such as mozuku, kombu, bladderwrack, wakame, and hijiki (variant forms of fucoidan have also been found in animal species, including the sea cucumber). Fucoidan is used as an ingredient in some dietary supplement products.
Fucoidan designates a group of certain fucose-containing sulfated polysaccharides (FCSPs) that have a backbone built of (1→3)-linked α-l-fucopyranosyl or of alternating (1→3)- and (1→4)-linked α-l-fucopyranosyl residues, but also include sulfated galactofucans with backbones built of (1→6)-β-d-galacto- and/or (1→2)-β-d-mannopyranosyl units with fucose or fuco-oligosaccharide branching, and/or glucuronic acid, xylose or glucose substitutions. These FCSPs offer several potentially beneficial bioactive functions for humans. The bioactive properties may vary depending on the source of seaweed, the compositional and structural traits, the content (charge density), distribution, and bonding of the sulfate substitutions, and the purity of the FCSP product. The preservation of the structural integrity of the FCSP molecules essentially depends on the extraction methodology which has a crucial, but partly overlooked, significance for obtaining the relevant structural features required for specific biological activities and for elucidating structure-function relations.