Saybrook graduate Tamami Shirai recognized for e-presentation on Hijiki at the 13th annual conference for Natural Supplements

Posted on: February 10, 2017

Tamami Shirai, PhD, is a recent graduate of Saybrook University’s College of Integrative Medicine and Health Sciences. Dr. Shirai was awarded third prize for her e-poster presentation within the residency/student category at the Natural Supplements 2016 conference, held by Scripps in San Diego in January 2016.

Since the completion of her doctoral degree, Tamami Shirai has focused her research on Lifestyle Medicine, while also serving as a post-doctoral trainee at the University of California San Diego’s School of Medicine.  Dr. Shirai’s systematic review of literature on Hijiki (i.e., brown algae) is one of her most recent research projects.  In certain Asian countries, such as Japan, the consumption of seaweed is a relatively important dietary component and may add substantially to people’s daily exposure levels of inorganic arsenic (iAs). iAs is considered a Group 1 carcinogen by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), and some countries such as Canada prohibit the import of Hijiki.  The Canadian Food Standards Agency also advises consumers not to eat Hijiki seaweed.

Dr. Shirai commented, “In spite of this fact, Hijiki has enjoyed a healthy image as a food product throughout my life in my home country, where they even say that it is one of the key foods for longevity.”

Hijiki’s potential is still under-researched.  Dr. Shirai notes that recent studies have found interesting and medicinally potent chemicals, predominantly belonging to polyphenols and sulphated polysaccharides, in marine flora. Research has reported various biological activities in Hijiki, including anti-oxidant activity, anti-cancer activity, anti-microbial activity against bacteria-virus-algae-fungi, organic fertilizer potential, and bio-remediation potential. Specifically, fucoxanthin and fucoxanthinol are mediated through various pathways, and both have potential for treatment of cancer or even for preventing the development of cancer. Another research study reports that Hijiki reduces the weight of mice with Type 2 diabetes mellitus, and addresses liver and kidney problems. These research findings shown Hijiki to have many health benefits, including anti-mutagenic, anti-diabetic, anti-obesity, anti-inflammatory, and anti-neoplastic effects.

Dr. Shirai commented, “Ancient wisdom can often give us the right answer. I will promote Hijiki for daily cooking, and will keep enjoying Hijiki as a source of health, as Japanese have done for centuries.”

This was Dr. Shirai’s first e-poster experience. She enjoyed the convenience of not having to provide a paper poster, and the e-poster format allowed for 2-3 pages of visual interactive presentation. However, the number of e-poster presentation was limited due to the cost of individual screens, and, ironically, many people asked Dr. Shirai for printed references at the venue.