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Fucose is one of the eight essential sugars the body requires for optimal function of cell-to-cell communication. In any of the saccharides, the L form is the only one recognized by the body, while the D form is a synthetic analogue. Fucose should not be confused with Fructose, which is a monosaccharide found in fruits and honey.
When taken orally, Fucose is readily absorbed from the small intestine and incorporated either directly or after metabolism into glycoproteins. Unabsorbed Fucose is metabolized by friendly intestinal bacteria.
In humans, Fucose is excreted mainly in the urine at a rate of approximately 17 micrograms per minute. Nursing mothers also eliminate Fucose from the breast milk. During the latter stages of pregnancy, excretion of Fucose in the urine is markedly increased, which is consistent with fetal development and the transfer of immunity to the newborn.
- (a) at the junctions between nerves, implying that a deficiency could affect synaptic transmissions;
- (b) in the proximal tubules of the human kidney, indicating the vital need for this saccharide for proper kidney function;
- (c) in the testes, suggesting that it plays an important role in reproduction;
- (d) in the outer layer of skin, where it may be involved in maintaining skin hydration.
Fucose studies are also showing that it plays a significant role in many diseases, including cancer and its spread. Research is still ongoing but showing promise in the areas of inhibiting and reversing leukemia and breast cancer, including the suppression of tumor growth. Some studies have concluded that Fucose and Mannose appeared to be the most effective of the essential sugars when it came to slowing the growth of cancer cells.
Levels of Fucose are low in those with rheumatoid arthritis, and supplementation is showing promise as a harmless but surprisingly effective treatment. What is particularly interesting is the lower a person’s level of Fucose (as well as Galactose, another essential sugar), the more advanced the disease.
Fucose metabolism appears to be altered in various diseases. Several studies have concluded that Fucose metabolism is abnormal in those with cystic fibrosis, diabetes, and during episodes of shingles, which is caused by a herpes virus. These studies go on to suggest that the sugar is active against other herpes viruses. In addition, the saccharide guards against respiratory tract infections and inhibits allergic reactions. Liver function and serum protein levels were also affected by a deficiency of Fucose. All these disorders, as well as many others, go back to immune function where fucose is showing to play a significant role.
In other studies, Fucose proved that it can be incorporated into certain areas of the body where and when it is most needed. For instance, Fucose incorporated into the photoreceptor layer of the retina, may help with the biosynthesis of rod cell glycoproteins. In psoriasis, fucose may play a significant role in the disease process because of altered glycoprotein distribution. Normally, skin keratinocytes and non-psoriatic cells have most of their fucose on the plasma membrane, whereas psoriatic cells retain most of their fucose within the cytoplasm. The list is endless for connecting the reversal and prevention of disease and the use of Fucose and other essential sugars.
Out of the 500 or so species of microbes found in the human intestine, one has been studied as being of particular interest in its relation to Fucose Bacteroides thetaiotaomicron. Present from birth, this bacterium survives in the lower part of the gut and feeds on Fucose. Cells lining the intestine manufacture it and post it on the surface of the cell. During weaning, Fucose production stops but begins again if B. thetaiotaomicron is present, leading researchers at Washington University School of Medicine to conclude that the bacterium is able to communicate to the intestine that it requires Fucose for its food. Understanding this communication between microbes and human cells may help provide treatment when friendly intestinal bacteria are destroyed after the use of antibiotics, for instance.
Studies have shown that, when Fucose is given in extraordinarily high amounts, there were no side effects. The only remotely related oral toxicity that was found was from animals ingesting a diet composed of 20% Fucose. This amount appeared to reduce nerve conduction velocity as well as collagen production. What similar effects would be in humans has yet to be determined. However, microscopic examination of the liver, kidney, pancreas, and the sternal bone marrow of Fucose-treated rats revealed no abnormalities. According to available studies, it appears that oral doses as great as 34 grams in a healthy 150-pound adult is considered safe. Maximum blood levels would be expected one hour after ingestion and would be eliminated from the bloodstream eight to twelve hours later. Therefore, twice daily doses of any amount are recommended to maintain sufficient blood levels.
Fucose is readily found in several medicinal mushrooms, such seaweeds as kelp and wakame, and beer yeast.
(Updated June 2011)