Distinct arsenic metabolites following seaweed consumption in humans

Document Type


Publication Date


Publication Title

Scientific Reports


Department of Earth Sciences

Additional Department

Geisel School of Medicine


Seaweeds contain arsenic primarily in the form of arsenosugars, which can be metabolized to a wide range of arsenic compounds. To characterize human exposure to arsenic from seaweed consumption, we determined concentrations of arsenic species in locally available seaweeds, and assessed urinary arsenic compounds in an experimental feeding study. A total of 11 volunteers consumed 10 g per day of three types of seaweeds (nori, kombu, and wakame) for three days each, while abstaining from rice and seafood following a three-day washout period. Urinary arsenosugars and their metabolites (including dimethyl arsenate (DMA), thio-dimethylarsinoylethanol (thio-DMAE), thio-dimethylarsinoylacetate (thio-DMAA), and thio-DMA) were measured in spot urine samples prior to seaweed consumption, and in 24-hour urine samples while consuming seaweed. Commercial products made from whole seaweed had substantial concentrations of arsenic (12-84 mu g/g), dominated by arsenosugars. Intact arsenosugars along with DMA, thio-DMAA, thio-DMAE all increased in urine after ingesting each type of seaweed, and varied between seaweed types and between individuals. Only trace levels of the known toxic metabolite, thio-DMA, were observed, across individuals. Thio-DMAE and thio-DMAA are unique products of arsenosugar breakdown, thus assessment of these compounds may help to identify dietary intake of arsenic from seaweed from other exposure pathways.



Original Citation

Taylor VF, Li Z, Sayarath V, et al. Distinct arsenic metabolites following seaweed consumption in humans [published correction appears in Sci Rep. 2018 Mar 2;8(1):4145]. Sci Rep. 2017;7(1):3920. Published 2017 Jun 20. doi:10.1038/s41598-017-03883-7