Brown algae (Phaeophyceae) have been consumed by humans for hundreds of years. Current studies have shown that brown algae are rich sources of bioactive compounds with excellent nutritional value, and are considered functional foods with health benefits. Polysaccharides are the main constituents of brown algae; their diverse structures allow many unique physical and chemical properties that help to moderate a wide range of biological activities, including immunomodulation, antibacterial, antioxidant, prebiotic, antihypertensive, antidiabetic, antitumor, and anticoagulant activities. In this review, we focus on the major polysaccharide components in brown algae: the alginate, laminarin, and fucoidan. We explore how their structure leads to their health benefits, and their application prospects in functional foods and pharmaceuticals. Finally, we summarize the latest developments in applied research on brown algae polysaccharides.
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