Agar is a natural substance extracted from red seaweeds that are found in waters throughout the world. Agar, a tasteless substance, has been used as a food ingredient for centuries. Agar readily forms a gel and is used as a stabilizer, bulking, thickening and gelling agent, and food additive.
Agar is a rich source of water-soluble, indigestible fiber. In the digestive tract, it absorbs water, increases bulk, and stimulates large bowel muscle contractions. Agar's most common therapeutic use has been as a laxative, and it has been used for decades as a daily treatment for chronic constipation. Agar is used in a variety of commercial applications, including production of cloth, paper, and cosmetics. More recently, agar has been used in scientific research laboratories to grow bacteria for use in experiments.
Agar has been studied in several clinical trials as a possible treatment for newborn hyperbilirubinemia, a condition characterized by high levels of the pigment bilirubin in the blood. High levels of bilirubin may result in jaundice, which is a yellow color in the skin and whites of the eyes. Agar has also been investigated to determine if it might have a beneficial effect on glucose intolerance in type 2 diabetes mellitus.
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