We have included this study to show you the lengths to which we go to bring you information about certain potential nutrients and their possible role in prediabetes-metabolic syndrome. We will not leave any stone – or sea urchin – unturned.
Yes, I said sea urchin, but not the whole urchin, just one special part.
Which part? Answer….wait for it…gonads.
Russian researchers used an animal model and studied the effect of the administration of a lipid extract of sea urchin gonads on blood glucose levels. “Lipid extracts” refers to certain fats in the sea urchin gonads.
Animals receiving the sea urchin gonad extract showed “significant effects on the fasting blood glucose level and tended to inhibit the increase of HbA1c” as well as “a dose-dependent reduction of blood pressure.” In plain English that means the animals who got the sea urchin gonad extract had better blood sugar levels after prolonged sleeping (fasting) and better measures of blood sugar over time as measured by glycosylated hemoglobin (HbA1c).
Who knew sea urchins had such rich gonads? So that’s why they have all those spines…to protect their special bits. As a matter of fact, sea urchin gonads are actually a delicacy in some parts of the world. In Japan, they are known as uni (oo-nee). They commonly refer to this part of the sea urchin as sea urchin eggs, or roe, but in actuality, it is the gonad tissue that is being eaten. Each sea urchin contains five gonadal ‘lobes’ and the harvesting of uni is a very delicate process because apparently the meat falls apart easily.
As a matter of fact, it is considered a sushi item and can be quite costly. Like most food, especially seafood, it is graded on the color, texture, and freshness. The more colorful version of sea urchin eggs (gonads) is the most sought after. The highest grade is a bright yellow/gold. The gonads get their color from the presence of carotenoids in the tissue. Carotenoids are compounds that are found in nature. They are often responsible for the color of many plants and animals. Readers who would like to learn more about sea urchin carotenoids, you may download this .pdf which is an analysis of the carotenoids found in sea urchin gonads.
Evidently Uni is often served with a raw quail egg and is considered an aphrodisiac by some.
In the Philippines sea urchin gonads are referred to as Swaki. Here is an image-rich post of harvesting and preparation of sea urchin gonads-sushi in Manilla.
You will never think about a sea urchin the same way again.