Lifestyle-related problems are becoming a major health threat in East Asian countries. Therefore, finding an efficacious nutraceutical for this population is important. One candidate is fucoxanthin (Fx), a carotenoid abundantly found in edible brown seaweed that has been associated with a number of valuable health-promoting benefits. Unfortunately, clinical studies of Fx are limited. In the present study, we aimed to evaluate the effects of Fx on obesity-related parameters in Japanese subjects harbouring an SNP associated with lifestyle-related problems. In all, sixty normal-weight and obese Japanese adults with BMI over 22 kg/m2 were single-blinded and randomly assigned to three Fx-dose cohorts and administered Fx-enriched akamoku oil containing Fx at 0, 1 or 2 mg/d for 8 weeks (n 20 per group). Parameters relating to obesity and serum Fx metabolites were measured before and after intervention, but no significant differences were observed between and within the groups. Despite no changes in visceral fat areas and resting energy expenditures after intervention, we observed a significant decline in HbA1c levels in the 2 mg/d Fx group compared with that in the 0 mg/d group (P < 0·05), which was correlated with an increase in serum fucoxanthinol (Fx metabolite) levels. In addition, HbA1c levels declined more significantly in subjects with G/G alleles of the uncoupling protein 1 (UCP1) gene than in those with the A/A and A/G alleles (P < 0·05). We conclude that although Fx supplementation does not affect visceral fat areas, it may reduce HbA1c levels in those harbouring the thrifty allele of UCP1-3826A/G.