Super Spirulina!

Spirulina platensis is a potent, nutrient dense super food that is derived from a single-celled blue-green alga grown in temperate waters around the world.  Spirulina is considered a whole food due to its rich source of proteins, vitamins, minerals, healthy fatty acids and other healing phytonutrients, such as numerous active plant pigments. 

 

Nutritional properties:

Spirulina contains around 60 – 70% protein[1] by weight, which is higher than any other natural food including any animal protein sources. It is also known to have all essential amino acids plus 10 – 12 nonessential amino acids and the nucleic acids RNA and DNA[2]. Amino acids are the building blocks of proteins, which are essential for continual cell building, and regeneration, as well as energy production, immune function and detoxification. The body cannot synthesise essential amino acids, therefore it is necessary for them to be provided through ones diet.

Spirulina is a great source of iron and beta-carotene (provitamin A) and contains numerous other vitamins and minerals including Vitamins B1, B2, B3, B6, B12, Folic acid, Sodium, Phosphorus, Potassium, Magnesium, Calcium, Manganese, Zinc, Copper, Chromium and Selenium[1][2][3].

Spirulina is one of the few natural dietary sources of gamma linolenic acid (GLA), an omega 6 fatty acid[1]. Spirulina has a high ratio of plants pigments and phytonutrients, including phycocyanin, carotenoids, xanthophylls and chlorophyll[3]. Phycocyanin is a blue pigment (bilirubin) found only in blue-green algae[4].

Chlorophyll is the component of plants that give them their green colour, and it is often referred to as ‘green blood’ due to its oxygen varying potential. Chlorophyll is also thought to be exceptionally cleansing and alkalising and assists in the removal of toxins from the body.

Alkalising properties:

Spirulina grows only in alkaline waters and is considered to be alkalising for the body. It has a high content of the alkalising green pigment, chlorophyll[5] and also contains the alkalising minerals calcium, magnesium, potassium and zinc[2], which can help neutralise excess acids.

Antioxidant and detoxifying properties:

Spirulina contains beta-carotene, tocopherols and phenolic acids (phycocyanin) which are all known to exhibit antioxidant properties[6], although phycocyanin is thought to be the main component responsible for its potent antioxidant activity[7]. In studies, Spirulina was found to be a potent free-radical scavenger and inhibit microsomal lipid peroxidation7. Further studies have shown the potential of Spirulina to increase antioxidant enzymes to near normal levels where they have previously been reduced due to toxicity[8]. These studies show the potential for Spirulina to be used therapeutically in free radical mediated diseases.

Anti-cancer & Immune Enhancing properties:

Spirulina acts on and assists the immune system in several different ways. It stimulates the production of beneficial antibodies and cytokines, increases the level of Natural Killer cells that attack and kill tumour cells and it increases the activity of macrophages, which are cells that ingest and destroy harmful substances[9]. With these immunological functions being increased, Spirulina may help to enhance disease resistance potential[10].

Experimental studies have actually demonstrated Spirulina to have an inhibitory effect on oral carcinogenesis, and complete regression of oral lesions in almost half of the participants treated[11]. Studies have concluded that daily ingestion of phycocyanin found in Spirulina maintains or accelerates normal cell function to prevent malignancy such as cancer[1].

The tumour preventative properties of Spirulina may also be partly due to its high beta-carotene content. Strong epidemiological evidence links Vitamin A and beta-carotene with lower cancer rates and decreased risk[12][13].

Spirulina has also has been found to be active against several viruses including herpes virus, influenza virus, HIV and cytomegalovirus[9].

Anti-inflammatory & Anti-allergenic properties:

Spirulina contains two major anti-inflammatory compounds, phycocyanin and GLA[4][14]. GLA is a precursor to prostaglandins1, which regulate inflammatory responses within the body.  Clinical studies show that dietary intake of GLA through Spirulina may decrease the inflammatory symptoms of arthritis[1][15].  Phycocyanin is a blue pigment that studies show may have anti-inflammatory effects4 and also improve the liver cancer survival rate[3].

Spirulina may also have a positive effect on allergic reactions, such as anaphylaxis, by inhibiting mast cell degranulation[16][17].

Metabolic effects:

Spirulina has been found to have a positive effect on cholesterol levels.  This may be partly due to the GLA content within Spirulina, as GLA can prevent accumulation of cholesterol within the body[18].  

Spirulina may also significantly reduce levels of Low Density Lipoproteins (the ‘bad’ cholesterol), whilst also reducing both systolic and diastolic blood pressure[19].  Furthermore, fat deposits within the arteries (atherosclerosis) may also decline considerably with Spirulina consumption[1].

Spirulina could have a positive effect on Type 2 Diabetes Mellitus, where it has the potential to lower fasting blood glucose levels, postprandial blood glucose levels and triglyceride levels[20].

Liver protective properties:

Spirulina may prevent fatty liver development[21] and also halt progression of chronic liver conditions, i.e. preventing chronic hepatitis from progressing into cirrhosis.  These liver protective properties are believed to be due to the anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, immune balancing and membrane stabilising actions of Spirulina[21].

Suggested Use:

Powder

Adults: As a nutritional supplement mix 1 teaspoon of Spirulina Powder into juice, smoothie, salad dressing or other food; build up to four times daily.

Children (5-12yrs): ½ teaspoon daily.

Tablets

Adults: Take 4-10 tablets with water. Build up to twice daily.

Children (5-12yrs): 3-4 tablets daily (Not recommended for young children due to tablet size).

Cautions:

Spirulina is a natural food and is not linked to any significant adverse effects.  However, due to its detoxifying properties it is best to start at a low dosage and gradually increase the dosage to avoid any detoxification symptoms. 

Possible detoxification symptoms include headache, fatigue and flatulence.  These symptoms should cease within 24-48 hours, however many people do not suffer any detoxification symptoms at all.  Ensure you drink plenty of filtered water and eat a healthy diet to support your body’s detoxification efforts.

References:


[1] Belay A, Ota, Y, Miyakawa K, et al (1993) Current Knowledge on potential health benefits of Spirulina. J. App. Psychol..; 5; 235-241.

[2] Burnett B (2005) Spirulina: aquatic water super-food. Alive: Can. J. Health Nutr.;274:50-55.

[3] Balch P and Balch B (2000) Prescription for Nutritional Healing: 3rd edition. Penguin Putnam. New York

[4] McCarty, M (2007) Clinical potential of Spirulina as a source of phycocyanobilin. J. Med. Food.; 10(4): 566-570.

[5]Shubin V, Bezsmertnaya I, Karapetyan N (1992) Isolation from Spirulina membranes of two photosystem I-type complexes, one of which contains chlorophyll responsible for the 77 K fluorescence band at 760 nm. FEBS Letters.; 309(3): 340-342.

[6] Miranda M, Cintra R, Barros S, et al (1998) Antioxidant activity of the microalga Spirulina maxima. Braz. J. Med. Biol. Res.; 31(8): 1075-1079.

[7] Pinero Estranda J, Bermejo Bescos P, Villar del Fresno A (2001) Antioxidant activity of different fractions of Spirulina platensis protean extract. Farmaco.; 56(5-7): 497-500.

[8] Sharma M, Sharma A, Kumar A, et al (2007) Spirulina fusiforms provides protection against mercuric chloride induced oxidative stress in Swiss albino mice. Food Chem. Toxicol.; 45(12): 2412-2419.

[9] Khan Z, Bhadouria P, Bisen P (2005) Nutritional and therapeutic potential of Spirulina. Curr. Pharm. Biotechnol.; 6(5): 373-379.

[10] Qureshi M, Garlich J, Kidd M (1996) Dietary Spirulina platensis enhances humoral and cell-mediated immune functions in chickens. Immunopharmacol. Immunotoxicol..; 18(3): 465-476.

[11] Mathew B, Sankaranarayanan R, Nair P, Varghese C, Somanathan T (1995) Evaluation of chemoprevention of oral cancer with Spirulina fusiformis. Nutr Cancer.; 24(2): 197-202.

[12] Peto R (1981) Can dietary beta carotene materially reduce human cancer rates. Nature.; 290: 201-208

[13] Shekelle R (1981) Dietary vitamin A and risk of cancer in the Western Electric Study. Lancet.; 8257: 1185-1189.

[14] Roy K, Arunasree K, Reddy N, et al (2007) Alteration of mitochondrial membrane potential by Spirulina platensis C-phycocyanin induces apoptosis in the doxorubicin-resistant human hepatocellular-carcinoma cell line. Biotechnol. App. Biochem.; 47(3): 159-167.

[15] Rasool M, Sabina E, Lavanya B (2006) Anti-inflammatory effect of Spirulina fusiformis on adjuvant-induced arthritis in mice. Biol. Pharm. Bull..; 29(12): 2483-2487.

[16] Kim H, Lee E, Cho H, Moon Y (1998) Inhibitory effect of mast cell-mediated immediate-type allergic reactions in rats by Spirulina. Biochem Pharmacol.; 55 (7): 1071-6.

[17] Yang H, Lee E, Kim H (1997) Spirulina platensis inhibits anaphylactic reaction. Life Sc.; 61(13):1237-1244.

[18] Samuels R, Mani U, Iyer U, et al (2002) Hypocholesterolemic effect of Spirulina in patients with hyperlipidemic nephrotic syndrome. J. Med. Food; 5(2): 91-96.

[19] Torres-Duran P, Ferreira-Hermosillo A, Juarez-Oropeza M (2007) Antihyperlipemic and antihypertensive effects of Spirulina maxima in an open sample of Mexican population: a preliminary report. Lipids Health Dis.; 6:33: 1476-1511.

[20] Parikh P, Mani U, Iyer U (2001) Role of Spirulina in the control of glycemia and lipidemia in type 2 diabetes mellitus. J. Med. Food.; 4 (4): 193-199.

[21] Gorban’ E, Orynchak M, Virstiuk N, et al (2000) Clinical and experimental study of Spirulina efficacy in chronic diffuse liver diseases. Lik Sprava.; (6): 89-93.

1 Comment

  1. this post is very usefull thx!