Nutrition News Spirulina cover image

Spirulina! Superstar Of Superfoods

  • What Do You Know About Spirulina?
  • Why Is It Considered A Superfood?
  • How Does It Impact Your Health?
  • Why Is It A Food For Every Body?

Spirulina – Superstar!!!

Imagine a food that helps regulate blood sugar, blood pressure, and  cholesterol….

A food that can alleviate the pain of inflammation…. A food that can deliver enough antioxidant activity to protect against life threatening diseases….

A food that supports and protects the liver and the kidneys…. One that removes radiation from the body, improves the immune system, alleviates allergies, and has been proven to fight many different viruses….

A food that helps our eyes and our brains….  And, lastly, a food that helps improve our digestion by increasing the friendly flora in our intestines.

Sound like a miracle? Scientific research shows that this amazing algae is the most nutritious, concentrated whole food known to humankind. Spirulina is truly a Superstar of Superfoods! 

Miracle Food, Just Add Water….

Spirulina Is Called The

“Green Protein Machine”.  Look Inside….

Nutrition News Spirulina cover image

TOPIC: SPIRULINA

Spirulina named #1 food by AARP!!!

   Spirulina scored a first of “5 Foods That Can Add Years to Your Life” by the editors of AARP, the magazine with the largest circulation on Earth. The editors recommend making spirulina a part of the daily diet – and so do we! This acknowledgment underscores spirulina blue-green algae as a Superstar of Superfoods.

Spirulina!

Superstar Of Superfoods

What Do You Know About Spirulina?

Why Is It Considered A Superfood?

How Does It Impact Your Health? 

Why Is It A Food For Every Body?

Spirulina Is Called The 

“Green Protein Machine”.  Look Inside….

Spirulina – Superstar!!!

Imagine a food that helps regulate blood sugar, blood pressure, and  cholesterol…. A food that can alleviate the pain of inflammation…. A food that can deliver enough antioxidant activity to protect against life threatening diseases…. A food that supports and protects the liver and the kidneys…. One that removes radiation from the body, improves the immune system, alleviates allergies, and has been proven to fight many different viruses…. A food that helps our eyes and our brains….  And, lastly, a food that helps improve our digestion by increasing the friendly flora in our intestines.

Sound like a miracle? Scientific research shows that this amazing algae is the most nutritious, concentrated whole food known to humankind. Spirulina is truly a Superstar of Superfoods!

Miracle Food, Just Add Water…. 

An incredibly nutrient-dense food, spirulina contains every nutrient we need to sustain our lives – except water. And, unlike any other cultivated food, the more spirulina we eat, the healthier our Earth becomes.

   Spirulina is an ideal food supplement for people of all ages and lifestyles. A rounded teaspoon (3 grams) has more antioxidant and anti-inflammatory activity than 5 servings of vegetables. This makes spirulina an ideal way to boost your vegetable intake. And, that’s just the beginning.

Spirulina has been called “The Green Protein Machine”. Containing all the essential amino acids, spirulina is a spectacular protein source. Higher in protein than any other known food, content varies between 60 and 65 percent highly digestible, complete protein. An acre of spirulina aquaculture yields 20 times more protein than soybeans. Soy follows with 35 percent protein while animal flesh varies from 15-25 percent. Although eggs (only 12 percent protein) and whey protein have been named the most highly bioavailable proteins, spirulina is their equal with its higher percentage of protein/weight. It has the added benefits of being both vegan and easy on the planet.

Beyond protein, gram for gram, spirulina is the most nutritious food on the planet. Spirulina contains 300% more calcium than milk, 2300% more iron than spinach, and 3900% more beta carotene than carrots – higher than any other whole food.1 In addition, it is the best whole food source of gamma linolenic acid. (GLA is the essential omega 6 fatty acid rarely found in nature but necessary to health.) Spirulina is rich in B vitamins, including B12, plus vitamin E, minerals, enzymes, and antioxidants, including superoxide dismutase (a potent antioxidant produced in the body). 

   As an antioxidant, spirulina is 31 times more potent than blueberries, 60 times more potent than spinach, and 700 times more potent than apples. Other important substances include sulfolipids, glycolipids, and the nucleotides RNA and DNA. 

   Spirulina also contains glycogen. Glycogen is the body’s storage substance for excess carbohydrate. This makes spirulina a boon for endurance althletes. These folks eat purposefully to provide their bodies with greater glycogen stores (called “carb loading”). Hitting-the-wall is what happens to athletes when their glycogen is depleted. Thus, spirulina gives them longer-lasting energy and reduced recovery time. 

Various other groups of persons are also natural candidates for eating spirulina. People who have digestion, assimilation, and elimination problems are nourished because spirulina is 85-95 percent digestible. It also supports dieters by helping to satisfy their appetites with essential nutrients with a low caloric cost. It enables children (and others who don’t like vegetables) to eat their greens by taking a few tablets or blending spirulina powder into a smoothie.2 It delivers important nutrition to busy people who don’t have time for regular meals.

  Others who should consider taking spirulina regularly include students away from home; those with poor eating habits; older people, particularly elderly persons; and people recovering from surgery. Add all those who need more energy. And, let’s not forget those of us who consistently prefer to optimize our nutrition.

Specific To Spirulina

Like the cherry on a Sundae, spirulina contains two special phytonutrients: the unique phycocyanin and a number of polysaccharides which have yielded some novel extracts.

Phycocyanin

Phycocyanin is thought to be a precursor to chlorophyll. It is a unique brilliant blue water-soluble pigment. Found only in blue-green algae like spirulina, this phytochemical simulates the effect of a hormone called erythropoietin, EPO. EPO is produced by healthy kidneys and regulates the activity of the bone marrow stem cells, which produce our white blood cells. These make up the cellular immune system and the red (iron-carrying) cells which oxygenate the body. The presence of phycocyanin creates a vital difference between spirulina and other green foods such chlorella, wheat grass, and barley grass, and partially explains its profound effect on the immune system.

At the Osaka Medical Center for Cancer and Cardiovascular Diseases, researchers have completed extensive studies of phycocyanin. Their work shows that it activates the immune system and protects the liver and kidneys during detoxification. They wrote, “Spirulina is surmised to potentiate the immune system leading to the suppression of cancer development and viral infection.” Their human clinical study showed that an extract of spirulina rich in phycocyanin increased interferon production and NK cytotoxicity.3 (Hirahashi, et al, 2002) Phycocyanin has also shown promise in treating cancer in animals by stimulating the immune system. (Iijima, et al, 1982) A recent study by Reddy, et al, showed that phycocyanin is also a powerful anti-inflammatory. (2000)

Polysaccharides

Polysaccharides (sometimes called glycans as in beta glycans) are another promising constituent of spirulina. These relatively complex carbohydrates are classified as sugars, but are neither sweet nor water soluble. Glycogen (the body’s energy storage substance) and cellulose are examples of polysaccharides. 

A novel polysaccharide isolated from spirulina and called Calcium Spirulan has excellent antiviral potential. 

At Toyama Medical and Pharmaceutical University, 

researchers found that Calcium Spirulan inhibited the replication of several different viruses including HIV-1, herpes simplex 1, measles, mumps, influenza, and human cytomegalovirus. They wrote, “… Calcium Spirulan selectively inhibited the penetration of the virus into host cells”. (Hayashi, et al, 1996)

In a similar study, Hayashi, et al, commented, “Calcium Spirulan can be a candidate agent for an anti-HIV therapeutic drug that might overcome the disadvantages observed in many sulfated polysaccharides”. (1996)

The potential of spirulina’s polysaccharides in cancer therapy has been examined by researchers in both Japan and China. At Toyama University, researchers found that Calcium Spirulan significantly reduced lung metastasis by inhibiting tumor invasion of the cell membranes. They reported “a marked decrease of lung tumor colonization”. (Mishima, et al, 1998)

At the University of Mississippi School of Pharmacy, another novel polysaccharide was extracted from spirulina.  “Immulina” has potent immunostimulatory activity in humans. The researchers concluded that it is “…between 100 and 1000 times more active…than polysaccharide preparations that are currently used for cancer immunotherapy”. (Pugh, et al, 2001)

Want More Science?

There have been hundreds of scientific studies of spirulina, showing a vast array of positive health benefits. These include in vitro experiments, in vivo animal research, and double blind, placebo-controlled human clinical trials. Two literature reviews summarize the many ways that spirulina can support our health.

In 2002, Chamorro, et al, made the following statement about their findings: “Spirulina has been experimentally proven, in vivo and in vitro, [to be] effective to treat certain allergies, anemia, cancer, hepatotoxicity [toxicity of the liver], viral and cardiovascular diseases, hyperglycemia [high blood sugar], hyperlipidemia [high cholesterol and triglycerides], immunodeficiency, and inflammatory processes, among others.”

In an earlier summary, Blinkova, et al, analyzed a number of benefits, including those mentioned above. They pointed out that spirulina has been shown to stimulate the immune system and augment resistance in humans as well as animals (mammals, poultry, and fish). They also emphasized the importance of spirulina’s antiviral activity, writing, “Spirulina sulfolipids have proved to be effective against HIV…, against herpes virus, cytomegalovirus, influenza virus, etc. Spirulina extracts are capable of inhibiting carcinogenesis [origination of cancer].” 

Finally, the authors noted that spirulina is effective in preserving intestinal flora and in decreasing Candida albicans [the bacterial source of yeast infections]. (2001)

A number of important clinical studies have been published. We summarize the results of four of them here. The first has good news for allergy sufferers. In 2005, Mao, et al, at UC Davis School of Medicine examined spirulina’s effect on allergic rhinitis. (The soreness and/or dripping nose caused by inflammation of the mucous membrane.) The secretion of cytokine Interleukin-4 was reduced sufficiently in patients using spirulina that their reaction was less severe. 

Gorban, et al, demonstrated spirulina’s support of the liver and of those already suffering from liver disease. Sixty patients with chronic liver problems as well as 70 animals with toxic liver participated in this unusual study. Spirulina was effective for both the people and the animals. Researchers attributed the liver-protecting (hepatoprotective) properties of spirulina to its anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, membrane-stabilizing, and immunocorrecting properties. They also found that spirulina stabilized the liver and prevented the disease from progressing to cirrhosis. (2000)

The third study involves the effects of spirulina on pre-cancerous oral lesions. In this clinical trial, the participants were 87 tobacco chewers who had sores in their mouths. The spirulina group took only one gram per day (about a quarter teaspoon) with the amazing result that 20 of 44 cases (45%) showed complete regression of the lesions. In the placebo group, only 7 percent showed regression. Within one year of discontinuing spirulina, nearly half had once again developed lesions. (Mathew, et al, 1995)

The last study is an European overview of the effects of spirulina on patients with multiple sclerosis. At the end of the trial, the researchers wrote, “It has been established that the intake of spirulina lengthens remission in those patients with disseminated sclerosis”. (Buletsa, et al, 1996) Perhaps this is because spirulina provides gamma linolenic acid, GLA, an essential fatty acid. People who have MS are among those whose bodies are unable to effectively convert omega-6 oils into GLA, leaving them at risk of an essential fatty acid deficiency. Other sources of GLA are evening primrose oil, borage seed oil, and mothers’ milk. Spirulina is a richer source of GLA than evening primrose oil. Plus, spirulina also contains omega-3 fatty acids (like those in fish oils).

Persons with diabetes are at a similar disadvantage with this same fatty acid cascade, and do not convert omega-6 oil into GLA efficiently. However, one human clinical trial involving 15 persons with diabetes shows the benefits of spirulina use. Mani, et al, found a significant reduction in total fats, including a reduced LDL/HDL ratio. In the second study, the participants showed a significant decrease in their fasting blood sugar levels after 21 days of only 2 g/day of spirulina.4

Countless animal studies have shown positive benefits from spirulina consumption, revealing the improvement of many conditions. Wang, et al, demonstrated that spirulina reduces brain degeneration in aged animals. Another group who measured oxidative damage found similar results. In this study, spirulina reduced free radical damage in the brain and also decreased inflammation. (Gemma, et al, 2002) Other studies have reinforced spirulina’s capability to enhance immunity. In one last study, mice given Spirulina showed a significant reduction in both the size and incidence of skin and stomach tumors. (Dasgupta, et al, 2001) 

What Can Spirulina Do For Me?

People taking spirulina report that they have more energy, they feel better, and they have fewer episodes of colds and flu. People with diabetes say spirulina helps them to regulate blood sugar while people with cardiovascular issues say it helps them to maintain healthy cholesterol levels and healthy blood pressure.

Since there are also anti-inflammatory benefits from spirulina use, it can help people with all sorts of aches and pains. The unique spirulina antioxidant phycocyanin can help protect the liver and kidneys, and along with the anti-viral polysaccharides can help boost the immune system. Finally, the diversity of antioxidants in spirulina may help prevent life threatening diseases like cancer, heart disease, stroke, diabetes, and Alzheimer’s.

Spirulina is a complete food. In the past, it was used as a major protein source by several lake-dwelling indigenous peoples in both Mexico (around Lake Titicaca) and Africa (Lake Chad). The amount of spirulina taken can be adjusted to fit the needs of each individual according to their age, health status, or the particular results desired.

Siri Says: Adding Hawaii- and California- raised spirulina is the easiest way there is to get the best greens in the world into your diet. All the beings at my house eat it regularly. To Your Health!!!

Footnotes:

1  Our bodies make vitamin A from beta-carotene. See Nutrition News issues “What’s So Important About Vitamin A?” and “24 Carrots”.

2  Children may be amenable to getting their spirulina-condensed-green-veggie-super-nutrition hidden in chocolate protein smoothies.

3  NK are natural killer cells, known to kill cancer.

4   Mani S, Iyer U, Subramanian S. Studies on the effect of spirulina supplementation 

    in control of diabetes mellitus. In: Subramanian G, et al., eds. Cyanobacterial 

    Biotechnology. USA: Science Publishers Inc; 1998:301-304.

Sidebar

Choose Your Spirulina Carefully!

The quality of production and processing varies greatly between spirulina growers. Only spirulina grown in the United States is recognized as safe by our government. Because of inferior methods used by producers elsewhere, spirulina grown outside the country is not FDA approved.

Nutrition News recommends Hawaii- or California- grown spirulina from Cyanotech Corporation or Earthrise Nutritionals respectively. Purchasing these products assures you of high quality spirulina.

A final caution: Be wary of any spirulina labeled “Organic”. New regulations by the National Organic Standards Board in 2005 changed the nitrogen source allowed. Now aquatic species like spirulina that are grown organically must conform to terrestrial plant standards. This forces the use of animal fertilizers as a nitrogen source. As a result, product may have high levels of heavy metals and bacteria, lower levels of key nutrients, and may not be vegetarian.

Just as trees are the lungs of Earth’s land masses, micro-algae, like spirulina, are the lungs of its ocean. Spirulina is probably the best example there is of a sustainable energy food. By focusing on producing and eating more food at the lowest levels on the food chain, we directly help to protect all life forms and more effectively conserve earth’s natural resources.