Spirulina Health Benefits

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Spirulina is now widely used as a dietary supplement in many countries. Many health benefits have been attributed to this remarkable superfood and preliminary findings appear promising, including:

Immune Support

A number of animal and test tube studies suggest that spirulina increases production of antibodies, infection-fighting proteins, and other cells that improve immunity and help ward off infection and chronic illnesses such as cancer. However, it has not been tested in people.

 

Protein Supplement

Amino acids make up 62% of spirulina. Because it is a rich source of protein and other nutrients, spirulina has been used as a nutritional supplement.  The protein in spirulina is comparable to other plant proteins and, like other plant proteins, may be incomplete, as it is low in the following amino acids: methionine, cysteine and lysine.

 

Allergic Reactions

Animal and test tube studies suggest that spirulina may protect against allergic reactions by stopping the release of histamines, substances that contribute to allergy symptoms, such as a runny nose, watery eyes, hives, and soft-tissue swelling. But whether these preliminary studies will help people with allergies is not known.

 

Antibiotic-related Illnesses

Although antibiotics destroy unwanted organisms in the body, they may also kill "good" bacteria called probiotics, such as Lactobacillus acidophilus. This can cause diarrhea. In test tubes, spirulina has boosted the growth of L. acidophilus and other probiotics. More research is needed to determine whether spirulina will have the same effect in people.

 

Infection

Test tube studies suggest that spirulina has activity against herpes, influenza, and HIV. But researchers don’t know whether it would also work in people.

 

Oral Cancer

 

In one placebo-controlled study, taking spirulina seemed to reduce a precancerous lesion known as leukoplasia in people who chewed tobacco. Lesions were more likely to go away in the spirulina group than in the placebo group. More research in this area is needed.


 

Supporting Research:

Blinkova LP, Gorobets OB, Baturo AP. [Biological activity of Spirulina.] Zh Mikrobiol Epidemiol Immunobiol. 2001;(2): 114-118.

Chamorro-Cevallos G, Garduno-Siciliano L, Barron BL, Madrigal-Bujaidar E, Cruz-Vega DE, Pages N. Chemoprotective effect of Spirulina (Arthrospira) against cyclophosphamide-induced mutagenicity in mice. Food Chem Toxicol. 2008;46(2):567-74.

Deng R, Chow TJ. Hypolipidemic, antioxidant, and antiinflammatory activities of microalgae Spirulina. Cardiovasc Ther. 2010 Aug;28(4):e33-45. Review.

Khan Z, Bhadouria P, Bisen PS. Nutritional and therapeutic potential of SpirulinaCurr Pharm Biotechnol. 2005 Oct;6(5):373-9. Review.

Khan M, Shobha JC, Mohan IK, Rao Naidu MU, Prayag A, Kutala VK. Spirulina attenuates cyclosporine-induced nephrotoxicity in rats. J Appl Toxicol. 2006;26(5):444-51.

Lu HK, Hsieh CC, Hsu JJ, Yang YK, Chou HN. Preventive effects of Spirulina platensis on skeletal muscle damage under exercise-induced oxidative stress. Eur J Appl Physiol. 2006 Sep;98(2):220-6.

Mao TK, Van De Water J, Gershwin ME. Effect of spirulina on the secretion of cytokines from peripheral blood mononuclear cells. J Medicinal Food. 2000;3(3):135-139.

Mazo VK, Gmoshinski IV, Zilova IS. Microalgae Spirulina in human nutrition. Vopr Pitan. 2004;73(1):45-53.

Puyfoulhoux G, Rouanet JM, Besancon P, Baroux B, Baccou JC, Caporiccio B. Iron availability from iron-fortified spirulina by an in vitro digestion/Caco-2 cell culture model. J Agric Food Chem. 2001;49(3):1625-1629.

Reddy CM, Bhat VB, Kiranmai G, Reddy MN, Reddanna P, Madyastha KM. Selective inhibition of cyclooxygenase-2 by C-phocyanin, a biliprotein from Spirulina platensis. Biochem Ciophys Res Commun. 2000;277(3):599-603.

 

Wang Y, Chang CF, Chou J, Chen HL, Deng X, Harvey BK, Cadet JL, Bickford PC. Dietary supplementation with blueberries, spinach or spirulina reduces ischemic brain damage. Exp Neurol. 2005;193(1):75-84.
University of Maryland Medical Center
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