Much has been written in recent years about the ‘superfood’ Spirulina and its benefits.
Spirulina is a type of blue-green algae that is rich in protein, vitamins, minerals, and carotenoids, antioxidants that can help protect cells from damage. It contains nutrients, including B complex vitamins, beta-carotene, vitamin E, manganese, zinc, copper, iron, selenium and gamma linolenic acid an essential fatty acid.
There is no doubt as to its nutritional content and spirulina contains:
- 6 x more protein than eggs;
- 50 x more iron than spinach;
- 7 x more calcium than milk;
- 10 x more potassium than most fruit and vegetables;
- 4 x richer in iron than raw beef liver.
Test tube and animal studies suggest spirulina may boost the immune system, help protect against allergic reactions and have antiviral and anticancer properties. However, there is no scientific proof that spirulina has these benefits in people and clearly more research is needed.
A number of studies suggest that spirulina increases the production of antibodies; infection-fighting proteins and other cells that improve immunity and help ward off infection and chronic illnesses.
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. Whether these preliminary studies will help people with allergies, it’s not known.
Although antibiotics destroy unwanted organisms in the body, they may also kill “good” bacteria called probiotics, such as Lactobacillus acidophilus. In test tubes, spirulina has boosted the growth of L. acidophilus and other probiotics, but more research is needed to determine whether spirulina will have the same effect in people.
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.
Preliminary evidence suggests that spirulina may help protect against liver damage and cirrhosis (liver failure) in people with chronic hepatitis. Without more research, however, it is impossible to say whether spirulina offers any real benefit.
However, spirulina has been used in World Health Organization programmes for malnourished children in underdeveloped countries and the WHO has found that a daily, one-gram dose of spirulina provides enough beta-carotene to reduce the incidence of blindness caused by a Vitamin A deficiency.
To date, few human studies have explored the claims about spirulina’s health benefits. However, test-tube studies and animal-based research do suggest that spirulina may help with a wide range of conditions. Spirulina is often sold in powder form, but it’s also available in capsules and tablets, which are more palatable than spirulina powder. Spirulina powder can be added to smoothies.
Although few adverse effects are associated with the use of spirulina, as with all supplements, it’s important to consult with your health-care provider before using spirulina, in combination with other medications and/or supplements.
Although there are some questions over Spirulina with no conclusive evidence to back up this product, I still take the view that I would rather take this product with some of the positive benefits suggested, rather than not take this product at all.