Spirulina

by Yuri Elkaim, BPHE, CK, RHN
Author, Eating for Energy

 

Spirulina is one of the most incredible superfoods our planet has to offer. Spirulina is a blue-green algae that usually grows in waters of lakes naturally alkaline, localized in arid zones.

Spirulina has unparalleled health benefits and is an incredibly sustainable food source. For instance, according the journal Human Nature, spirulina presents a fast reproduction rate, dividing itself three times a day! Therefore, an area exclusively aimed at spirulina growth may produce 125 times more protein if compared to an area of the same size aimed at growing corn and 70 times more protein if compared to the breeding of cattle.

Furthermore, spirulina presents some advantages in relation to other algae and seaweeds such as presenting no problems with digestion and no toxicity to humans. This can't be said for other seaweeds such as Chlorella.

 

Can Spirulina Prevent Cancer?

Several animal studies have shown that spirulina inhibits tumor and protects the body from cancer propagation.  

There are also unpublished reports from scientists and doctors about the radioprotective effect of spirulina in experiments conducted on child victims of the Chernobyl radiation. In a study involving 49 children, 3-7 years old, in Beryozovka, administration of spirulina for 45 days resulted in an increase in T-cell suppressors and beneficial hormones.   In addition, the radioactivity of the urine decreased in 83% of the children!

 

Spirulina Improves Blood Health

Numerous studies on rats have shown that spirulina has powerful effects on blood lipids and cholesterol.   Almost all these studies show a reduction in LDL (bad) cholesterol, triglycerides, and fat deposits in the arteries upon consuming spirulina.

A human study investigating the cholesterol-lowering effect of spirulina published in Nutrition Reports International looked at 30 male volunteers who had mild hyperlipidemia and mild hypertension.   They were divided into two groups. Group A subjects were given spirulina at 4.2 g/day and group B subjects the same amount of spirulina for 4 weeks and, then were observed for the next 4 weeks without spirulina.

The results showed a statistically significant reduction of LDL-cholesterol in Group A subjects after 8 weeks. The LDL-cholesterol also fell significantly in Group B subjects after 4 weeks of spirulina consumption, but thereafter increased to its baseline value after administration of spirulina was discontinued.

 

Spirulina – Great Source of Omega-3 Fatty Acids

If you're a vegan and looking for an omega-3 alternative to fish, then spirulina is what you want. This is because algaes, like spirulina, are athe original source of omega-3 fatty acids. Algaes are what small, bottom-feeding fish consume. These fish are then eaten by larger ones, and then eventually by humans.   Cold water fish, which are well-known for their omega-3 fatty acids, owe their “omega-3 fame” to the consumption algaes such as spirulina, even if indirectly.

Here are some more incredible nutritional characteristics of spirulina. For starters, spirulina is the probably the highest vegetarian protein source consisting of 60-70% protein! It is also rich in chlorophyll and carotenoids, vitamins (vitamin A, especially) and tons of important minerals from deep in the seabed. An important note (especially for vegetarians and vegans) is that spirulina is a terrific source of vitamin B12 and iron.  

Iron is the most common mineral deficiency in the world. Since spirulina contains high iron concentrations its bioavailability has been tested in comparison to ferrous sulfate which is the typical iron supplement. One such comparison was revealed in the journal Nutrition Research, spirulina fed rats absorbed 60% more iron than rats fed the iron supplement!

So next time someone asks you where you're getting your protein, iron, or B12 from just tell them you're eating an incredible blue-green powder called spirulina.

Aside from human breast milk and evening primrose oil, spirulina is the only food source rich in gamma linoleic acid (GLA).   The GLA content comprises 25% of the total polyunsaturated fatty acid content of spirulina, a number that is much higher than the GLA content of evening primrose oil (only 7%)!

 

The Wonders of Gamma Linoleic Acid (GLA)

GLA is essential fatty acid that has numerous benefits to the body. Along with omega-3 fatty acids, GLA has powerful anti-inflammatory properties. Both are excellent skin fatty acids for preventing and treating eczema, psoriasis, wrinkles, rashes and more. Research has confirmed that GLA has positive effects in breast cancer treatment; they enhance lubrication in those with Sjogren's syndrome; help relieve PMS symptoms, breast pain, skin conditions (including eczema and psoriasis, and wrinkles), and attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder in children; improve cardiovascular health, mental health; and much more!

A British study published in 2000 observed women who had locally advanced and metastatic breast cancer (when cancer cells spread elsewhere in the body). They found that women with breast cancer who were taking Tamoxifen (a drug that blocks estrogen-receptor positive breast cancer) and received GLA demonstrated faster clinical response than those taking Tamoxifen alone.

Study participants received 3 grams of GLA. The researchers concluded that GLA was a useful adjunct to primary Tamoxifen treatment with no serious side effects: "… this study suggests high-dose oral GLA to be a valuable new agent in the treatment of hormone-sensitive breast cancer."

In conclusion, spirulina is a great addition to any raw vegan diet for it provides tremendous nutritional qualities, and as we've seen, can boost your body's health for a long and vital life!

 

References:

Furst PT. Spirulina – a nutricious alga, once a staple of Aztec diet, could feed many of the world hungry people. Human Nature 1978;3:60.

Nakaya N, Honma Y, Goto Y (1988) Cholesterol lowering effect of Spirulina Nutr. Rep. Int. 37: 1329-1337.

Johnson P, Shubert LE (1986) Availability of iron to rats from Spirulina, a blue-green alga. Nutr. Res. 6: 85-94.

 

 

 

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