Health Benefits of Spirulina

June 20, 2015
Wooden spoon of spirulina algae powder on wooden background

What is spirulina?

Spirulina is a cyanobacterium (a blue-green alga) and has been the oldest source of oxygen on earth. It has helped mankind to thrive on this planet by providing a breathing source. However, the spectrum of its beneficence is not limited to only oxygen. It is an extremely rich source of nutrients. For instance, it has 51-70% proteins and about 7% fat content. Research 1) shows that spirulina is enriched in proteins, vitamins, fats, minerals and other essential nutritional elements. Its extensive nutritional profile is an evidence for its effectiveness in the treatment of various allergies, cancers, cardiovascular and viral diseases.

Apart from this, spirulina contains all essential amino acids along with a few non-essential ones. This is good news for health enthusiasts and vegetarians out there because they can meet their protein requirements matchlessly by consuming spirulina.

Omega-3 and omega-6 also make important constituents of this algae. So, if you want to boost your healthy cardiovascular profile for a longer time, spirulina is the right supplement for you.
Research 2) demonstrates that spirulina is safe for human and animal consumption and this claim is supported by its use since ancient times.
Spirulina powder algae isolated on white background with text on

How can you obtain Spirulina?

Spirulina grows in sub-tropical, warm waters, fresh water and tropical water bodies, which have high salt content. Their green color algae gives a refreshing appearance to water bodies where it grows. The sun exposure and temperature play an important role in its growth.

You can also grow spirulina in natural settings instead of collecting it from random lakes. The collection is done cautiously to avoid contamination or risks of toxicity. One potential implication of growth in natural conditions is bacterial exposure, which might intoxicate the algae.

It has been proven by research 3) that during the growth and processing of spirulina, quality control is mandatory to avoid contamination and ensure guaranteed safety.

Another technique is harvesting it in synthetic conditions. But wait, you cannot consume it in raw form, can you? For your ease, it is available in the market in flakes, tablets and powdered form. Grab it and you have found the secret of a healthy life with 100% ingredients.
Research 4) has clearly stated that it is complete and richest source of nutrition provided by nature.

How it works?

Spirulina is a miracle of nature with extensive nutritional value. It contains vitamin B12, iron, beta-carotenes, potassium and countless other products of high dietary value.
These nutritional elements are readily absorbed from the gut and reach into the blood. With circulation, they feed every tissue of your body. High protein content builds muscle mass and improves overall health profile. It also helps in repairing muscles and bones. Other minerals and vitamins play vital role in metabolic setup of your body. So, while you take only a spoonful of spirulina, your body gets a tremendous amount of healthy products.
Spirulina powder

Health benefits of Spirulina!

This algae has been used for health purposes since ancient times. Nutritionists around the globe are emphasizing on taking a swiftly open-minded approach towards the health and therapeutic uses of spirulina.

This article will help you in digging into the most effective health benefits of spirulina, which no other single source can offer. Let’s discuss them in detail with evidence so that when you finish this article, you are well-informed on the subject.

1. Spirulina works as anti-inflammatory agent

Inflammation is caused by specific mediators in the body called cytokines. Before you get frustrated with these complex scientific terms, let me make it simple for you.
Inflammation is actually the response of your body to any unnatural stimulus. It can either be a pathogen or any foreign object. Inflammatory reactions can damage normal body cells as well, so keeping them controlled is necessary.

Spirulina does this job flawlessly and protects your body against unnecessary damage. It contains elements like phycocyanin. This compound is known to inhibit the production of inflammatory agents in your body, for instance histamine.

Extensive research is available to support the anti-inflammatory benefits of spirulina. A study 5) has shown that spirulina holds back the secretion of mediators, which cause inflammation. These mediators include tissue necrotic factors (TNF) and other interleukins. In simple words, spirulina is the best therapy for inflammatory disorders, like arthritis and leaky gut.

Beta carotenes are another important constituent of spirulina and they also have anti-inflammatory effects. According to the same study 6), beta carotenes also tend to inhibit inflammatory substances.

2. It modulates the immune system

If you wonder why infections come readily to you, let me solve your problem once and for all. That is because your immune system is not healthy enough to fight off infections. Let’s dig into it deeper and find out what exactly spirulina can do for you in this regard.
Wooden spoon of spirulina algae powder on wooden background
We live in a world virtually operated by microbes (viruses and bacteria, for instance). Some of them are pathogens that cause diseases in our body and guess what! They constantly enter into your body with food. However, your immune system forms a protective barrier against them and kills those microbes. Mainly, white blood cells are involved in building up immune response.

Spirulina helps your immune system stay functional, to the best of its extent, against these notorious agents. Research 7) shows that spirulina enhances the ability of macrophages (bacteria-eating cells) to engulf foreign invaders. It also induces mobilization and activity of B and T lymphocytes (other cells of your immune secretion). In simple words, these are the agents responsible for strengthening your immunity.

Spirulina also induces regeneration of cells so helps in wound healing as well. So, in short, spirulina acts as a complete defense package for you!

3. It keeps lipid profile in check

With increasing age, risk of elevated cholesterol and lipid levels (hyperlipidemia) increases several folds. The fear of hyperlipidemia might have enwrapped you as well. But don’t worry; spirulina comes to you as an ultimate relief.
Research 8) has demonstrated that spirulina decreases the levels of concentration of LDL cholesterol (bad cholesterol) in the blood. Not only that, but it increases the concentration of HDL (good cholesterol) too! If your lipid profile shows green signal, your risk of cardiovascular diseases also reduces to minimal.

Research 9) shows that spirulina gives your body an adequate supply of gamma-linolenic acid (GLA), which is effective in controlling amassing of cholesterol in body and possibly high blood pressure and risk of heart disease too.

4. It monitors cardiovascular diseases

Meals with unhealthy fat might taste delicious, but they put you on the risk of cardiovascular disease, like stroke and heart attack. If you cannot control your cravings for such food, use spirulina as a supplement! As you have already seen, spirulina reduces cholesterol levels in the body. It actively takes part in hypolipidemic phenomenon (reducing body lipids) and resultantly saves you from cardiovascular diseases.

Research 10) has proven that spirulina plays crucial a role in plummeting chances for atherosclerosis and cardiovascular disease.
Another research 11) shows that spirulina decreases blood pressure and concentration of lipids in humans. Both these effects keep the blood pressure under control and the heart healthy and beating.

5. It acts as anti-oxidant

Phenol compounds are considered the major part of spirulina. These include beta carotenes, tocopherols and others alike. These phenolic compounds are known to have anti-oxidant effects. Spirulina also limits lipid per-oxidation and increases levels of anti-oxidative agents. Phycocyanobilin present in spirulina also inhibits the activity of NADPH, which plays an active role in oxidative stress of the body. What makes increased oxidative stress so bad is its ability to damage normal body tissues.
Research 12) shows that spirulina promises anti-oxidant protection for body systems and helps cleanse out toxins from body.

6. Anti-cancer effects

In recent years, cancer has grown to be a lethal disease affecting millions worldwide. Its treatment is complicated with wide range of side effects on normal body cells as well. However, spirulina is reported to have some therapeutic effects on cancer cells and doesn’t damage normal body cells.
Research 13) has revealed that spirulina prevents carcinogenesis by inhibiting cancer inducing enzymatic system of the body.
It also protects normal cells from the damage inflicted by chemo and radiotherapy.

7. MPTP induced Parkinsonism is reduced

You might find other benefits of spirulina listed in other articles, but this benefit is a rare one. Spirulina is reported to mitigate the symptoms of Parkinsonism. Parkinson’s is a disease characterized by abnormal body movements and reduced cognition. Research was conducted on mice by injecting them with MPTP (1-methyl 4-phenyl 1,2,3,6 tetrahydropyridine). MPTP is basically a chemical agent used in researches to induce Parkinsonism in animals. The results of that research 14) showed that spirulina is neuroprotective in function and polysaccharides (sugars) obtained from it alleviate the symptoms of Parkinsonism.

8. Possible health protection for smokers

Everyone knows smoking is injurious to health. Even the packs of cigarettes has this warning written on them so talking about its adverse effects won’t make much difference. Let’s talk about possible ways to mitigate these harmful effects.
Research 15) has indicated that combined administration of spirulina and carvedilol can benefit chronic users and save them from the adverse effects of tobacco, like heart disease.

The secret of this effectiveness lies in phycocyanobilin, a phytochemical in spirulina. It mimics the role of bilirubin in the body, which tends to inhibit the role of NADPH oxidase. NADPH oxidase is an enzyme, activated by aldehydes and ketones present in tobacco, which causes destructive effects on lungs. By inhibiting it, phycocyanobilin present in spirulina, helps smokers who are unable to quit smoking.

9. Boosts athletic performance

Spirulina is reported to reduce oxidative stress in sportsmen. Many athletes believe that taking antioxidant supplementation has beneficial effects on muscles performance and fatigue.
Research 16) suggests that limited evidence stand for spirulina being an effective supplementation for improving endurance performance. But still evidence is there that taking spirulina boosts athletic performance due to its perfect blend of proteins, vitamins and minerals.

10. Kill pathogens like viruses and bacteria

We have already discussed spirulina as an immune system modulator. This effect correlates with its microbicidal properties. Viruses and bacteria are known to cause infection and spirulina helps in preventing it. The mechanism involved in the Spirulina’s immune-regulatory characteristic involves an enzyme, which helps in phagocytosis in the body. Spirulina has constituents that activate this enzyme and complete the germ eating process.

Studies 17) have shown that spirulina inhibits the replication of viruses and strengthens immunity. Large concentrations of spirulina even stop the reproduction of pathogenic organisms completely.

11. It keeps allergies away

If spring doesn’t come to you as good news, you probably suffer from an allergy problem. But spirulina is here to make your spring season easy! It inhibits the secretion of histamine and other mediators, which are involved in eliciting an allergy reaction in the body.
Research 18) suggests that spirulina is capable of boosting anti-allergy activity in humans.

12. Useful for keeping diabetes under control

Spirulina helps diabetic patients in managing their blood sugar. So, if you are worried about your high glucose levels, spirulina is what you need.
A study 19) by University of Baroda, suggested that supplementation of spirulina for two months had a considerable positive effect on fasting and post prandial blood glucose levels in diabetic patients.

This hypoglycemic effect (sugar lowering effects) of spirulina makes it a plausible therapy for patient of diabetes type 2.

13. It improves cognitive dysfunction

Evidence for spirulina being an effective therapy for cognitive dysfunction is limited. A research 20) has been conducted on aged obese rats and the results showed that spirulina administered along with glycyrrhizin, improves cognitive dysfunction in them. Who knows if it has clinical potential for treating this problem in humans as well?

Final Verdict!
Spirulina has wide nutritional and pharmacological benefits. No wonder it has emerged as a super food. Moreover, it is completely natural and has no to very low risk of side effects. So, you can use this magical algae as a staple food or as a supplement and enjoy all its charms.

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