Meet Super-duper Superfood Spirulina
Spirulina is an organism that grows in both fresh and salt water.
The raw science background spirulina: It is a type of bacteria called cyanobacterium, which is often referred to as blue-green algae. Spirulina was consumed by the Aztecs back in the day, but became popular again when NASA proposed that it could be grown in space and used by astronauts (1).
A standard daily dose of spirulina is 1-3 grams, but doses of up to 10 grams per day have been used effectively, in the treatment of cancers and cleanses.
It is actually quite amazing how nutritious it is.
A single tablespoon (7 grams) of dried spirulina powder contains (2):
- Protein: 4 grams.
- Vitamin B1 (Thiamin): 11% of the RDA.
- Vitamin B2 (Riboflavin): 15% of the RDA.
- Vitamin B3 (Niacin): 4% of the RDA.
- Copper: 21% of the RDA.
- Iron: 11% of the RDA.
It also contains decent amounts of magnesium, potassium and manganese, and small amounts of almost every other nutrient that we need.
A tablespoon of spirulina contains a small amount of fat (around 1 gram), including both omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids. It contains all the essential amino acids that we need and is an excellent plant-based protein source.
2. Spirulina Has Powerful Antioxidant and Anti-inflammatory Properties
Oxidative damage can harm our DNA and cells and can drive chronic inflammation, which contributes to cancer and other diseases (5). Spirulina is a fantastic source of antioxidants, which can protect against oxidative damage. Phocyanin is the main active compound in spirulina. It has powerful antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties and gives spirulina its unique blue-green color.
3. Spirulina Can Lower LDL and Triglyceride Levels
Heart disease is currently the world’s biggest killer. It is known that many measurable factors, termed risk factors, are linked to an increased risk of heart disease.
It can lower total cholesterol, LDL cholesterol and triglycerides, while raising HDL (the “good”) cholesterol.
In a study of 25 people with type 2 diabetes, 2 grams per day of spirulina significantly improved these markers (9). 1 gram of spirulina per day, has been found to lower triglycerides by 16.3% and LDL by 10.1% (10).
4. Spirulina Protects LDL Cholesterol From Becoming Oxidized
Fatty structures in the body are susceptible to oxidative damage. In a study of 37 individuals with type 2 diabetes, 8 grams of spirulina per day significantly reduced markers of oxidative damage. It also increased levels of antioxidant enzymes in the blood (18).
5. Spirulina Appears to Have Anti-Cancer Properties, Especially Against Oral Cancer
Some evidence suggests that spirulina can have anti-cancer properties. Spirulina has been particularly well studied with regard to cancers of the mouth. One study looked at the effects of spirulina on 87 people from India with precancerous lesions called OSMF in the mouth. After using 1 gram per day for 1 year, 45% of the spirulina group had a complete regression of lesions in the mouth, compared to only 7% in the control group (21). When they stopped taking the spirulina, almost half of the responders developed these lesions again the following year.
6. Studies Show That it May Reduce Blood Pressure
High blood pressure is an important driver of many killer diseases. This includes heart attacks, strokes and chronic kidney disease. While 1 gram of spirulina is ineffective, a dose of 4.5 grams per day has been shown to reduce blood pressure in individuals with normal blood pressure levels (10, 11).
7. Spirulina Improves Symptoms of Allergic Rhinitis
Allergic rhinitis is characterized by inflammation in the nasal airways. It is triggered by environmental allergens, such as pollen, animal hair or even wheat dust. Just 2 grams per day dramatically reduced symptoms like nasal discharge, sneezing, nasal congestion and itching (25).
8. Spirulina May be Effective Against Anemia
There are many different forms of anemia. Anemia is fairly common in the elderly, leading to prolonged feelings of weakness and fatigue (26). In a study of 40 older people with a history of anemia, spirulina supplementation increased the hemoglobin content of red blood cells. Immune function also improved (27).
However, this is just one study, and more research is needed before any recommendations can be made.
9. Muscle Strength and Endurance May Improve
Exercise-induced oxidative damage is a major contributor to muscle fatigue.
Certain plant foods have antioxidant properties that can help athletes and physically active individuals minimize this damage. Spirulina appears to be beneficial, with some studies showing improved muscle strength and endurance.
10. Spirulina May Help With Blood Sugar Control
Animal studies have shown that spirulina can significantly lower blood sugar levels.
There is also some evidence that spirulina can be effective in humans.
In a study of 25 patients with type 2 diabetes, 2 grams of spirulina led to an impressive reduction in blood sugar levels (9).
HbA1c, a marker for long-term blood sugar levels, decreased from 9% to 8%, which is substantial.
11. Detoxifies Heavy Metals
Spirulina may also have other beneficial effects, such as helping to “detoxify” the heavy metal arsenic from the body (35).