encyclopedia

Spirulina

Scientific Names:
Spirulina pratensis, S. platensis and other Spirulina species [Kingdom: Prokaryotae, Phylum: Cyanophyta]

Forms:
Dried and powdered Spirulina; extract of Spirulina

Traditional Usage:
– Amino acid Deficiency
– Anti-allergy
– Anti-anaphylaxis
– Antibacterial
– Anti-candidiasis
– Antifungal
– Antiviral
– Anti-inflammatory
– Antioxidant
– Cellular Regeneration
– Cholesterol Reduction
– Cleansing
– Detoxifying
– Mineral Deficiencies
– Nutritive
– Protein Source
– Vitamin Deficiencies

Overview:
Spirulina, Spirulina pratensis and other Spirulina spp. [Phylum: Cyanophyta], is a nutrient-dense cyanobacteria used as a food and source of beneficial phytochemicals. Spirulina, according to Microsoft- Encarta- Encyclopedia 99, is a traditional food in parts of Mexico and central Africa that is now grown commercially and marketed as a high-protein dietary supplement. Spirulina has significant amounts of protein, essential amino acids, essential fatty acids, chlorophyll, carotenoids including beta-carotene, vitamins, minerals, unique pigments and polysaccharides. Spirulina also has probiotic compounds that enhance health through preserving resident intestinal microflora, especially lactic acid bacilli and bifidobacteria, and decreasing the level of Candida albicans. Space research to determine the suitability of dried Spirulina as a protein source for astronauts looked at rats fed for sixteen weeks on a slightly deficient diet supplemented with 0-40% of a dried preparation of Spirulina. Control groups were fed a normal rat diet. No significant differences between groups were found in food intake, growth rate or carbon dioxide production and all animals remained apparently healthy, and had similar organ weights. The study suggests that Spirulina may be used as a protein source in rat diets. Researchers also found that Spirulina produces an immunostimulating effect by enhancing the resistance of humans, mammals, chickens and fish to infections by stimulating the production of antibodies, cytokines, macrophages, T and B cells. Treatment of 60 patients with chronic diffuse liver disorders and seventy experimental animals with liver disease from toxins suggest clinical-and-laboratory effectiveness of Spirulina for preventing liver damage. Liver-protective properties of Spirulina are attributed to its antiinflammatory, antioxidant, membrane-stabilizing, and immunocorrecting actions. Spirulina sulfolipids have also proved to be active against HIV and whole Spirulina biomass against herpesvirus, cytomegalovirus, and influenza virus. Spirulina extracts have also been shown to reduce cholesterol, inhibit development of abnormal growths and prevent allergic reactions, including anaphylaxis.

Active Ingredients:
Dried Spirulina seaweed contains: Water 4.7; Protein 57.5%; Total lipid (fat) 7.72%; Carbohydrate, by difference 23.9%; Fiber, total dietary 3.6%; Ash 6.2%. Minerals (per 100g): Calcium, 120mg; Iron, 28.5mg; Magnesium, 195mg; Phosphorus, 118mg; Potassium, 1363mg; Sodium, 1048mg; Zinc, 2.0mg; Copper, 6.1mg; Manganese, 1.9mg; Selenium, 7.2mcg. Vitamins: Vitamin C, 10.1mg; Thiamin 2.4mg; Riboflavin 3.6 mg; Niacin 12.8mg; Pantothenic acid 3.5mg; Vitamin B-6 0.4mg; Folate, 94mcg; Vitamin A, 570 IU; Vitamin A, RE 57mcg; Vitamin E 5.0mg (ate). Lipids: Fatty acids, total saturated 2.6%; Fatty acids, total monounsaturated 0. 7%; Fatty acids, total polyunsaturated 0.047%. Amino acids: Tryptophan 0.9g; Threonine 3.0g; Isoleucine 3.2g; Leucine 5.0g; lysine 3.0g; Methionine 1.1g; Cystine 0.7g; phenylalanine 2.777g; tyrosine 2.6g; Valine 3.5g; Arginine 4.1g; Histidine 1.1g; Alanine 4.5g; Aspartic acid 5.8g; Glutamic acid 8.4g; Glycine 3.1g; proline 2.4g; serine 3.0g. (Information taken from The National Agriculture Library’s USDA Nutrient Database for Standard Reference, Release 14 (July 2001)). In summary, Spirulina is very rich in natural beta-carotene, Vitamin D and GLA (Gamma Linolenic Acid) and contains all nine essential amino acids. It is extremely high in natural protein, much higher, in fact, than beef. Spirulina, as a food, also has an extremely long shelf life. It contains approximately 26 times the calcium of milk and has a good supply of niacin and phosphorus.

Suggested Amount:
Based on traditional usage, the recommended dosage of Spirulina is 9-13 grams taken three times daily. Spirulina has a history of use in Chad where locals traditionally consume 9-13 grams per meal, and these meals make up from 10 to 60% of daily meals. Research on the traditional usage of Spirulina as a food was done by Delpeuch and others and published in 1976 in the article entitled, Consumption as food and nutritional composition of blue-green algae among populations in the Kanem region of Chad (Ann. Nutr. Aliment. 29: 497-516). After this report, the United Nation’s FAO organized an educational campaign in Chad to encourage consumption of Spirulina harvested from natural sources and more than 6000 meals were distributed under the supervision of the FAO. As a top source of chlorophyll, beta-carotene and protein and to detoxify the kidneys and liver and inhibit the growth of fungi, bacteria and yeasts, Dr. Susan M. Lark, M.D., who specializes in preventive medicine and clinical nutrition in Los Altos, Calif and teaches at Stanford University Medical School, recommends 1 to 2 tablespoons of Spirulina stirred into 8 oz of water daily. It is recommended to start with a half a dose and gradually work up to the full amount when beginning to take algae as a supplement. Dr. Lark, also author of nine best-selling books, comments that their protein is so easily digested that two or three teaspoons is equivalent to two to three ounces of meat.

Drug Interactions:
None known

Contraindications:
None known

Side Effects:
Spirulina and other cyanobacteria products should be tested and certified to assure the absence of cyanotoxins from other blue-green algae that may be inadvertently harvested. Algal toxins are capable of causing widespread poisoning of animals and humans. To address this issue, a group of leading microalgae producers met in 1995-96 and sponsored research conducted by algal toxicologists. The result was a Technical Booklet for the Microalgae Biomass Industry as a guide to the use of a very sensitive enzyme linked immunosorbant assay (ELISA) and a protein phosphate inhibition assay (PPIA) for the detection of toxic microcystins and nodularins. These methods can detect, monitor and control cyanotoxins, so producers can assure a safe, nutritious product for human and animal food supplements.

References:

Ayehunie S, Belay A, Baba TW, Ruprecht RM. 1998. Inhibition of HIV-1 replication by an aqueous extract of Spirulina platensis (Arthrospira platensis). J Acquir Immune Defic Syndr Hum Retrovirol. 1998 May 1; 18(1): 7-12.

Blinkova LP, Gorobets OB, Baturo AP. 2001. [Biological activity of Spirulina.]. Zh Mikrobiol Epidemiol Immunobiol 2001 Mar-Apr; (2): 114-8. [Article in Russian]

Gorban’ EM, Orynchak MA, Virstiuk NG, Kuprash LP, Panteleimonova TM, Sharabura LB. 2000. [Clinical and experimental study of spirulina efficacy in chronic diffuse liver diseases]. Lik Sprava. 2000 Sep; (6): 89-93. Ukrainian.

Tranquille N, Emeis JJ, de Chambure D, Binot R, Tamponnet C. 1994. Spirulina acceptability trials in rats. A study for the “MELISSA” life-support system. Adv Space Res 1994 Nov; 14(11): 167-70.

Yang HN, Lee EH, Kim HM. 1997. Spirulina platensis inhibits anaphylactic reaction. Life Sci 1997; 61(13): 1237-44.

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