What is Spirulina?
Spirulina is a blue-green algae that is rich in protein, vitamins, minerals, and carotenoids. It is used as a dietary supplement and as an ingredient in some cosmetic products.
Spirulina is grown all over the world in both fresh and salt water. It is often consumed as a powder or tablet. Some people also use it as a topical treatment for skin conditions such as eczema.
Protein: Spirulina is made up of about 60% protein. This makes it an excellent source of protein for vegetarians and vegans.
Vitamins and Minerals: Spirulina is a good source of vitamins A, B1, B2, B6, and B12. It is also rich in minerals such as iron, magnesium, potassium, and manganese.
Carotenoids: Spirulina contains high levels of carotenoids, which are antioxidants that can help protect cells from damage.
1. May Boost Energy Levels: Some research suggests that spirulina may help improve energy levels and reduce fatigue. This effect is likely due to its high protein content and ability to increase iron absorption.
2. May Help Lower Cholesterol: One study found that spirulina was able to reduce total cholesterol and LDL (bad) cholesterol in people with high cholesterol levels.
3. May Help Treat Allergies: Spirulina has been shown to reduce symptoms of allergies, such as hay fever and asthma. This effect is thought to be due to its ability to reduce inflammation.
4. May Have Anticancer Properties: Some preliminary research suggests that spirulina may help protect against some types of cancer, though more research is needed.
5. May Enhance Immunity: Spirulina has been shown to increase the activity of immune cells, such as natural killer cells and macrophages. This effect may help protect against some infections and diseases.
6. May Help Lower Blood Sugar Levels: Preliminary research suggests that spirulina may help lower blood sugar levels in people with diabetes.
7. May Improve Muscle Strength and Endurance: One study found that spirulina supplementation improved exercise performance in cyclists. This effect is likely due to the high iron content of spirulina, which helps transport oxygen to muscles.
8. May Help Protect the Brain: Some research suggests that spirulina may help protect the brain from damage and improve cognitive function. This effect is thought to be due to its high antioxidant content.
9. May Help Slow the Aging Process: Spirulina has been shown to reduce oxidative stress and inflammation, which are both linked to accelerated aging.
10. Is Nutritious and Easy to Add to Your Diet: Spirulina is a nutrient-rich food that can be easily added to your diet. It is available in powder, tablet, or capsule form and can be taken with or without food.
Side Effects and Safety:
Spirulina is generally considered safe when taken in recommended doses. However, it can cause some side effects, such as stomach upset, diarrhea, and nausea. It can also cause headaches, allergic reactions, and skin rashes in some people.
When taken by mouth: Spirulina is POSSIBLY SAFE for most adults when taken by mouth in recommended amounts for up to 45 days.
When applied to the skin: Spirulina is POSSIBLY SAFE when applied to the skin. Some people have developed a rash after applying spirulina to the skin.
Special Precautions & Warnings:
Pregnancy and breast-feeding: There is not enough reliable information about the safety of taking spirulina if you are pregnant or breast-feeding. Stay on the safe side and avoid use.
Autoimmune disease: Spirulina might increase the activity of the immune system. There is a concern that this could make autoimmune diseases such as lupus worse. If you have one of these conditions, it’s best to avoid using spirulina.
Bleeding disorders: Taking spirulina might slow blood clotting. This might increase the risk of bruising and bleeding in people with bleeding disorders.
Diabetes: Spirulina might decrease blood sugar levels. People with diabetes should monitor their blood sugar carefully after taking spirulina.
High cholesterol: Spirulina can lower cholesterol levels. There is a concern that it might also interfere with the way the body metabolizes cholesterol and other fats. This could increase the risk of bleeding in people with high cholesterol who are taking drugs to lower their cholesterol.
Kidney disease: Spirulina contains large amounts of potassium. People with kidney disease should avoid using spirulina because it might make potassium levels in the body too high.
Surgery: Spirulina might slow blood clotting. There is a concern that it might increase the risk of bleeding during and after surgery. Stop taking spirulina at least 2 weeks before a scheduled surgery.
Mechanism of Action:
The health benefits of spirulina are thought to be due to its high content of nutrients and antioxidants. These substances can help protect cells from damage and reduce the risk of some chronic diseases.
The recommended dose of spirulina depends on the form you are taking and the reason you are taking it.
For general health: The typical dose of spirulina is 1-3 grams per day.
For high cholesterol: 3 grams of spirulina has been taken by mouth daily for 12 weeks.
For diabetes: 2 grams of spirulina has been taken by mouth daily for 3 months.
For exercise performance: 500 milligrams of spirulina has been taken by mouth daily for 8 weeks.
For protein supplementation: 20-30 grams of spirulina powder has been taken by mouth daily for 4-8 weeks, or 5-10 grams of freeze-dried spirulina has been taken by mouth daily for 12 weeks.