Have eaten blue algae offer health benefits? Blue algae, also known as spirulina, is widely promoted for health properties, particularly its effect on the immune system. Many health food stores and natural food markets carry this supplement in powdered, flake and tablet form to be used as a dietary supplement. What are the health benefits of blue algae or spirulina
Spirulina is a rich. . source for a variety of antioxidants such as beta carotene, alpha carotene, zeaxanthin, and other carotenoids that act as natural pigments for the blue algae. One of the main pigments found in blue algae, phycocyanin which gives it its distinctive coloration. Not only phycocyanin a strong antioxidant, it also has anti-inflammatory effect. It appears to inhibit the same Cox-2 enzyme that most prescription anti-inflammatory medications do. Some studies have also shown that it helps to protect the liver from damage.
Another advantage of blue algae is the high protein content can be as high as seventy percent. Not only is the protein found in Spirulina easily digested, it is also a complete source of amino acids, in contrast to many plant proteins. Blue algae are also a good source of fatty acids, including omega-3 fatty acids, EPA and DHA.
Spirulina is rich in B vitamins and vitamin C, D, and E. although some studies show that there may be a quality source of vitamin B12. It is also a good source of essential minerals including iron, calcium, magnesium, chromium, phosphorus and zinc.
Animal studies have shown that blue algae may help in the treatment of hay fever, memory problems, and can help in recovery from stroke. Spirulina has also shown activity against many viruses in animals, including the HIV virus. Some small studies in humans have shown that immune stimulating effects of spirulina can help fight cancer by activating natural killer cells, but larger studies are needed to confirm this. A study published in the Annals of Nutrition and Metabolism showed that spirulina lowered cholesterol levels and had immunostimulatory effect in a group of older individuals. Even blue algae is often marketed as a weight loss supplement, there is little evidence to support its effectivness.
Although Spirulina is a nutritional good product and may have anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects, most of the health benefits have been shown in animal studies or small human studies or anecdotal. There is not enough evidence at the moment to recommend it to prevent a particular disease. Because of its high protein content, it may be a good supplement for vegetarians. It can also be a good nutritional source for those who are unable to eat seven or more servings of vegetables a day. The powder can be added to soups or smoothies as an additional source of carotenes, vitamins, minerals and omega-3 fatty acids.
Tips and Warnings
A potential risk of using blue algae as a supplement is the risk of contamination with strains of algae that are toxic. This can be avoided by buying spirulina from a reputable supplier who tests their products for contaminants. If contamination occurs it can lead to liver or kidney failure and nerve damage.