By: Kenna McHugh
Spirulina powder is reportedly one of the most nutritious supplements available. NASA identifies and accepts it as a highly viable food source. Studies acknowledge its nutritional value, antioxidant and anti-inflammatory actions and properties that naturally support cardiovascular health (x).
Be sure to see a doctor for diagnoses, accurate medical information and permission before taking you take any supplements. Keep in mind that there is no medical evidence that supplements from the spirulina plant can completely cure or prevent any disease or health condition, although they may have several benefits.
What is Spirulina?
Spirulina is one of the earliest forms of life on this planet, originating over 3.6 billion years ago. The organism’s name comes from its spiral shape. It is a type of cyanobacteria, which is part of the blue-green microalgae family, or single-celled microbes (x). They are more like bacteria than algae and classified as cyanobacteria. Chlorella is another example of blue-green algae.
They are similar to plants—although less complex—in that cyanobacteria produce energy via photosynthesis using sunlight, chlorophyll (green pigment) and phycobilin (blue pigment). Researchers initially classified spirulina as a plant, but then declared it part of the bacteria kingdom (x).
Where Does Spirulina Come from?
Spirulina is a natural free-floating microalga that grows and thrives in alkaline waters. It has an uncanny ability to sustain itself, where other kinds of algae do not (x). Its history as a food source spans across several different countries dating back centuries. Today it is produced around the world for three main reasons—for the health food market, to provide nutrients for underdeveloped nations to combat malnutrition and as a dietary supplement in humanitarian emergencies (x).
What are the Benefits of Spirulina?
In the late 1960s, members of the scientific community recognized spirulina’s nutritional value using chemical analysis and began to refer to it as a “superfood.” In 1970, a French company began to produce it commercially and it spread to Japan and the U.S (x). Since the 1970s, spirulina has been one of the most popular supplements thanks to its high nutrient content, potential ability to support the cardiovascular system and possibly effective antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties.
However, there is no medical evidence proving that spirulina as a dietary supplement can completely treat any disease or health condition. Make sure to see a doctor for approval, diagnoses and accurate medical information before taking any supplements (x).
We reached out to Dr. Richard Harris, M.D., Pharm. D. at Great Health and Wellness, for more information on spirulina and how it works. Dr. Harris is a pharmacist and board-certified internal medicine physician. He has experience in topics like mental wellness, fitness and nutrition. Dr. Harris also suggests spirulina’s potential to benefit health, claiming it “has recently exploded in popularity.”
High Nutrient Content
Research suggests that spirulina has the highest amount of protein over any other natural food source including meat, fish, dairy, grains and nuts. Every 100 g of spirulina may have anywhere between 55-70% protein, depending on when it is harvested. Spirulina may also be one of the easiest foods to digest compared to other proteins (x). It contains all nine essential amino acids and 18 of the 20 non-essential amino acids (x).
According to Dr. Harris, spirulina is also “rich in nutrients” and naturally contains a high number of micronutrients that are crucial to energy metabolism, immunity, organ function, cellular growth and cellular differentiation (x). Taking it as a dietary supplement may provide enormous health benefits by providing these micronutrients (x):
Because of its high nutritional value, some clinical studies have used spirulina powder supplements to combat malnourishment in developing countries (x). For example, researchers in Zambia administered 10 g of spirulina to chronically malnourished children every day for eight months and noticed that it may have improved their health (x). In another study, researchers administered the supplement to children in the Central African Republic and the Democratic Republic of Congo and reported noticeable improvements in their health, possibly a result of spirulina supplements (x).
Antioxidant & Anti-Inflammatory Properties
Oxidative stress develops in the body as a result of an imbalance between free radicals—unstable molecules—and the antioxidants that neutralize them. This imbalance creates oxidative stress, which can change the structure of proteins and genes and trigger disease or chronic inflammation. There are plenty of scientific studies that explore the causes of chronic inflammation and these insights might lead to a unified theory of disease, as oxidative damage to cells is crucial in the inflammation processes (x, x).
Phycocyanin & Gamma-Linolenic Acid (GLA)
But what does spirulina do for inflammation? Spirulina has two super active chemical agents that may effectively combat inflammation—gamma-linolenic acid and C-phycocyanin (x).
Phycocyanin is a protein that naturally fights and blocks the COX-2 enzyme responsible for most cases of inflammation, pain and fever in the body. Dr. Harris explains that the compound naturally reduces inflammation “by blocking the production of inflammatory… compounds. It also has the [ability] to clear free radicals which cause significant cellular damage (x).”
Gamma-linolenic acid is an omega-6 fatty acid and according to research, a healthy diet should have a healthy balance between omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids. Omega-3 acids help reduce inflammation and some of their omega-6 counterparts may actually promote inflammation. However, GLA is one type that tends to reduce inflammation and even protect DNA.
Cholesterol & Antioxidant Enzymes
High levels of low-density lipoproteins (LDL) cholesterol—what we call “bad” cholesterol—can be dangerous to your health because it can cause a type of oxidation called lipid peroxidation (x). When LDL transports fat molecules around the body that grow in number, it causes oxidative stress in the blood. That is what makes this type of cholesterol “bad” and it can increase the likelihood of damage like heart disease.
Scientific studies indicate that spirulina contains various antioxidant enzymes, such as superoxide dismutase enzyme. These enzymes naturally fight free radicals in the blood and may help prevent lipid peroxidation. There are several studies that suggest that these enzymes may prevent lipid peroxidation in the blood (x).
Blood Pressure & Nitric Oxide Production
Researchers in Mexico performed a study to examine spirulina’s impact on blood pressure. The study used both male and female subjects and the participants took 4.5 g of spirulina powder every day for six weeks. Each participant in the study reported that the supplement may have lowered their blood pressure (x).
One way spirulina may naturally reduce blood pressure is by increasing the production of nitric oxide in the body, a molecule that dilates or widens blood vessels. According to researchers, spirulina supplements may have the potential to increase nitric oxide synthesis and possibly improve blood flow and reduce blood pressure. This may be useful in cases of hypertension (high blood pressure) (x).
How to Take Spirulina Powder
Spirulina comes in different forms, including powder and tablets. The supplement may be organically or commercially farmed. You can add the supplement into any drink whether it’s water, juice or a smoothie. You can also add it to your favorite food dishes depending on your tolerance for it (x).
The recommended dose for spirulina powder supplements is 9 g per day. Doses may differ for different types of spirulina products based on their form and where it’s farmed:
- Organic spirulina – 7 g per day
- California-grown spirulina – 3 g once or twice a day
- California-grown spirulina tablets – 6 tablets once or twice a day
Make sure you consult a doctor before taking spirulina or any other supplement. Supplements are not intended to completely cure, treat or prevent any disease or health condition.
Is Spirulina Safe?
Most blue-green algae supplements are organic and all-natural, but this doesn’t necessarily indicate that they’re safe for everyone. Spirulina is relatively safe for most people in the short-term if the product is free of contaminants such as toxic metals and harmful bacteria. Like any supplement, it may cause side effects including (x):
Pregnancy & Children
Despite its potential benefits of spirulina, medical professionals do not recommend the supplement for children. It may not be safe for pregnancy or breastfeeding either. There may be a greater risk for adverse reactions, including elevated heart rate and trouble with digestion.
Although spirulina may have an array of health benefits, experts advise that you take proper precaution when taking it. According to Dr. Harris, spirulina “can contain contaminants from other harmful species of blue green algae or from heavy metals.” He advises that “naturally harvested spirulina should be checked for levels of microcystins—which are toxins made by other species of blue green algae—and for heavy metal contamination. Some manufacturers produce spirulina in farms to lower the risk of cross contamination and heavy metal contamination.”
Consult your doctor before taking spirulina as a dietary supplement to determine if it is the right option and to potentially avoid unwanted side effects.
Where to Buy Spirulina
You can purchase spirulina in both powder and tablet form at BulkSupplements.com. The company is an industry-leading manufacturer and distributor for pure dietary supplements. BulkSupplements.com is not just a consumer brand. It also supplies pure ingredients to other brands that distribute food and other supplement products. All products at BulkSupplements.com are manufactured and tested according to current and proper manufacturing practices.
Are you interested in trying spirulina for its potential to control inflammation, fight free radical damage and possibly improve heart health? Contact BulkSupplements.com to place an order today.
Spirulina is a spiral-shaped cyanobacteria part of the blue-green microalgae family. It grows naturally in alkaline waters and there are several cultures around the world that use it as part of their diet. Today it is produced commercially for the health food market, to provide nutrients to underdeveloped areas and as a dietary supplement.
It has natural chemical components that, according to research, may help control inflammation and support heart health. Spirulina also has a high nutrient content with tons of protein and micronutrients. Several research studies support its potential to support or even improve health. Nevertheless, it is not a sufficient replacement for any medical treatment. Always consult a doctor before you take spirulina or any other supplement.
**These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. These products are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.