Evidence-Based Human Application of Spirulina

Arthrospira  or commonly known as spirulina, is a type of blue-green alga that became famous after it was successfully used by NASA as a dietary supplement for astronauts. According to P.D.Karkos scientist from Uk, It has proven that spirulina modulate immune functions and exhibits anti-inflammatory properties by inhibiting the release of histamine by mast cells.

Image by Vitaguard (blog)

Apart from the high (up to 70%) content of protein, it also contains vitamins, especially B12 and provitamin A (β-carotenes), and minerals, especially iron. It is also rich in phenolic acids, tocopherols and γ-linolenic acid [1]. Spirulina lacks cellulose cell walls and therefore it can be easily digested [1].

Spirulina and Chronic Fatigue

Spirulina has been promoted as “the food of the future” with “exceptional constituents” that contribute to high energy levels. A few of these constituents such as polysaccharides (Rhamnose and Glycogen) and essential fat (GLA) are absorbed easily by human cells and help in energy release. Spirulina  has been documented in exhibits anti-inflammatory properties by inhibiting the release of histamine from mast cells

Studies on the influence of Spirulina on IgA levels in human saliva and demonstrated that it enhances IgA production, suggesting a pivotal role of microalga in mucosal immunity.A Japanese team identified the molecular mechanism of the human immune capacity of Spirulina by analysing blood cells of volunteers with pre- and post-oral administration of hot water extract of Spirulina platensis.

Cholesterol-Lowering Effects and Effects on Diabetes

Cardiovascular disease remains the number one cause of death in developed countries, despite increased awareness, and high cholesterol is one of the most important risk factors in atherosclerosis.

Ramamoorthy and Premakumari [18] in a more recent study administered Spirulina supplements in ischemic heart disease patients and found a significant reduction in blood cholesterol, triglycerides and LDL cholesterol and an increase in HDL cholesterol.

Anticancer Effects

It has been argued that the combined antioxidant and immune modulation characteristics of Spirulina may have a possible mechanism of tumor destruction and hence play a role in cancer prevention. It is not surprising that few human studies exist to date as cancer prevention trials with lower cancer incidence as an endpoint have logistic problems, rendering them essentially impossible to conduct for most malignancies.

Chronic Arsenic Poisoning: A Randomized Trial

As we know, there are millions of people in Bangladesh, India, Taiwan and Chile are consuming high concentration of arsenic through drinking water and are at risk of chronic arsenic poisoning for which there is no specific treatment till now. A placebo-controlled, double-blind study was conducted to evaluate the effectiveness of spirulina extract plus zinc in the treatment of chronic arsenic poisoning [24]. Forty-one patients with chronic arsenic poisoning were randomly treated by either placebo (17 patients) or spirulina extract (250 mg) plus zinc (2 mg) (24 patients) twice daily for 16 weeks. Each patient was supplied with arsenic-safe drinking water by installing a locally made water filter at household level. . More randomized trials are required but the results are promising.

Karkos, P. D., Leong, S. C., Karkos, C. D., Sivaji, N., & Assimakopoulos, D. A. (2011). Spirulina in clinical practice: evidence-based human applications. Evidence-based complementary and alternative medicine : eCAM2011, 531053. https://doi.org/10.1093/ecam/nen058