Today, we are going to look at Spirulina: Benefits, origin, side effects & more.
Certainly the most famous seaweed, Spirulina has been declared “the best food for humanity in the 21st century” by the World Health Organization and “the ideal and most complete food of tomorrow” by Unesco. Focus on the thousand and one health benefits of this superfood…
Spirulina: Benefits, origin, side effects & more
Appeared on our planet some 3 billion years ago, spirulina actually belongs to the family of cyanobacteria and not algae, although the term “algae” is firmly entered in everyday parlance to define spirulina.
It owes its pretty blue-green colour to the chlorophyll it contains, but also to another pigment called phycocyanin responsible for many of the benefits of spirulina.
It is the Maya people who would have exploited for the first time this super-algae to irrigate their cleared crops of the Yucatan jungle, thus helping to feed a population of more than two million inhabitants and the cattle.
Then, when the Europeans landed in Central America at the beginning of the 16th century, they noticed that the Aztecs collected in the saline lakes of Mexico a sort of blue-green mud (then called “tecuitlatl”), which they tried to make pancakes they were eating.
In 1852, the botanist Stizenberger published the first taxonomic report on spirulina, which he named on this occasion Arthrospira because of its helical shape and its multicellular structure.
Steigenberger observes at this time that the Kanembous children, living on the shore of Lake Chad and eating dried spirulina daily, were spared the murderous famine which then raged in the country.
It was then in the 1970s that spirulina became very popular in industrialized countries and that researchers conducted many experiments in the hope of using this micro-algae to fight against global malnutrition.
Spirulina is probably the food with the richest and most varied nutritional composition that can exist.
First of all, it is extremely well provided with protein (up to 70% against 25% for a beefsteak) of very good qualities, since they contain all the essential amino acids (unlike almost all foods from ‘vegetable origin). This exceptional content makes spirulina a dietary supplement of choice for vegetarians and vegans.
Spirulina is also a very good source of vitamins (pro-vitamin A, vitamin B9, vitamin E and vitamin C ), minerals ( iron, calcium, potassium, manganese, selenium), essential fatty acids (omega 6) and antioxidants (chlorophyll, phycocyanin).
To summarize, spirulina has a nutritional, vitamin and mineral content close to a synthetic food supplement, whereas it is a natural food, with consequently a better bioavailability.
Health Benefits of Spirulina
Its exceptional content of minerals, iron and vitamins, first of all, make Spirulina a precious ally to fight malnutrition, anaemia and protein deficiencies which prevail in the World, as underline the WHO and Unesco.
But the therapeutic and health benefits of spirulina do not stop there since regular consumption of spirulina has many benefits.
Reduce blood lipids and cholesterol
By stimulating the synthesis of the protein lipase (which plays an important role in the metabolism of triglycerides), spirulina would make it possible to decrease the level of LDL blood (bad cholesterol) and to increase that of HDL (good cholesterol). A 2010 study in Tokyo 1 shows that supplementing spirulina for 8 weeks in rabbits significantly reduces atherosclerosis linked to high cholesterol.
Reduce symptoms of allergic rhinitis
It is the anti-inflammatory properties of spirulina which are partly responsible for its effect on reducing the symptoms of hay fever.
A trial conducted in Turkey 2 shows that taking 2g of spirulina per day for 16 weeks was much more effective than a placebo in reducing the allergic manifestations of the participants. The explanation? Spirulina would decrease the sensitivity to allergens and reduce the secretion of histamine, responsible for allergies.
Reduce the risk of diabetes
The consumption of spirulina lowers the level of fasting blood glucose (glycemia) and boosts the efficiency of insulin, hypoglycemic hormone. In any case, this is suggested by a preliminary study 3 carried out on people suffering from type 2 diabetes, receiving 2g of spirulina every day for 2 months. The result? Their blood sugar and glycated haemoglobin (two main markers of diabetes) have significantly reduced.
Improve kidney function
This is a Japanese study conducted at Chiba University in 1990 4, which reveals that spirulina protects the kidneys from various environmental pollutants (notably mercury) thanks to one of its antioxidant pigments: phycocyanin.
Spirulina stimulates liver function by preventing the accumulation of fatty acids (fatty liver, “evil of the century”) and reducing liver inflammation. It would also have a proven role in the prevention of colon cancer.
Its role on renal functions in the event of exposure to different pollutants (lead, mercury), also makes spirulina a detox algae par excellence.
Dosage of Spirulina
The various scientific studies aimed at demonstrating its therapeutic benefits have for the most part been done with spirulina dosages ranging from 2 to 5g per day. Most often, it is recommended to take 1 to 1.5 g of spirulina 2 to 3 times a day depending on the indications (Diabetes, cholesterol, allergies).
We recommend starting treatment with 1g per day for a week and then gradually increasing the doses.
Side effects and contraindications of Spirulina
Algae accumulating heavy metals (lead, arsenic, cadmium, mercury, etc.) when it evolves in a polluted environment, it is recommended to buy spirulina, the cultivation methods of which are rigorously controlled (cultivated in an artificial and unnatural environment ) and check that the product is very pure (100% spirulina).
The high protein content of spirulina can cause adverse effects on certain sensitive people (headaches, nausea), hence the recommendation to gradually increase the doses in order to get the body used to it.
People suffering from phenylketonuria should avoid taking spirulina which, like all protein-rich foods, contains phenylalanine.
As a precautionary measure and in the absence of scientific data on the subject, regular consumption of spirulina is also not recommended for pregnant and lactating women.
END of Spirulina: Benefits, origin, side effects & more.