Recently, the trade in superfoods has become popular because of its health benefits, including “spirulina”, which is a type of algae that grows in fresh or salt water. It comes as a dietary supplement, in tablet or powder form. Spirulina is used for its health benefits, as it is rich in nutrients and has antioxidant properties to help protect against various diseases, according to Healthline.
Spirulina is among the most popular nutritional supplements in the world. Spirulina is not a plant but a type of algae that consists of cyanobacteria, while its supplements are dark green in color. Here are 10 scientific evidence-based health uses and benefits of spirulina:
1. Rich in nutrients
Spirulina belongs to a family of single-celled microbes, often referred to as blue-green algae. Just like plants, cyanobacteria can produce energy from sunlight through a process called photosynthesis.
Spirulina microalgae is packed full of nutrients. One tablespoon or 7 g of dried spirulina powder contains:
• Protein: 4 grams
• Thiamine: 14% of the recommended daily value
• Riboflavin: 20% of the recommended daily value
• Niacin: 6% of the daily value
• Copper: 47% of the daily value
• Iron: 11% of the daily value
It also contains decent amounts of magnesium, potassium, and manganese. And the same amount contains only 20 calories and less than 2 grams of carbohydrates.
Spirulina also provides a small amount of fat — about 1 gram per tablespoon. (7 g) – Includes both omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids in a ratio of approximately 1.5-1.0. The protein quality in spirulina is excellent and provides all the essential amino acids that the human body needs.
2. Antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties
Oxidative damage can harm the body’s cells and can lead to chronic inflammation that contributes to cancer and other diseases. Spirulina is an amazing source of antioxidants. The main active component of phycocyanin is called phycocyanin, and it’s an antioxidant that gives spirulina its unique blue color. Phycocyanin can fight free radicals and inhibit the production of molecules that promote inflammation, providing remarkable antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects.
3. Lower cholesterol levels
Several risk factors are associated with an increased risk of heart disease. As it turns out, spirulina has a positive effect on many of these factors. For example, it can lower total cholesterol, LDL cholesterol and triglycerides while increasing HDL (the good) cholesterol.
A 2014 study in people with high cholesterol found that 1 gram of spirulina per day lowered triglycerides by 16.3% and lowered LDL cholesterol by 10.1%.
4. Prevention of harmful cholesterol oxidation
Fat structures in the human body are susceptible to oxidative damage, otherwise known as lipid peroxidation, and is a major driver of many serious diseases. For example, one of the major steps in the development of heart disease is the oxidation of LDL cholesterol.
Interestingly, several studies have found that the antioxidants in spirulina may be particularly effective in reducing lipid peroxidation.
In fact, one small study showed that spirulina supplementation was able to reduce exercise-induced lipid peroxidation, inflammation, and muscle damage in 17 rugby players.
5. Anti-tumor properties
While more studies are needed, some evidence suggests that spirulina has anti-cancer properties.
Animal research indicates that it can reduce the incidence of cancer and tumor size.
6. Lowering blood pressure
High blood pressure causes many serious conditions, including heart attack, stroke, and chronic kidney disease. A scientific review including five studies found that taking 1-8 grams of spirulina daily can significantly reduce systolic and diastolic blood pressure, especially for people with high blood pressure levels.
This decrease is thought to be due to increased production of nitric oxide, a signaling molecule that helps blood vessels relax and dilate.
7. Improve allergic rhinitis symptoms
Allergic rhinitis is characterized by inflammation of the nasal passages. It is triggered by environmental allergens, such as pollen, animal hair, or even wheat dust. Spirulina is a popular alternative treatment for allergic rhinitis symptoms, and there is evidence that it can be effective.
8. Effective against anemia
Anemia is a condition characterized by a low level of hemoglobin, or red blood cells, in the blood, for several possible causes, including nutrient deficiencies, genetic disorders, and chronic inflammation, among others.
In a 2011 study of 40 older adults with a history of anemia, spirulina supplements increased the hemoglobin content of red blood cells and improved immune function.
9. Enhance muscle strength
Oxidative damage from exercise is a major contributor to muscle fatigue. Certain plant foods contain antioxidant properties that can help athletes and physically active individuals reduce this damage. Spirulina also appears to be beneficial, with some studies indicating improved muscle strength and endurance.
10. Regulating blood sugar levels
Several animal studies indicate that spirulina can help lower blood sugar levels. There is also some evidence that spirulina can support healthy blood sugar levels in humans.
According to a scientific review of eight studies, spirulina supplementation in doses of 0.8-8 grams per day can significantly reduce fasting blood sugar levels in people with type 2 diabetes.
Doctors recommend not using these for spirulina supplements:
• During pregnancy and lactation
• People with autoimmune diseases
• People scheduled to undergo surgery within two weeks
• Anyone using medications that affect the immune system, blood clotting, or blood sugar
• Anyone using garlic or other natural remedies for blood clotting or glucose levels.
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