The Health And Nutritional Benefits Of Spirulina And Some Side Effects
What Is Spirulina?
Spirulina is a form of blue green algae obtained primarily from 2 species of the cyanobacteria Arthrospira, the;
- Arthrospira platensis
- Arthrospira maxima
It is actually a single celled organism that grows as a free floating filamentous spiral shaped structure.
Spirulina is rich in chlorophyll and is probably one of the oldest water plants to still exist even after billions of years. Though spirulina grows naturally in tropical and subtropical alkaline lakes that are abundantly rich in minerals, it is cultivated throughout the world today.
Since ages this naturally nutrition rich plant has been used as a food by the Chads to the Aztecs to the Mayans till about the 16th century. Back then it was harvested from lake Texcoco and sold as cakes called techuitlate while in Chad it has been traditionally harvested and dried into cakes called dihe.
Large scale commercial production of spirulina commenced in the 1970s. The major producers of spirulina in the world today are the United States, India, China, Thailand, Mynamar, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Greece and Chile.
Spirulina has been widely used as a nutritional supplement and is considered as one of the most concentrated and nutritionally complete food sources today.
If consuming spirulina be sure to take an extra 1/2 liter of water everyday to help it get absorbed into the system as it absorbs water.
Nutrients In Spirulina
60 % - 69 %
16 % - 20 %
5% - 7 %
6 % - 9%
2.5% - 6.0%
mg / 100g
400 - 650
150 - 250
250 - 470
125 - 200
1300 - 1700
ORAC (micro mole TE)
gms / 100g
0.01 - 0.03
2.0 - 2.5
0.01 - 0.05
0.10 - 0.20
0.75 - 1.2
Gamma -Linolenic acid
1.00 - 1.50
Nutritional Facts And Benefits Of Spirulina
Spirulina contains over 100 nutrients. Also,
- Dried spirulina is an excellent source of highly digestible protein and contains around 60% of it. To top it, this protein is a complete protein as it contains all the essential aminoacids needed by humans.
- Rich in gamma linoleic acid and also contains alpha linoleic acid, linoleic acid, EPA, DHA etc.
- Contains all B vitamins and is very high in vitamin B12, as much as 4 times the amount contained in raw liver.
- Low in carbohydrates, about 15-20%.
- Contains metalo-thionine compounds which are proteins combined with metals that are capable of binding radioactive isotopes.
- As rich in calcium, phosphorus and magnesium as milk.
- The vitamin E content is as much as in wheatgerm which is one of the excellent sources of this vitamin.
- Other minerals that spirulina contains are : iron, manganese, selenium, potassium, zinc, chromium and copper.
- Contains Omegas 3, 6 and 9 and is especially rich in omega3.
- Contains a variety of pigments like beta carotene, zeaxanthin, lutein, xanthophyll, beta cryptoxanthin etc.
- Contains chlorophyll, phycocyanin and porphyrin, the enzymatic pigments that carry out essential metabolic processes in the body.
Nutrients In Spirulina
gms / 100 g
4.0 - 5.0
3.0 - 5.0
1.5 - 3.0
0.5 - 0.75
6.0 - 9.0
2.0 - 4.0
0.5 - 1.5
3.0 - 4.0
3.0 - 5.0
3.0 - 6.0
1.0 - 6.0
2.5 - 3.5
2.0 - 3.0
3.0 - 4.5
1.5 - 3.0
1.0 - 2.0
1.0 - 3.0
1.0 - 3.5
mg / 100g
Vitamin B1 (Thiamine)
0.1.5 - 0.30
Vitamin B2 (Riboflavin)
4.0 - 7.0
Vitamin B3 (Niacin)
10.0 - 25.0
0.5 - 1.5
Vitamin B12 (Analogue)
0.10 - 0.30
0.05 - 0.30
70 - 90
0.90 - 1.05
60 - 110
700 - 1000
200 - 300
25 - 40
700 - 1000
1000 - 1500
1.0 - 3.0
0.2 - 0.4
1.0 - 3.0
0.1 - 0.3
0.003 - 0.010
Spirulina Supplemental FormsClick thumbnail to view full-size
Health Benefits Of Spirulina
Among the various health benefits spirulina offers are the following :
- Reduces risk of stroke
Studies on spirulina at the institute of Pharmaceutical Technology in India done on rats at a dose of 180 mg/kg demonstrated a protective effect on the brain as well as the nervous system when these animals were exposed to a high number of free radicals.
Spirulina is especially beneficial in those with sickle cell anemia or congenital heart defects as they are at greater risk for stroke due to lack of oxygen caused by lack of blood flow to the brain.
- Reduces cancer risk
A study done in China showed that selenium infused spirulina halted the growth of MCF-7 breast cancer cells.
Also, eliminating processed foods, grains and sugar reduced risk of cancer.
- Inactivates HIV virus
Spirulina contains almost 3 times the protein in red meat and is thus a good protein source for both meat eaters and vegetarians.
2 tablespoons of spirulina will work just fine as a protein substitute. This dose would provide 300 mg GLA which is sufficient to inactivate the HIV virus as well.
A new type of protein called cyanovirin-N obtained in blue green algae like spirulina inactivates HIV. This protein also has anti influenza activity.
- Reduces Cholesterol levels
A study done on aged males and females between the ages of 60-87 who were given 8 grams of spirulina per day for 16 weeks showed lowered cholesterol levels.
- Improves gut bacterial health
Spirulina helps to increase the growth of healthy bacteria in the gut. This is especially helpful to keep Candida from overgrowing.
Chronic Candida can cause and even worsen the symptoms of those suffering from fibromyalgia, Crohn's disease, lupus and chronic fatigue syndrome.
Spirulina consumption will greatly benefit in such cases.
- Controls allergy symptoms
In a study those treated with spirulina showed reduction in symptoms from allergic rhinitis especially nasal discharge, sneezing, itching and congestion.
Spirulina helps those with allergy to allergens like pollen, dust, molds, dander etc.
- Regulates blood pressure
In a study carried out by the Department of Biochemistry in Mexico, a dose of 4.5 gms of spirulina per day regulated blood pressure in men and women of ages 18 to 65 years, This experiment was carried out for 6 weeks.
- Boosts immune system
A study by the Department of Aquaculture in Taiwan showed that exposure of spirulina sea water to white shrimps helped to increase the recovery rate of these fish to high levels of PH as compared to those not exposed to spirulina water.
- Protects against Arsenic poisoning
In a study, researchers from Bangladesh found that when spirulina was given to patients who had arsenic poisoning, of those receiving spirulina 82% showed great improvement.
- Protects the eyes
Spirulina provides 3750 - 6000 mcg zeaxanthin per 3 grams. These xanthophylls protect eyes against damage from UV rays and macular degeneration.
- Benefits in Type 2 diabetes
Spirulina benefits diabetics by:
~ Reducing serum triglycerides and increasing HDL thereby improving lipid profile.
~ Improves vasodilation in those overweight.
~ Controls blood glucose levels.
- Improves cardiovascular health
Because it improves lipid profile, controls hypertension and increases the elasticity pf the blood vessels, spirulina intake improves cardiovascular health.
In studies, at a dose of 2 - 4.5 grams a day, spirulina improved lipid profile and lowered blood pressure.
- Benefits the liver
~prevents build up of triglycerides in the liver
~Protects heavy metal damage to liver
~Prevents oxidation of lipids
- High in antioxidants
Because spirulina is rich in antioxidants it has a higher capacity to neutralize free radicals and reduce inflammations, reduce risk of strokes, provide great neuroprotective effect, reduce oxidative stress, protect the liver, kidney, brain heart, eyes and other vital organs.
- Controls age related pathologies
Spirulina intake benefits in neurogenerative disorders like Alzheimer's and Parkinson's, loss of cartilage in osteoarthritis, insulin resistance due to obesity, etc.
- Antimicrobial Properties
Spirulina has antibacterial, antiviral and anti fungal properties.It kills bacteria, HIV virus, measles, mumpa, influenza and herpes virus. It also kills Candida and Aspergillus.
- Improves Hemoglobin levels
In a study on senior citizens over a period of 12 weeks, the red blood cell count and hemoglobin levels were raised significantly.
Spirulina Availability And Dose
There are various types of spirulina and they can become contaminated with heavy metals and toxins. The integrity of the source becomes all the more important in view of this.
Spirulina is available in the form of tablets, capsules, powder and flakes.
The usual dose is 3 to 5 grams per day spread over 2 to 3 times a day if you so wish. Though higher doses have been found to be safe, this basic dose is great for a start.
Do increase consumption of pure fresh water when consuming spirulina, at least half a liter more, so that it can be better absorbed.
As spirulina also detoxifies the body it is best to start with a lower dose and let the body acclimatize to it before increasing its intake.
Spirulina is available in tablets of 500 mg each and the recommended dose is 1 tab 4 to 6 times a day.
Some Possible Side Effects With Spirulina
Though spirulina is safe and has been used for centuries it detoxifies the body and this causes the toxins to be removed from the body causing mild or severe reaction depending upon one's state of health.
Some of the side effects noted are :
- Slight fever which may be caused by the increase in metabolism.
- Dark green colored stools due to the removal of waste products as well as the high chlorophyll content in spirulina.
- Excessive release of gas which is an indication that the digestive system is not working well.
- Itchy skin/breakouts due to the internal cleansing that is going on and will go away soon.
- Excess sleep - due to the detoxification the body gets exhausted and needs rest.
To get over this,
Start at the lowest dose, drink more water, do not take undue stress, eat a nutrient rich diet and rest well.
Some Contraindications With Spirulina
Do not consume spirulina if you :
- Have seaweed/seafood/iodine allergy.
- Suffer from hyperthyroidism or phenylketonuria.
- Are pregnant or nursing.
- Those having fever - let the fever subside before taking spirulina.
Do not give to children and consult your doctor/healthcare practitioner before starting spirulina.
The information provided in this hub is not a substitute for professional medical advice. Please consult your physician, or healthcare provider before taking any home remedies, supplements or starting a new health regime.
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© 2013 Rajan Singh Jolly