Health and Beauty

What benefits can you expect, and should you consume it?

Spirulina is considered a superfood due to its countless nutritional qualities. Rich in proteins, vitamins, minerals and antioxidants, this blue-green bacteria is said to have health benefits by specifically protecting against cell damage.

Although most of these claims are hypothetical, animal and laboratory studies suggest that spirulina may increase antibody production, boost immunity, and help prevent infections and some types of cancer. However, none of these results have been verified in human studies.

What is spirulina?

Its scientific name is Arthrospira. Spirulina was initially classified in the plant kingdom among microalgae due to its richness in plant pigments in addition to its ability to perform photosynthesis, and today it is classified in the category of cyanobacteria. They are found in both fresh water and sea water.

Spirulina was actually consumed by the Mayans and Aztecs over 400 years ago, but due to its growing popularity, it is now widely cultivated throughout the world.

Spirulina is harvested, freeze-dried, and sold in tablet and powder form in most health food stores, and many nutrition brands add it to snack bars, energy drinks, granola, and even oat flakes for its health benefits and beautiful color.

Thanks to its exceptional nutritional qualities, it is highly regarded by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration and the European Space Agency, which place it among the staple foods during long-term space missions.

For people looking for a healthy lifestyle

Spirulina is known for its high protein content. In fact, it can contain up to 60% spirulina: 10 grams of spirulina contains the same amount of protein as 35 grams of beef!

Additionally, one study suggests that spirulina will as well More anabolic than casein. As such, athletes, especially bodybuilders and CrossFit practitioners who prefer natural supplements, love it.

However, is spirulina an ideal muscle gain cocktail? Not real. As the food brand rightly points out Nutri & Co (Contrary to what we can read in many publications on the Internet…), the high protein content of spirulina is not an argument that should be taken into account when deciding to supplement with it. In fact, you would have to swallow more than 100 tablets to get 30 grams of protein!

Protein is also an easily accessible macronutrient (eggs, meat, soy, etc.), while vitamins and minerals are often deficient in our modern diet.

However, these micronutrients are essential for health and especially for optimal body functioning: training, recovery, sleep, weight loss, muscle gain, strength development, etc. Whatever the physiological process involved, minerals and vitamins are essential! Therefore, spirulina is a very interesting supplement, because it has an overall beneficial effect.

Traditional consumption of spirulina

Spirulina was already consumed during the time of the Aztec civilization. Traditionally, spirulina has been consumed since the 9th century in Chad in the form of sun-dried cakes which are then used to prepare highly nutritious soups.

Its modern cultivation and marketing as a nutritional supplement

Modern cultivation and marketing of spirulina as a dietary supplement began in the 1970s in industrialized countries. Spirulina is relatively easy to grow, and modern cultivation is done in very high pH alkaline water, in large outdoor ponds, in a sunny climate.

The species most offered on the market is Arthrospira Platentis. It is grown mainly in China (50% of global production or 5,000 tons) and in the United States (in California and Hawaii). A more traditional culture persists in Africa (Côte d'Ivoire, Mali, Burkina Faso). In France, about 250 artisanal producers grow it.

Spirulina is available in health food stores as a nutritional supplement in the form of powder or lozenges, and is also available in the form of cookies or drinks.

Which spirulina to buy?

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Anti-inflammatory, anti-allergic and immunomodulatory properties

Spirulina has widely proven anti-inflammatory properties. In fact, this dietary supplement prevents the release of histamine by mast cells.

In a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial, people with allergic rhinitis took either spirulina or a placebo daily for 12 weeks. Peripheral blood mononuclear cells were isolated before and after these doses, and levels of proinflammatory cytokines (interleukin-4, interferon-γ, and interleukin-2) were measured. The study showed that a high dose of spirulina significantly reduced interleukin-4 levels by 32%, demonstrating the protective effects of this microalgae against allergic rhinitis.

Furthermore, a recent double-blind, placebo-controlled study conducted in Turkey evaluated the effectiveness of spirulina in treating patients with allergic rhinitis. Spirulina consumption significantly improved physical symptoms and signs compared to placebo, including runny nose, sneezing, nasal congestion, and itching.

Ishii studied the effect of spirulina on IgA antibody levels in human saliva. They discovered that spirulina has an immune function. In fact, spirulina has been shown to improve IgA production, suggesting the central role of microalgae in our mucous membrane immunity.

Nutrient deficiencies are known to be responsible for changes in immunity, manifested by changes in T cell production, IgA secretory antibody response, cytokines, and natural killer cell activity. The above studies suggest that spirulina may modulate the immune system through its role in covering up multiple nutritional deficiencies.

Effects of cholesterol deficiency

Cardiovascular disease remains the leading cause of death in developed countries, and high cholesterol is one of the most important risk factors for atherosclerosis.

In a clinical study, Nakaya and colleagues gave 4.2 grams of spirulina daily to 15 male volunteers. Although there was no significant increase in HDL cholesterol levels (good cholesterol), they did see a significant decrease in LDL cholesterol levels (bad cholesterol) after 8 weeks of treatment. The effect of atherosclerosis was also significantly reduced in the spirulina-treated group.

Ramamurthy and Premakumari in a more recent study gave spirulina supplements to patients with ischemic heart disease and found a significant reduction in total cholesterol, triglycerides, and LDL cholesterol (bad cholesterol) and an increase in HDL cholesterol (good cholesterol).

Finally, in a clinical study, Mani and colleagues observed a significant reduction in the LDL/HDL ratio in 15 diabetic patients who received spirulina.

These clinical results show that the role of spirulina as a natural nutritional supplement in combating hyperlipidemia should not be neglected.

Antivirus applications

One of the main active components of the aqueous extract of spirulina is a sulfated polysaccharide: calcium spirulane. According to Hayashi, calcium spirulane inhibits in vitro replication of several enveloped viruses, including herpes simplex virus type 1, human cytomegalovirus, measles-mumps virus, influenza A virus and influenza A-1 virus.

Another recent in vitro study showed that aqueous extract of spirulina inhibits HIV-1 replication in human T lymphocytes, blood mononuclear cells, and Langerhans cells.

Of course, the promising effects mentioned above need further study in animal and human models before definitive conclusions can be drawn.

Anti-cancer effects

It has been suggested that spirulina, by combining antioxidant and immunomodulatory properties, could have an antitumor role and in cancer prevention.

Although there have been numerous laboratory and animal studies, only one trial has been conducted in humans. This study focused specifically on the effects of spirulina on oral carcinogenesis, especially leukoplakia.

The study by Matthew and his team on a group of 77 patients follows previous trials in hamsters, which showed tumor regression after topical application or oral administration of spirulina extract.

Matthew's clinical study showed that 45% of patients in the study group showed complete regression of leukoplakia after taking spirulina supplements for one year.

The authors also reported that there was no increase in retinal beta-carotene concentration despite spirulina supplementation and concluded that other components of spirulina were probably responsible for the anti-cancer effects. These results look promising and more studies are needed.

Your frequently asked questions

Who is spirulina for?

Spirulina targets a wide audience of consumers concerned about their health and well-being. People seeking to maintain a healthy, balanced diet are the main consumers of spirulina. It is especially popular with people interested in organic products, nutritional supplements, and natural products.

Athletes, bodybuilders, active people, or people with nutritional deficiencies can also find benefits from taking spirulina, as it is rich in essential nutrients such as proteins, vitamins, and minerals.

Spirulina is also used as part of specific diets, such as vegetarian and vegan diets.

In short, Spirulina appeals to a diverse audience looking for healthy and nutritious food options to improve their health and well-being.

How to consume spirulina?

Here are some ways to consume spirulina:

Add spirulina powder to smoothie or juice for a nutritional boost.

Sprinkle spirulina powder on your favorite dishes, such as salads, soups, and pasta dishes.

Mix spirulina powder into sauces to make it more nutritious.

Take spirulina tablets with a glass of water to get a proper nutritional boost.

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What benefits can you expect, and should you consume it?

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