Spirulina: Benefits, Use and Possible Side Effects

What is Spirulina?

You have probably heard of spirulina, that weird green superfood powder. You’ve probably even come across it at your local health food store and wondered what it is exactly and where it comes from. It has been around for quite some time but has become more popular only recently, especially after successful NASA use. Astronauts used spirulina as a supplement to boost anti-inflammatory conditions.

Spirulina is a blue-green natural algae. It grows in alkaline water in subtropical and tropical areas and is popular for its nutritional benefits. It is incredibly rich in protein (up to 70%), natural iron, essential amino acids, vitamin B12, antioxidants, and other nutrients. Cultures around the world from Africa to Mexico and beyond have utilized Spirulina for centuries not only for its nutritional value but also due to its intense flavor (which not everyone likes by the way). Spirulina is considered to be easily digested since it lacks cellulose cell walls.

What are some spirulina health benefits?

As mentioned, spirulina is a superfood. Superfoods are defined as a type of food packed with health benefits and nutrients. Other superfoods include chia seeds, blueberries, kale, acai berries and more. Here’s a list of some known spirulina benefits you should be aware of:

May Combat Arsenic Poisoning From Insufficient Drinking Water

People in third world countries who consume arsenic drinking water may benefit from spirulina supplements (some research has been initiated and shows that spirulina together with zinc may be helpful).

May Help to Prevent Cancer

Researchers say that the consumption of spirulina triggers the production of infection-fighting proteins, antibodies, and other cells which may help improve immunity, clear infections, and prevent cancer. One trial claimed that 45% of patients which took spirulina supplements showed a regression in leukoplakia.

May Lower Blood Pressure

Scientists have discovered a pigment from spirulina known as phycocyanin which has the ability to lower blood pressure.

May Speed Up Weight Loss

Some claim that diets rich in protein help to promote weight loss. It may also helps to lower fat storage through various mechanisms. Protein tends to take a lot of energy to metabolize, which may help to burn excess fat. If spirulina is consumed during the morning and mid-day it can help to curb hunger and thus benefit those seeking for ways to lose weight.

May Alleviate Sinus and Allergy Symptoms

Spirulina helps reduce inflammation that causes sinus infections or allergic rhinitis. Some scientists claim that spirulina helps reduce nasal congestion, nasal discharge, sneezing, and itching.

May Help Lower Cholesterol and Balance Blood Sugar Levels

Research has found that spirulina reduced blood cholesterol, triglycerides and LDL cholesterol. It may also be effective for diabetes, as it balances blood sugar levels.

What are some possible ways to consume spirulina?

Credit: Pixabay

Spirulina can be consumed in various ways per personal preference. Here are a few possibilities:

  1. Spirulina Capsules and Tablets
    For those who dislike the flavor, a common way of consumption is through tablets and capsules that have various dosages of spirulina powder.
  2. Spirulina Powder
    Spirulina can also be purchased in the form of a powder. From the powder, you can measure your dose to partake or mix in soups, cereals, smoothies or juices.
  3. Drink Mix
    Similar to spirulina powder above, but it comes in an already mixed drink.

What are some spirulina side effects?

As much as spirulina has a number of health benefits it is best known for, you should be cautious as there may also be side effects from consuming this product, as with any supplement. Spirulina may also contain mercury and other heavy metals when grown in an open water source.

According to NCBI, there have been certain reports of side effects from people who consumed spirulina. These include hepatotoxicity, rhabdomyolysis and immunoblistering disorder. These cases are rare and spirulina is considered safe for human consumption.

Sources:

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3136577/
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2907180/



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