Top 15 health benefits of Spirulina

Spirulina is among the world’s most popular supplements. It is loaded with various nutrients and antioxidants that may benefit your body and brain.

Updated on Oct 03, 2022 12:16 PM IST  |  341.9K
Top benefits of spirulina
What are the benefits of spirulina and how it should be taken?

One of the planet's oldest life forms is thought to be the blue-green algal spirulina. Spirulina is regarded as a superfood and is an all-in-one source of nutrients, including protein levels comparable to eggs. The Aztecs first utilized it as an endurance booster.

Legends claim that the kingdom's couriers utilized the algae to fuel their marathon runs and that the Aztecs also used spirulina to heal a variety of illnesses. Many of the purported advantages of consuming spirulina are supported by current research, which also explores its potential for addressing health issues.

Due to its bitter flavor, spirulina is frequently blended with yogurt, juice, and smoothies to enhance flavor. Spirulina is frequently sold at health food stores as a supplement.

Nutrition Information on spirulina

One tablespoon of spirulina contains: 

  • Calories: 20
  • Protein: 4 grams
  • Fat: 1 gram
  • Carbohydrates: 2 grams
  • Fiber: 0 grams
  • Sugar: 0 grams

Spirulina is a good source of: 

  • Thiamine ( vitamin B1)
  • Riboflavin ( vitamin B2)
  • Niacin ( vitamin B3)
  • Copper
  • Iron

Is spirulina safe for everyone?

Is spirulina safe for everyone?

Spirulina includes phenylalanine, an amino acid that people with the disorder phenylketonuria (PKU) cannot process, thus they should absolutely avoid it. Spirulina should also not be consumed by anyone who has an autoimmune disease like lupus, multiple sclerosis, or rheumatoid arthritis. 

Pregnant or nursing women, anyone under 18, people using prescription medications, and others should see their doctor before spirulina. Always make sure you get spirulina from a recognized brand and a known source because there have been worries in the past that it could be tainted with microcystins and other bacterial toxins. It is also known that spirulina can take up heavy metals from the water it is cultivated in.

Here are 15 evidence-based health benefits of spirulina:

1. Spirulina has a very high nutrient content

Spirulina nutrient content

An organism called spirulina may flourish in both fresh and saline water. It belongs to the cyanobacteria class of single-celled microorganisms, also known as blue-green algae. Cyanobacteria can harness the energy of sunlight through a process known as photosynthesis, much like plants can.

The ancient Aztecs consumed spirulina, but it gained popularity once more after NASA suggested that astronauts could produce it in space. Spirulina is typically taken in quantities of 1-3 grams per day, however, up to 10 grams have been used successfully. This microscopic algae is nutrient-rich—the weight of one tablespoon (7 grams) of dry spirulina powder.

  • Protein: 4 grams
  • Vitamin B1 (thiamine): 11% of the RDA
  • Vitamin B2 (riboflavin): 15% of the RDA
  • Vitamin B3 (niacin): 4% of the RDA
  • Copper: 21% of the RDA
  • Iron: 11% of the RDA
  • Additionally, it has modest levels of nearly every other nutrient you require, as well as good amounts of magnesium, potassium, and manganese.

The same amount also only has 20 calories and 1.7 grams of digestible carbs. Spirulina might be the single most nutrient-dense food in the world, gram for gram. A tablespoon (7 grams) of spirulina has only a modest quantity of fat, about 1 gram, with an estimated 1.5:1.0 ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 fatty acids.

On par with eggs, spirulina is regarded to offer outstanding protein quality. It offers all of the essential amino acids that are required. Contrary to widespread assumption, vitamin B12 is not present in spirulina. It contains phony vitamin B12, whose efficacy in humans has not been established. Blue-green algae, such as spirulina, may thrive in both fresh and salt water.

2. Significant antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects

Your DNA and cells may be harmed by oxidative damage. The chronic inflammation that results from this damage can fuel cancer and other disorders. Antioxidants found in spirulina are excellent for preventing oxidative damage. The name of its primary active ingredient is phycocyanin. 

The distinctive blue-green hue of spirulina is also a result of this antioxidant. The powerful antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties of phycocyanin enable it to combat free radicals and reduce the synthesis of inflammatory signaling molecules. The primary active ingredient in spirulina is phycocyanin. It possesses potent anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects.

3. Can reduce triglyceride and "Bad" LDL levels

Can reduce triglyceride

The main cause of death worldwide is heart disease. Heart disease risk is elevated by several risk factors. It turns out that several of these characteristics are positively impacted by spirulina. For instance, it can increase "good" HDL cholesterol while lowering total cholesterol, "bad" LDL cholesterol, and triglycerides. 2 grams of spirulina per day significantly improved these indicators in a trial involving 25 individuals with type 2 diabetes.

One gram of spirulina per day reduced triglycerides by 16.3% and "bad" LDL by 10.1% in persons with high cholesterol, according to another study. Several additional studies have also discovered beneficial effects, however at greater doses of 4.5-8 grams per day. According to studies, spirulina can enhance "good" cholesterol while concurrently reducing triglycerides and "bad" LDL cholesterol.

4. Prevents the oxidation of "Bad" LDL cholesterol

Your body's fatty structures are vulnerable to oxidative harm. Lipid peroxidation, a major cause of numerous severe diseases, is what this is. For instance, the oxidation of "bad" LDL cholesterol is one of the crucial stages in the onset of heart disease. It's interesting to note that lipid peroxidation in both humans and animals appears to be significantly decreased by the antioxidants in spirulina.

8 grams of spirulina per day significantly decreased markers of oxidative damage in a trial including 37 individuals with type 2 diabetes. Antioxidant enzyme levels in the blood were also raised. Your body's fatty tissues have the potential to oxidize, which fuels the development of numerous ailments. Spirulina's antioxidants can aid in preventing this.

5. It has anti-cancer properties

Anti-cancer properties

According to some data, spirulina has anti-cancer capabilities. Animal studies have shown that it can lessen the likelihood of cancer and the size of tumors. The effects of spirulina on oral cancer, also known as cancer of the mouth, have been extensively researched. 

One study looked at 87 Indians who had oral submucous fibrosis (OSMF), which are precancerous tumor. 45% of those who consumed 1 gram of spirulina daily for a year experienced the disappearance of their lesions, as opposed to only 7% of those in the control group.

Nearly half of these individuals who stopped taking spirulina experienced regrowth of lesions the following year. One gram of spirulina per day improved OSMF symptoms more than Pentoxyfilline in research involving 40 people with OSMF lesions. Spirulina may have anti-cancer qualities, and it seems to work particularly well against OSMF, a form of the oral precancerous lesion.

6. Reduces blood pressure

Heart attacks, strokes, and chronic renal disease are just a few of the dangerous disorders that high blood pressure is a major contributor. A daily dose of 4.5 grams of spirulina has been found to lower blood pressure in people with normal levels of blood pressure, however, 1 gram is ineffective.

Nitric oxide, a signaling molecule that aids blood vessel relaxation and dilation, is assumed to be the primary cause of this decrease. Lower blood pressure, a crucial risk factor for many diseases, may result from taking more spirulina.

7. Improves symptoms of allergic rhinitis

Inflamed nasal passages are a hallmark of allergic rhinitis. Environmental allergens, such as pollen, animal hair, or even wheat dust, might cause it to flare up. There is proof that spirulina may be an effective alternative treatment for allergic rhinitis symptoms. In one study, 2 grams per day significantly decreased nasal discharge, sneezing, nasal congestion, and itching in 127 persons with allergic rhinitis. Supplemental spirulina is particularly efficient at easing the symptoms of allergic rhinitis.

8. Effective against anemia

Effective against anemia

Anemia can take many distinct forms. The most typical one is indicated by a decrease in the number of red blood cells or hemoglobin in your blood. Older persons frequently have anemia, which causes persistent sensations of weakness and exhaustion. Spirulina supplements boosted immunological function and raised the hemoglobin content of red blood cells in a trial of 40 elderly individuals with a history of anemia. Do not forget that this is only one study. Before making any recommendations, more research is required. Spirulina may help older persons with their anemia, but additional research is needed.

9. Improves muscle strength and endurance

Muscle wear and tear from exercise-induced oxidative damage is a significant factor. Athletes and those who are highly active might lessen this damage by eating certain plant foods because they contain antioxidant capabilities.

According to certain studies, spirulina appears to have advantages since it increases muscle strength and endurance. Spirulina improved endurance in two tests, greatly extending the period before participants were exhausted. Exercise may benefit greatly from spirulina, which may also increase muscle strength and endurance.

10. May aid blood sugar control

Spirulina has been shown in animal tests to drastically reduce blood sugar levels. It has occasionally outperformed well-known diabetes medications like Metformin. Additionally, there is some proof that spirulina works for people.

Two grams of spirulina per day resulted in a significant drop in HbA1c, a marker for long-term blood sugar levels, from 9% to 8% in a two-month study of 25 individuals with type 2 diabetes. According to studies, a 1% drop in this marker can cut the chance of dying from diabetes by 21%.

However, the scope and duration of this investigation were limited. More research is required. Spirulina may help persons with type 2 diabetes by drastically lowering fasting blood sugar levels, according to some data.

11. Improves heart health

Improves heart health

Improves heart health

According to research, the protein in spirulina can lower cholesterol levels by reducing the body's absorption of cholesterol. By keeping your arteries free, you can lessen the stress on your heart and prevent blood clots that can cause heart disease and stroke.

Additionally, its protein lowers triglyceride levels. These are blood lipids that can lead to artery hardening and raise your chance of developing pancreatitis, diabetes, and heart disease.

Your body's nitric oxide synthesis is also increased by spirulina, which aids in blood vessel relaxation. According to studies, doing so can lower blood pressure, which lowers your risk of developing heart disease.

12. Allergy relief

People with allergies to dust, pollen, and animal hair may benefit from the anti-inflammatory properties of spirulina. According to one study, participants' congestion, sneezing, and itching symptoms greatly decreased, indicating that spirulina might be an effective substitute for allergy medicines.

13. Immune system support

Vitamins E, C, and B6 are just a few of the vitamins and minerals found in abundance in spirulina that is crucial for supporting a strong immune system. According to research, spirulina increases the body's ability to produce white blood cells and antibodies that help your body fight off infections and viruses.

Spirulina has been shown to combat HIV, the flu, and herpes in laboratory experiments; however, more studies are required to examine these effects in actual people.

14. May maintain eye and oral health

May maintain eye and oral health

Zeaxanthin, a plant pigment that may lower the risk of cataracts and age-related vision loss, is concentrated in spirulina. Its antimicrobial qualities might additionally aid in promoting optimal dental health. According to one study, participants who used spirulina-enhanced mouthwash had lower rates of dental plaque and gingivitis. It reduced the risk of mouth cancer in smokers, according to another study.

15. Alleviates hay fever

Spirulina appears to lessen nasal airway irritation, which is a common sign of allergic rhinitis or hay fever. In one trial, it was found to dramatically lessen symptoms like itching, sneezing, and nasal congestion.

More study is required before any health benefits of spirulina can be verified because the majority of studies done to date have either been on animals or limited human trials.

Potential Risks of Spirulina

Potential Risks of Spirulina

Before using spirulina or any other supplement, consult your doctor because of its high nutrient activity. It could be harmful to some people's health, including:

  • Toxins

Heavy metals and microorganisms may be present in wild-harvested spirulina. Some of these toxins may stress or harm your liver when consumed in large quantities.

  • Pregnancy Concerns

There is little evidence to support claims that blue-green algae are safe for pregnant or nursing mothers. Doctors advise against consuming spirulina when pregnant due to the toxin risk.

  • Bleeding Disorders

Spirulina may raise the risk of bruising and bleeding in patients with some bleeding issues since it can aid in reducing blood coagulation.

  • Diabetes

People with diabetes should check their blood sugar levels when consuming spirulina because it may impact blood sugar levels.

  • Auto-Immune Diseases

The immune system can be supported by spirulina, according to research, however, patients who have auto-immune illnesses like lupus, multiple sclerosis, or arthritis may experience worsening of their symptoms. If you have an auto-immune disease, discuss adding spirulina to your diet with your doctor first.

  • Medication Interactions

The health advantages of spirulina may interact with or negate the effects of some drugs, such as blood thinners, immunosuppressants, and treatments for diabetes.

  • B12 deficiency

Spirulina is frequently touted as having high quantities of vitamin B12, yet the body does not effectively absorb this vitamin from the plant. A B12 deficiency, which is frequent in persons who eat a plant-based diet, should be supplemented from a different source.

How To Consume Spirulina?

Consume Spirulina

Either the tablets or the powder can be consumed. In this section, we've covered each dosage's mode of consumption.

Spirulina Tablets

Adults should take 6 to 10 pills per day. Children should take 1 to 3 pills each day.

  • For the first two days, start with 1 tablet each day. After that, take 2 pills daily for the following 2 days. until you reach your desired dosage, keep taking 3 tablets each day for the following 2 days, etc.
  • Just before you eat, take the tablets with water.
  • The dose can be taken all at once or spaced out over the day. Just be careful not to take any in the evenings since you might feel awake and unable to sleep.

Spirulina Powder

Half to one teaspoon of the powder should be taken each day. This is roughly equivalent to 1.8 to 3 grams of powder.

If you are just beginning to take spirulina, start with a pinch and increase the amount gradually, exactly like with the pills.

Precautions

  • If you have autoimmune illnesses or phenylketonuria (a condition where one cannot digest the amino acid phenylalanine), you should avoid taking spirulina (15).
  • If you experience any discomfort or wheezing after taking spirulina, stop using it right away and call your doctor.
  • Children should not be given spirulina unless a doctor has prescribed it.
  • Spirulina shouldn't be consumed by pregnant women or nursing moms because there isn't enough reliable evidence of its safety in this situation.

How To Store Spirulina?

How To Store Spirulina?

  • Spirulina can be used for six months if it is kept in an airtight container.
  • Direct sunshine and wetness should be avoided.
  • For a year, it can be kept in the freezer.
  • If you smell a strong stench, that means the spirulina is old and needs to be thrown out.

Blue-green spirulina is a freshwater plant with a high nutritional value. Its abundance of antioxidants is proven to help treat diabetes and cancer as well. The primary plant ingredient in spirulina, phycocyanin, is well known for its anti-inflammatory and anti-infective properties. Spirulina is a particularly beneficial cyanobacteria species, also known as blue-green algae. 

It might raise your blood lipid levels, prevent oxidation, lower blood pressure, and enhance blood sugar levels. Spirulina may be one of the few superfoods deserving of the moniker, though additional research is required before any firm conclusions can be drawn. To incorporate its many advantages into your health and wellness regimen, you can take spirulina tablets or half to one teaspoon of spirulina powder daily. It is widely accessible both offline and online.

Also read: 5 Health supplements you need to consume regularly for a stronger immunity
 

FAQs

Can I take spirulina on empty stomach?
No, you don't necessarily need to take spirulina on an empty stomach. However, if you decide to do so, you can take the supplement in the morning and wait 15-20 minutes before taking any solid food so that your body can absorb the nutrients.

How long does it take for spirulina to start working?
It takes about 1-3 weeks for you to notice a change in energy levels. The results differ from person to person and obviously depend on your condition.

Can I take spirulina daily?
You can take spirulina tablets or use spirulina powder in your diet. In total, you should aim to have 5 grams of spirulina a day (most studies research the health benefits based on a 1-10 gram a day dose). You should avoid spirulina altogether if you are pregnant or breastfeeding.

Is there any side effects of spirulina?
Those who suffer from an autoimmune condition such as multiple sclerosis, lupus or rheumatoid arthritis should also avoid the consumption of spirulina. This is because Spirulina is rich in Phenylalanine (an amino acid) which stimulates the Immune System, those with immune system disorders will be negatively impacted.

What is spirulina good for?
Spirulina is rich in a range of vitamins and minerals essential for maintaining a healthy immune system, like vitamins E, C, and B6. Research finds that spirulina also boosts the production of white blood cells and antibodies that fight viruses and bacteria in your body.

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