Spirulina is a blue green alga that evolved on Earth about 3.6 billion years ago. Scientists say that algae like spirulina generated the oxygen in the Earth's atmosphere which allowed all higher life forms to evolve.
Spirulina is a nutritionist's delight -- considered by many to be nature's most perfect food, these tiny blue green spiral coils harvest the energy of the sun and turn it into a treasure chest of bio-available nutrients.
Other than it's manifold health benefits, Spirulina is one of the foods that environmentalists say could show mankind the way out of the global food crisis. It can grow in brackish water and poor soil. Also, it provides more nutrients per acre than most conventional crops.
Did You Know?
- Spirulina is a microscopic alga that looks like a spiral of long thin threads.
- It is a single celled organism that turns sunlight into life energy.
- It is one of the first life forms designed by nature, more than 3.6 billion years ago.
- The cultivation of Spirulina has also brought interest because, as with most micro algae, Spirulina is extremely adaptable, often thriving in extreme conditions. With its rich nutritional goodness and ability to grow in adverse conditions, Spirulina has a huge potential to be a food source that will help feed and nourish the worlds population.
- Spirulina's rapid growth means it yields 20 times more protein per acre than soybeans, 40 times more than corn, and over 200 times more than beef.
- Spirulina protein uses 25% the water as soy, 17% as corn and only 2% the water required for beef protein.
- Spirulina prefers brackish to valuable fresh water.
Nutritional Attributes of Spirulina
In many ways, Spirulina may be called a Super Food. It contains the most remarkable concentration of nutrients known in any food, plant, grain, or herb. It's composed of 60% highly digestible vegetable protein, has extremely high concentrations of beta carotene, vitamin B-12, iron and trace minerals, and the rare essential fatty acid GLA (which people who have not been breast fed do not have). It has a balanced spectrum of amino acids, cleansing chlorophyll, and the blue pigment, phycocyanin.
Several recent studies have demonstrated the immune enhancing and cancer preventative properties of spirulina.
- The February, 2008 Food and Chemical Toxicity journal reports a study of the antimutagenic effects of Spirulina on rat genes. Loss of genetic integrity was greatly reduced in the spirulina-fed groups, and semen quality was improved.
- Phytotherapy Research, 2007, reports a study in which spirulina was shown to decrease the number of massed cells induced by lead in the ovaries of rats.
- International Immunopharmacology, reports researchers finding that a polysaccharide fraction called Immulina, from spirulina, enhanced immune response in mice through enhanced production of IgA, interleukin-6, and interferon-gamma.
- The 2005 Current Pharmacological Biotechnology journal reports a study finding that spirulina increases immunity through increased phagocytic activity of macrophages, stimulates production of antibodies and cytokines, increases accumulation of NK cells into tissue, and activates and mobilizes T and B cells. Carcinogenesis was inhibited due to the antioxidant properties that protect and reduce toxicity of the liver, kidney and testes.
Studies also demonstrate that Spirulina's increased antioxidant protection reduces cancer risks. Spirulina contains a wealth of antioxidant vitamins C and E, and beta carotene, as well as the antioxidant minerals selenium, manganese, zinc, copper, iron and chromium. Research has shown spirulina to protect vitamin C from potency loss.
- The Ecotoxicology and Environmental Safety Journal, April, 2008 reports a study finding that spirulina plays a role in reducing the toxic effect of cadmium, through its antioxidant properties that seem to mediate a protective effect.
- The April, 2008 Phytotherapy Research reports that spirulina preparations were useful for reducing oxidative stress and the generation of free radicals in the course of inflammatory processes.
- Food Chemical Toxicology, December, 2007, reports a study finding that spirulina provides protection against mercuric chloride induced oxidative stress.
Scientists around the world have been confirming spirulina's cholesterol lowering benefits and its ability to lower blood pressure. Studies with men in Japan and India showed that several grams of spirulina daily can reduce serum LDL and raise HDL. Human studies in Germany and India found a weight reduction effect along with cholesterol reduction. A 2007 study from Lipids Health Digest reports a study involving 36 human subjects ingesting 4.5 grams of spirulina daily for 6 weeks. With no other modifications in their diets or lifestyles during the duration of the experiment, a hypolipidemic effect was shown. Triacylglycerols and LDL cholesterol concentrations were directly lowered. Total cholesterol and HDL cholesterol were indirectly lowered. Reduced systolic and diastolic blood pressure was also reported.
Adding spirulina to your diet results in almost immediate improvement in bowel and digestion function. It suppresses bacteria like e-coli, and stimulates beneficial flora which is a foundation of good health. Healthy flora increase absorption of nutrients from the foods we eat, and protect against infection.
Studies with malnourished children in Mexico, India, Rwanda and Zaire have shown spirulina to be beneficial when intestines are unable to absorb nutrients effectively. Spirulina has been shown to benefit AIDS patients in whom malabsorption associated with opportunistic infections is problematic.
- Spirulina offers incredible potential for a world in the midst of a Food Crisis. It offers more nutrition per acre than any other food, delivers 20 times more protein per acre than soybeans, and 200 times more protein per acre than beef. If we make the decision to incorporate spirulina into our diets, we may view ourselves as part of the food crisis solution.
- Microalgae like spirulina deliver food and biochemicals more efficiently, without destroying valuable resources. As algae production expands using non-fertile land and brackish water, we can stop cutting forests to grow new food.
History of Spirulina Consumption
Spirulina has a long history of safe usage. The Aztecs consumed spirulina in Mexico over five centuries ago. Indigenous people consume spirulina today. For the past 20 years, millions of people around the world have used spirulina as a food supplement to their diets. The United Nations and the World Health Organization recommend spirulina as safe and nutritious for children.
Suggestions for incorporating Spirulina into our Diets
Spirulina may be eaten like food, but the minimum amount that makes any positive difference is 10 grams. It may be added to smoothies and juices or even just had as a supplement. 
Who Should Eat It
Spirulina is great for people of all ages, including children. Older people find it easy-to-digest. It may also be eaten during pregnancy and is good for infants and children too. Kids may enjoy spirulina covered popcorn!
Spirulina is good for athletes since it provides energy and endurance and speeds recovery.. Taken before jogging or competition, it delivers energy and improves stamina. Bikers, backpackers and mountain climbers will appreciate this lightweight survival food. For bodybuilders, it offers 60% protein and amino acids, low in fat. It's helpful for reducing caloric intake, essential for maintaining competitive weight. World Class athletes use spirulina to improve performance. The Cuban Ministry of Sports gave it to their athletes to intensify training before the 1996 Olympic games. Cuban track stars have consumed it for many years. They say it helps create and mend muscle mass and helps iron retention. It improves endurance and wards off cramping for marathoners. When training increases appetite, spirulina curbs hunger.
Who shouldn't take too much Spirulina?
- People with hyperparathyroidism
- People who have serious allergies to seafood or seaweed.
- Patients current experiencing high fever.
Side Effects of Spirulina
There are currently no proven side effects of spirulina. However, here are some ill effects that some users have noted --
- It may cause a slight increase in body temperature. This is because it contains nutrients that rev up body metabolism.
- When a person suffering from hypoglycemia or anaemia consumes spirulina, there may be a drop in the blood sugar level to burn the excessive fats
- It is not necessarily easy to digest. Some people have reported feeling bloated and heavy after consuming Spirulina.
- Some users report blackish/greenish bowel movements after having Spirulina, but these are probably because of the green pigments found in it.
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- About Spirulina
- Spirulina's Health Benefits
- Spirulina FAQs