Spirulina is a type of algae, but it has surprisingly positive effects on human health. It can help treat a variety of conditions, such as allergies and diabetes, and it has protective effects against cancer and cell damage. Scientists have conducted numerous studies with spirulina to confirm its benefits.
Spirulina, according to the University of Rochester Medical Center Health Encyclopedia, is a type of algae found in the ocean. While it may not sound particularly appealing, spirulina is packed with protein and vitamins, and people use it for a variety of health reasons . Scientists have carried out studies with spirulina to determine its specific health benefits, and the results have been promising, showing that this algae is effective for everything from potentially preventing cancer to helping to lower cholesterol.
Anti-Cancer Effects of Spirulina
In recent years, spirulina has received attention for its potential effects against cancer. A 2014 study in the Annals of Hepatology assessed the impact of spirulina on human prostate cancer cells. The authors of the study, who were primarily from Charles University in the Czech Republic, found that spirulina stopped the spread of pancreatic cancer. They concluded that spirulina has a cancer-preventing effect .
Allergy Treatment with Spirulina
In addition to preventing cancer, spirulina can provide relief from allergies. A research team including scientists from the University of California, Davis, conducted a study that evaluated the effects of spirulina in patients with allergic rhinitis and published their findings in a 2005 edition of the Journal of Medicinal Food. The scientists discovered that spirulina reduced levels of a substance called interleukin-4, which is involved in allergic reactions, and they concluded that spirulina is therefore protective against allergic rhinitis .
Cellular Support from Spirulina
Spirulina can also support cellular health. In a 2010 study in BMC Complementary and Alternative Medicine, scientists from the International Medicine University in Malaysia evaluated the effects of spirulina on connective tissue cells of mice. They found that the spirulina prevented cell death resulting from the damaging effects of harmful substances called free radicals; the spirulina also demonstrated antioxidant activities comparable to those of vitamin C and vitamin E . Based upon the findings of this study, spirulina, when added to the diet, can support cells by providing antioxidant effects.
Spirulina and Blood Vessel Health
Beyond its other benefits, spirulina can help improve the health of the blood vessels by decreasing blood pressure and blood vessel stiffness, according to the research. A 2016 study in the European Review for Medical and Pharmacological Sciences, authored by researchers from the University of Medical Sciences in Poznan, Poland, compared the effects of a placebo to those of spirulina among hypertensive adults. After three months, study participants taking spirulina demonstrated significant decreases in systolic blood pressure and blood vessel stiffness . Supplementing with spirulina can help reduce blood pressure without medication and help prevent damage to the blood vessels.
Spirulina for Weight Loss
Weight loss is an added benefit of spirulina supplementation. The 2016 study in the European Review for Medical and Pharmacological Sciences also found that adults who supplemented with spirulina enjoyed significant weight loss and decreased in body mass index. In fact, participants who took spirulina lost an average of 11 pounds during the three-month study, despite being instructed not to make any alterations to their usual exercise and eating habits . According to the results of this study, spirulina can have an astonishing impact on weight loss efforts!
Anti-Aging Effects of Spirulina
Spirulina can promote weight loss, and it can also help protect the skin from aging. Researchers from Brazil’s University of Sao Paulo conducted a study with spirulina for publication in a 2015 edition of the journal Clinical Pharmacology & Biopharmaceutics, and they compared the effects of a placebo cream to those of a cream containing spirulina on the skin of both young and older women. Study results showed that after 28 days of use, the spirulina cream had a hydrating effect on the skin and reduced the skin’s roughness . Spirulina can, therefore, prevent the skin dryness and roughness that occurs with aging.
Reduced Blood Sugar with Spirulina
Research has demonstrated that spirulina can help reduce blood sugar levels and therefore serve as a helpful treatment for diabetes. A study in a 2001 edition of the Journal of Medicinal Food, titled “Role of Spirulina in the Control of Glycemia and Lipidemia in Type 2 Diabetes Mellitus” evaluated the effects of spirulina supplementation among a group of patients with type 2 diabetes. One group of patients took spirulina, whereas another participated in a control group. Study results showed that spirulina decreased fasting and post-meal blood sugar levels, in addition to lowering average blood sugar levels . Based on this finding, spirulina can be used to help reduce blood sugar levels in cases of diabetes or to reverse slightly elevated blood sugar levels among people who do not yet have a diabetes diagnosis.
Spirulina Against HIV
In addition to its numerous benefits for health and wellness, spirulina has also demonstrated effectiveness for treating symptoms of HIV. In a study in a 2011 edition of Nutrition and Metabolic Insights, scientists working for the University of Yaoundé and the University of Newcastle evaluated the effects of spirulina supplementation among adults suffering from HIV and malnourishment and compared the benefits of spirulina to those of soya beans. Study results showed that weight increased in participants receiving spirulina as well as in those consuming soya beans. Participants in both groups also experienced a decrease in HIV viral load, but the decrease was larger among those taking spirulina . This study demonstrates that spirulina has a positive helpful effect on patients with HIV.
Spirulina for Energy
Spirulina can help improve health for patients with HIV, and it can also supply the body with energy. In a review of the research with spirulina, authors from the Ramaiah Institute of Technology and the JNTU College of Engineering commented that spirulina had been found to be a rich source of protein. These authors published their review in a 2015 edition of the Journal of Nutrition Research . The protein content in spirulina can help provide the body with lasting energy.
Detoxing Effects of Spirulina
In addition to providing the body with energy, spirulina can exert a detoxing effect. In a 2010 study in the British Journal of Nutrition, scientists working for Chiba University in Japan and the Beijing Forestry University evaluated the effects of spirulina on mice subjected to liver damage. Study results showed that the spirulina was protective against the effects of liver damage . This finding suggests that spirulina can help the liver to process toxins.
Benefits of Spirulina for Physical Performance
Among its many other benefits, spirulina can have a beneficial impact on physical performance. A 2006 study in the European Journal of Applied Physiology, authored by researchers from the National Taiwan College of Physical Education, required participants to supplement with spirulina daily for three weeks. They performed a treadmill exercise test both before and after supplementation. Study results showed that spirulina protected the skeletal muscles from damage and increased the time to exhaustion during exercise . Spirulina can, therefore, reduce muscle fatigue and enable a person to continue exercising for longer before reaching a point of exhaustion, making it beneficial for endurance athletes or those wishing to improve physical fitness with exercise.
Spirulina for Lower Cholesterol
Spirulina has demonstrated a multitude of benefits in the research, and it is perhaps most well-known for its ability to help lower cholesterol. The evidence base supporting the use of spirulina for lowering cholesterol is rather strong; a report in a 2016 edition of Clinical Nutrition reviewed the results of 7 different studies that assessed the effects of spirulina on cholesterol levels. The authors of the report, who were affiliated with the University of Medicine and Pharmacy in Timisoara, Romania, the Mashhad University of Medical Sciences in Iran, the University of Western Australia, and the Medical University of Lodz, determined that the studies indicated that spirulina supplementation significantly reduces total cholesterol, triglycerides, and artery-clogging LDL cholesterol, while increasing levels of healthy HDL cholesterol . This provides compelling evidence that spirulina can control elevated cholesterol levels and perhaps reduce the need for cholesterol-lowering medications.
Reduced cholesterol is just one of the many benefits of spirulina. This superfood has also demonstrated an ability to help reduce blood pressure and blood sugar, protect muscles from damage and skin from aging, and improve health for individuals with HIV. Beyond these benefits, spirulina provides an excellent source of protein and can help the liver to detox. Spirulina can also help treat allergies and support both weight loss and cellular functioning. The body of research indicates that spirulina has multiple uses and can help most people to treat or help prevent disease and achieve a state of health and wellness.