therapeutic and preventive properties
It is commonly accepted that an overall good nutrition plays a crucial role in good health, optimum body growth and protection from disease. Many diseases, such as diabetes, hypertension and cardiovascular diseases are attributed to human lifestyle changes and they are primarily connected with low quality nutrition and lack of physical activity.
Human body has the ability of self treatment, as long as its needs for essential nutrients, such as vitamins, metals, enzymes etc are being fulfilled.
Spirulina, due to its high content in a wide range of several groups of nutrients, is considered to be a food with potential preventive and therapeutic properties for human health.
Spirulina is a balanced natural whole food rich in high biological value protein (55-70%), while it contains a variety of bioactive nutrients, such as vitamins, metals, minerals, essential fatty acids etc. The beneficial properties of spirulina are not only attributed to the activity of its nutrients separately, but also to their synergistic effect. Spirulina is considered to be an ideal food supplement.
Spirulina has beneficial effects in several diseases and health disorders such as:
- Diabetes mellitus
- Nephrotic syndrome
- Iron deficiency anaemia
- Gastrointestinal disorders
- Hormonal disorders
- Viral diseases
- Premature ageing
- Increased fatigue – Decreased performance
- Premenstrual syndrome – Menopause
- Bad condition of skin and health
- Cardiovascular diseases
- Metabolism disorders
- Liver diseases
More specifications about spirulina’s beneficial properties in human health are referred below.
- THERAPEUTIC UTILITY OF SPIRULINA IN DIABETES
Diabetes mellitus, often simply referred to as diabetes, is a group of metabolic diseases in which a person has high blood sugar, either because the human body does not produce enough insulin, or because cells do not respond to the insulin that is produced. Diabetes mellitus is a chronic disease which can cause a variety of severe implications for human health, including cardiovascular disorders, chronic renal insufficiency, damage to the retina, nerve damage etc.
Clinical studies have shown a steady and substantial improvement in the glycemic status of patients with type 2 diabetes mellitus (T2DM) that have been administrated with Spirulina at 2 g/day level for a period of 4 months. More specifically, signiﬁcant reductions in blood glucose levels were noticed in case of fasting (an eight hour period absence from food consumption) as well as in case of a 75 g glucose dosage. Concomitant to the decrease in fasting and postprandial hyperglycemia, Spirulina supplementation resulted in a significant decrease in the HbA1c (glycated haemoglobin) levels, which is an integrated index of blood sugar levels over past 2–3 months22. These findings arein accordance with those of previous studies.23,31
22,23,31 For more information about the researchers, check the Literature tab
- THERAPEUTIC UTILITY OF SPIRULINA IN ASTHMA
Bronchial asthma is a chronic disorder that affects lungs and the airways that deliver air to the lungs. It is the most common respiratory disorder characterized by episodic intrathoracic airway obstruction, airway hyper responsiveness and airway inflammation.
Clinical studies have shown that the administration of spirulina (1g/day) to patients suffering from bronchial asthma for a period of four months, exclusively or additionally to medication, resulted in the improvement of pulmonary function and in the decrease of immunoglobin E (IgE) levels.
Spirulina with its variety of antioxidant nutrients can thus be an effective therapeutic mode for combating detrimental damage and inflammation in the respiratory lining. It could be an ideal choice in such a context for two reasons, firstly it is a rich source of gamma-linolenic acid (GLA), which might play a crucial role as an anti-inflammatory agent, and secondly it has a good antioxidant profile that might help to counteract the detrimental exposure to oxidants. Thus, Spirulina with its good content of antioxidant nutrients such as β-carotene, vitamin E, selenium etc could possibly play a role in alleviating the pulmonary function abnormalities by scavenging endogenous and/or environmental oxidant sources. In conclusion, Spirulina can be introduced along with medicine as a therapeutic and dietary supplement in the treatment of asthmatics, and in the long run this may not only help to control asthma but also reduce the need of drugs in its treatment.22
22 For more information about the researchers, check the Literature tab
- THERAPEUTIC UTILITY OF SPIRULINA IN NEPHROTIC SYNDROME
Nephrotic syndrome is a non-specific disorder in which the kidneys are damaged, leaking large amounts of protein from the blood into the urine, and thus leading to decreased blood protein levels which can cause the concentration of large amounts of liquid in the body tissues (oedema).
Clinical studies have shown that the administration of spirulina (1g/day) for a period of four months to patients suffering from nephrotic syndrome resulted in an increase of total blood protein levels. This signiﬁcant improvement in total protein value suggests the presence of high quality proteins in Spirulina22. These results are also in line with the trial carried out on asthmatics, where Spirulina supplementation slowly improved their protein status19.
19,22 For more information about the researchers, check the Literature tab
- THERAPEUTIC UTILITY OF SPIRULINA IN IRON DEFICIENCY ANEMIA
Iron deficiency anaemia is a common anaemia that occurs when iron loss occurs, and/or the dietary intake or absorption of iron is insufficient. In such a state, haemoglobin, which contains iron, cannot be formed. It mostly affects infants, children, adolescents and women of childbearing age.
A clinical study has shown that administration of 5g spirulina per day to anaemic adolescent girls resulted in significant increase in blood haemoglobin levels after 1 month of Spirulina supplementation. These findings can be attributed solely to iron content of spirulina, which is in a highly available form. Also, the supplementation of 1g spirulina per day to anaemic preschool children for a period of 50 days, led to an increase in the intake of a few nutrients, such as protein and iron, and in haemoglobin levels22.
The increase of haemoglobin levels due to spirulina intake are in line with previously undertaken clinical studies24.
22,24 For more information about the researchers, check the Literature tab
- ENHANCEMENT OF THE IMMUNE SYSTEM
The main function of the immune system in humans and animals is to detect and then neutralize or destroy invading pathogens, such as viruses, bacteria, fungi, and parasites. In addition, it is responsible for eliminating worn-out and abnormal self-cells.
Experiments in animals have shown that spirulina is able to stimulate a variety of immune functions, including macrophage phagocytosis1,32,33 and production of cytokines25, chemokines9 and other inﬂammatory mediators, NK (Natural Killers) cell activity33, B cell antibody production11 and T cell proliferation as well as cytokine secretion. Despite its ability to induce proinﬂammatory cytokines, spirulina has also been shown to signiﬁcantly inhibit inﬂammatory responses in a variety of animal models, including models of rheumatoid arthritis, colitis, and IgE-mediated local and systemic allergic reactions38,45. This may indicate that Spirulina possesses truly immunomodulatory activities, enhancing suboptimal immune responses, while dampening immune system hyperactivity. Although, little information is available on the effects of Spirulina supplementation on the human immune system, the few existing data suggest that it may be able to modulate immune functions in both healthy and allergic subjects14.
1,9,11,14,25,32,33,38,45 For more information about the researchers, check the Literature tab
- SPIRULINA AS AN ANTIVIRAL AGENT
Several in vitro studies performed using cyanobacteria have shown the potential antiviral activity of these organisms. More specifically, laboratory studies revealed the inhibitory effect of hot aqueous S. Platensis extract to the proliferation of Herpes simplex virus 1 (HSV-1)10. Other studies, also, showed the beneficial effects of spirulina against Human Cytomegalovirus (HCMV)4,12, measles virus4,12, mumps virus4,12, influenza virus4,12, enterovirus-7140 and Human Immunodeficiency Virus type 1 (HIV-1), that causes acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS), a condition in humans in which the immune system begins to fail3,4,12,20. The antiviral activity of spirulina due to the selective inhibition of the virus’ penetration into the host cell is primarily attributed to the combined action of calcium-spirulan (Ca-Sp) and immulina, which is a sulphated polysaccharide and a polysaccharide isolated from S. Platensis, respectively.
3,4,10,12,20,40 For more information about the researchers, check the Literature tab
- ANTIBACTERIAL ACTIVITY AND PREBIOTIC PROPERTIES OF SPIRULINA
Over the past years a substantial effort to develop antibacterial agents has been made, in order to encounter the problem of the increased bacterial resistance to antibiotics. Several scientific studies have revealed the antimicrobial activity of spirulina and its extracts. More specifically, this property of spirulina has been attributed to the polyunsaturated fatty acids that it contains28. Spirulina is rich primarily in gamma-linolenic acid (GLA), while it also contains a-linolenic acid (ALA) and linoleic acid (LA). Studies have proven the antibacterial activity of gamma-Linolenic acid (GLA) against various bacterial strains such as Staphylococcus aureus, E. coli, Salmonella typhi, Pseudomonas aeruginosa and Enterobacter aerogenes2
Probiotics are live microorganisms which when administered in adequate amounts confer a health benefit on the host. Probiotics are commonly consumed as part of fermented foods containing specially added active live cultures; such as yoghurt, soy yoghurt, or dietary supplements. Lactic acid bacteria (LAB) and bifidbacteria are the most common types of microbes used as probiotics; but certain yeasts and bacilli may also be helpful. Studies have shown that spirulina consumption resulted in increase on the number of LAB in the intestinal tube27. Also, the usage of spirulina in probiotic dairy products combined with useful microorganisms such as bifidbacteria and strains of the genera Lactobacillus and Streptococcus resulted not only in the stimulation of the microorganisms growth, but also in the preservation of the microorganisms population during the products’ storage27,29,43,47.
2,26,27,28,29,43,47 For more information about the researchers, check the Literature tab
- ANTIOXIDANT ACTIVITY OF SPIRULINA
Food antioxidants primary role is scavenging the harmful free radicals produced in the body, mediated by several factors such as stress, environmental pollution and excessive insolation. According to scientific studies, the synergistic action of a wide range of antioxidants is much better than the activity of a particular antioxidant agent, while antioxidants originated from natural sources are considered to be more bioavailable, and therefore more effective, than synthetic antioxidants.
Spirulina, as 100% natural product and with a high content of antioxidant nutrients, such as c-phycocyanin, beta-carotene, Vitamin E, selenium etc, comprised the center of several scientific studies, in order to investigate its potential antioxidant properties. As a matter of fact, laboratory studies showed that the alcoholic extract of spirulina inhibits lipid peroxidation more potently than other chemical compounds known for their antioxidant properties, such as a-tocopherol, BHA (butylated hydroxyanisole) and beta-carotene, while the aqueous extract of spirulina possesses greater antioxidant activity than gallic and chlorogenic acid8. Furthermore, hot water extracts of spirulina exhibited potent scavenging activity against hydroxyl and lipid free radicals8.
The antioxidant activity of spirulina is primarily attributed to its phycocyanin content.
8 For more information about the researchers, check the Literature tab
- Phycocyanin - A Major Antioxidant Agent
Phycocyanin is a chromo protein which is found in spirulina in large quantities. It is responsible for the blue color of spirulina and exerts potent antioxidant properties. As a matter of fact, phycocyanin inhibits the formation of Reactive Oxygen Species (ROS), while it also acts as a potent scavenger of ROS. More specifically, spirulina scavenges harmful free radicals, such as hydroxyl, alkoxyl and peroxyl36, peroxynitrite5 and hypochlorite8 ions, and also inhibits lipid peroxidation. It also possesses a preventive activity against cell lysis of erythrocytes, mediated by hyperoxyl radicals35. Several beneficial properties of spirulina and phycocyanin, which are based on their antioxidant activity, are presented below.
5,8,35,36 For more information about the researchers, check the Literature tab
Inhibition of lipid peroxidation
Lipid peroxidation mediated by ROS is regarded as the major cause of destruction and damage to cell membranes, since a simple initiating event can result in the conversion of hundreds of fatty acids’ side chains into lipid peroxides, which alter the structural integrity and biochemical functions of membranes. Studies have shown that phycocyanin inhibits significantly lipid peroxidation mediated by divalent iron cations (Fe2+) and ascorbic acid37 or carbon tetrachloride (CCl4)6.
6,37 For more information about the researchers, check the Literature tab
Spirulina against drug-induced oxidative damage
There are various drugs causing nephrotoxicity and cardiotoxicity through the free radical generation mechanism. Studies have shown that pretreatment of animals with spirulina or phycocyanin protected them from the oxidative damage caused by various drugs17,18.
17,18 For more information about the researchers, check the Literature tab
Spirulina against metal-induced oxidative damage
Spirulina presents a protective activity against oxidative damage mediated by heavy metals such as lead, cadmium, and mercury. More specifically, oxidative damage mediated by heavy metals decreases the levels of antioxidant agents like copper, zinc, iron, selenium, glutathione, superoxide dismutase, catalase and glutathione peroxidase. However, administration of spirulina produced a well-pronounced protective effect in respect to these parameters in cadmium-intoxicated rats as well as lead-intoxicated animals by reducing various oxidative stress parameters such as malondialdehyde, conjugated diene and hydroperoxide16,41.
16,41 For more information about the researchers, check the Literature tab
Spirulina against exercise-induced oxidative damage
Spirulina supplementation prevents skeletal muscle damage induced by free radical generation during exercise. Clinical studies performed on 16 students, who volunteered to intake S. platensis in addition to their normal diet for 3 weeks, have shown that, after the end of exercise, plasma levels of malondialdehyde, which is a lipid peroxidation product, were significantly decreased after supplementation with Spirulina, while on the contrary the activity of blood superoxide dismutase (SOD) was signiﬁcantly raised21. It is also known that spirulina consumption increases endurance and delays fatigue, due to its antioxidant content.
21 For more information about the researchers, check the Literature tab
Spirulina against Hepatotoxin-induced oxidative damage
There are certain chemicals that are regarded as hepatotoxic due to the formation of the free radicals. Carbon tetrachloride (CCl4) – induced hepatotoxicity in rats is an example of these. Phycocyanin, and therefore spirulina, was found to possess hepatoprotective effect against carbon chloride induced hepatotoxicity42.
42 For more information about the researchers, check the Literature tab
Spirulina and Nitrosative Stress
Nitrosative stress is a condition that occurs when the production of highly reactive nitrogen-containing chemicals, such as nitrous oxide, exceed the ability of the human body to neutralize and eliminate them. Peroxynitrite (ONOO−) is known to inactivate important cellular targets and also mediate oxidative damage in DNA. Studies have shown that phycocyanin efficiently scavenges ONOO−, which is a potent physiological inorganic toxin5.
5 For more information about the researchers, check the Literature tab
Spirulina against neuronal oxidative damage
Recent studies in test animals have revealed the neuroprotective effects of spirulina, which are attributed to its free radical scavenging properties and generally to phycocyanin’s antioxidant activity. According to scientific studies, phycocyanin may be effective for the treatment of neurodegenerative disorders such as Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, and Huntington’s diseases8,34.
8,34 For more information about the researchers, check the Literature tab
- ANTICANCER ACTIVITY OF SPIRULINA
Considering that oxidative stress plays a crucial role in cancer cells’ proliferation, the antioxidant properties of spirulina make it a potential anticancer agent. Studies have shown that administration of spirulina to mice with liver cancer markedly increased their survival rate, perhaps due to the powerful antioxidant activity of phycocyanin, which prevented cancer cells’ proliferation and reduced DNA damage that is caused by free radicals44. According to another study phycocyanin, which is a natural product, may be a chemotherapeutic agent based on its apoptotic activity against tumor cells30. The hematopoietic function of Spirulina contributes also to its anticancer effect, by increasing the population of immune cells, and thereby immunoboosting natural resistance against cancer, and other diseases46. In other studies, when extracts of Spirulina were injected directly into cancerous tumors, the tumor stopped growing39. Finally, one human study involved individuals who had oral leukoplakia, a condition of the mouth that normally develops into cancer if it is left untreated. The oral intake of Spirulina for 1 year prevented the progression of cancer in 45% of the study participants44. However, more clinical investigations of humans must be conducted to verify the exact anticancer effects of Spirulina.
30,39,44,46 For more information about the researchers, check the Literature tab
- THE HYPOLIPIDEMIC EFFECTS OF SPIRULINA (ARTHROSPIRA PLATENSIS) SUPPLEMENTATION IN A CRETAN POPULATION: A PROSPECTIVE STUDY.
Mazokopakis EE, Starakis IK, Papadomanolaki MG, Mavroeidi NG, Ganotakis ES.
Department of Internal Medicine, Naval Hospital of Crete, Chania, Greece; Department of Internal Medicine, University Hospital of Heraklion, Crete, Greece.
BACKGROUND: Spirulina (Arthrospira platensis) is a filamentous cyanobacterium used as a food supplement.
OBJECTIVE: The purpose of this study was to determine the lipid-lowering effects of Spirulina in Cretan Greek dyslipidemic patients, and to document its effectiveness as a possible alternative treatment for dyslipidemia METHODS: Fifty two adult Cretan outpatients (32 males, 20 females), median age 47 (range: 37-61) years, with recently diagnosed dyslipidemia, consumed orally 1g Spirulina (Greek production) per day for 12 weeks. Full lipid profile was measured in fasting blood samples at the beginning and end of the study period. Anthropometric measurements including systolic and diastolic blood pressure, height, weight and Body Mass Index (BMI) were also recorded RESULTS: At the end of the three-month intervention period the mean triglycerides (TG), low density lipoprotein-cholesterol (LDL-C), total cholesterol (T-C), non-high density lipoprotein-cholesterol (non-HDL-C) levels and T-C/HDL-C (high density lipoprotein-cholesterol) ratio were significantly decreased: 16.3% (p<0.0001), 10.1% (p<0.0001), 8.9% (p<0.0001), 10.8% (p<0.0001) and 11.5% (p=0.0006) respectively, whereas the mean HDL-C levels were not significantly increased: 3.5%. Blood pressure, weight and BMI remained almost unchanged.
CONCLUSIONS: Spirulina supplementation at a small dose of 1g daily has powerful hypolipidemic effects, especially on the TG concentration in dyslipidemic Cretan outpatients.
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48 For more information about the researchers, check the Literature tab
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