Benefits of Spirulina
Benefits of Spirulina
1. Spirulina Is Extremely High in Many Nutrients
Spirulina is an organism that grows in both fresh and salt water.
It is a type of cyanobacteria, which is a family of single-celled microbes that are often referred to as blue-green algae.
Just like plants, cyanobacteria can produce energy from sunlight via a process called photosynthesis.
Spirulina was consumed by the ancient Aztecs but became popular again when NASA proposed that it could be grown in space for use by astronauts (1).
A standard daily dose of spirulina is 1–3 grams, but doses of up to 10 grams per day have been used effectively.
This tiny alga is packed with nutrients. A single tablespoon (7 grams) of dried spirulina powder contains (2):
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
It also contains decent amounts of magnesium, potassium and manganese and small amounts of almost every other nutrient that you need.
In addition, the same amount holds only 20 calories and 1.7 grams of digestible carbs.
Gram for gram, spirulina may be the single most nutritious food on the planet.
A tablespoon (7 grams) of spirulina provides a small amount of fat — around 1 gram — including both omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids in an approximately 1.5–1.0 ratio.
The quality of the protein in spirulina is considered excellent — comparable to eggs. It gives all the essential amino acids that you need.
2. Powerful Antioxidant and Anti-Inflammatory Properties
Oxidative damage can harm your DNA and cells.
This damage can drive chronic inflammation, which contributes to cancer and other diseases (5).
Spirulina is a fantastic source of antioxidants, which can protect against oxidative damage.
Its main active component is called phycocyanin. This antioxidant substance also gives spirulina its unique blue-green color.
3. Can Lower “Bad” LDL and Triglyceride Levels
Heart disease is the world's leading cause of death.
Many risk factors are linked to an increased risk of heart disease.
As it turns out, spirulina positively impacts many of these factors. For example, it can lower total cholesterol, “bad” LDL cholesterol and triglycerides, while raising “good” HDL cholesterol.
In a study in 25 people with type 2 diabetes, 2 grams of spirulina per day significantly improved these markers (9).
Another study in people with high cholesterol determined that 1 gram of spirulina per day lowered triglycerides by 16.3% and “bad” LDL by 10.1% (10).
4. Protects “Bad” LDL Cholesterol From Oxidation
Fatty structures in your body are susceptible to oxidative damage.
For example, one of the key steps in the development of heart disease is the oxidation of “bad” LDL cholesterol (15).
In a study in 37 people with type 2 diabetes, 8 grams of spirulina per day significantly reduced markers of oxidative damage. It also increased levels of antioxidant enzymes in the blood (18).
5. May Have Anti-Cancer Properties
Some evidence suggests that spirulina has anti-cancer properties.
Spirulina’s effects on oral cancer — or cancer of the mouth — have been particularly well studied.
One study examined 87 people from India with precancerous lesions — called oral submucous fibrosis (OSMF) — in the mouth.
Among those who took 1 gram of spirulina per day for one year, 45% saw their lesions disappear — compared to only 7% in the control group (21).
When these people stopped taking spirulina, almost half of them redeveloped lesions in the following year.
In another study of 40 individuals with OSMF lesions, 1 gram of spirulina per day led to greater improvement in OSMF symptoms than the drug Pentoxyfilline (22).
6. May Reduce Blood Pressure
High blood pressure is a main driver of many serious diseases, including heart attacks, strokes and chronic kidney disease.
7. Improves Symptoms of Allergic Rhinitis
Allergic rhinitis is characterized by inflammation in your nasal passageways.
It is triggered by environmental allergens, such as pollen, animal hair or even wheat dust.
Spirulina is a popular alternative treatment for symptoms of allergic rhinitis, and there is evidence that it can be effective (24).
In one study in 127 people with allergic rhinitis, 2 grams per day dramatically reduced symptoms like nasal discharge, sneezing, nasal congestion and itching (25).
8. May Be Effective Against Anemia
There are many different forms of anemia.
The most common one is characterized by a reduction in hemoglobin or red blood cells in your blood.
In a study in 40 older people with a history of anemia, spirulina supplements increased the hemoglobin content of red blood cells and improved immune function (27).
Keep in mind that this is just one study. More research is needed before any recommendations can be made.
9. May Improve Muscle Strength and Endurance
Exercise-induced oxidative damage is a major contributor to muscle fatigue.
Certain plant foods have antioxidant properties that can help athletes and physically active individuals minimize this damage.
Spirulina appears beneficial, as some studies pointed to improved muscle strength and endurance.
10. May Aid Blood Sugar Control
Animal studies link spirulina to significantly lower blood sugar levels.
There is also some evidence that spirulina can be effective in humans.
In a two-month study in 25 people with type 2 diabetes, 2 grams of spirulina per day led to an impressive reduction in blood sugar levels (9).
HbA1c, a marker for long-term blood sugar levels, decreased from 9% to 8%, which is substantial. Studies estimate that a 1% reduction in this marker can lower the risk of diabetes-related death by 21% (33).
However, this study was small and short in duration. More studies are necessary.