The 18+ Benefits of Spirulina

Fighting Chronic Disease With Spirulina

Spirulina is a powerful antioxidant and anti-inflammatory that has properties that can boost the immune system, prevent and kill cancer, protect the heart, liver, lungs, kidneys, eyes, skin, and ears, and can prevent skeletal damage. R

 
 

Basics

 
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/27293463

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/27293463

 

Arthrospira (Spirulina) is a cyanobacteria (blue-green algae) that humans and other animals can eat. R R

It is widely consumed as a whole food or as a supplement in many Asian countries. R

Examples of some foods it is used in include corn chip snacks, cereals, baby foods, ice cream, biscuits, juices, pastas, yogurts, and milks. R

Along with being a food and supplement, it is commonly used in cosmetics, animal feed, fertilizer, pharmaceuticals, and can be used as an alternative fuel source (as biogas). R R R R

It can be used for treating malnourishment. R

It has a complete amino acid profile and contains about 60% protein (with slightly lower levels of methionine, cysteine, and lysine). R

100g of of spirulina has about 290 calories, with daily values of thiamin (207%), riboflavin (306%), iron (219%), and manganese (90%). R

Some may have been misled that spirulina has normal vitamin B12 in it, but it does not and contains a pseudovitamin B12, which has both similar and different effects on the body. R R

Spirulina is sustainable and ecofriendly. R

Fibers derived from spirulina and other microalgae/cyanophytes can be useful for creating grafts for wound healing. R

Spirulina itself is very adaptable and able to survive adverse conditions such as highly alkaline and salty environments, as well as resist extreme temperatures and radiation. R R

Chemotherapy agents (such as L-asparaginase) can be made with spirulina to enhance its efficacy against cancer. R

 
 

Benefits Of Spirulina

1. Has Antioxidant Properties

Spirulina improves the redox (ability to handle free radicals) status of cells. R

Most of the benefits of spirulina come from its ability to be a powerful antioxidant and anti-inflammatory. 

Spirulina contains a relative high concentration of antioxidants and anti-inflammatory molecules such as β-carotene, provitamin A, vitamin B (thiamin and riboflavin), vitamin C, vitamin D, vitamin E, ω-3 and ω-6 polyunsaturated fatty acids, phycocyanin (PC), gamma-linolenic acid, polyphenols, iron, manganese, calcium, chromium, magnesium, copper, and zinc. R R R

PC has the ability to scavenge free radicals, decrease nitrite production, suppress inducible nitric oxide synthase expression, and inhibit liver microsomal lipid peroxidation. R

Spirulina is able to protect mitochondria by being a potent free radical scavenger. R

Spirulina can replenish glutathione (aka GSH - your body's natural powerful antioxidant) levels in the liver, kidneys, heart, and brain. R R

Spirulina can reduce the amount of reactive oxygen species (ROS) and hydrogen peroxide (H2O2) in the body and increase the activity of superoxide dimutase (SOD). R 

2. Has Anti-Inflammatory Properties

 
 

Spirulina is a powerful anti-inflammatory. R

It can inhibit the activation of NF-kB (a pro-inflammatory pathway). R

Spirulina can lower IL-1beta and TNFalpha (pro-inflammatory cytokines). R

It is able to do this by modulating histone acetylation. R

It is able to increase histone H3 acetylation (causing HDAC protein degradation, which control the transcription of genes). R

PC (in spirulina) can help osteoarthritis (via reduction of TNF-𝛼, IL-6, MMP-3, NO, and sulfated glycosaminoglycans). R

Spirulina was able to achieve this too in Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) animal model. R

PC can also reduce allergic inflammatory responses (by reducing mast cell degranulation and histamine release). R

Spirulina can also protect against allergic rhinitis (by inhibiting production of IL-4). R

3. Boosts The Immune System

Spirulina can boost the innate immune system by promoting the activity of natural killer cells. R

It also has been shown to activate macrophages, T-cells, B-cells, and to stimulate the production of interferon gamma and other cytokines. R 

For example, in HIV-infected (HIV+) patients, consumption of spirulina increased T helper lymphocytes (CD4+ counts) with a decreased in viral load. R 

In elderly patients, spirulina increased interleukin 2 (IL-2) and decreased interleukin 6 (IL-6). R

This was more apparent in females than males. R

Overall, if spirulina is used acutely, it can shift the immune system more towards a TH1 response, and shifted towards TH2 if used chronically. R

4. Improves The Gut

 
 

Spirulina can act as a natural appetite suppressant. R

It can also promote gastrointestinal motility, remove intestinal toxins, and improve constipation. R

It may do this by it's ability to enhance the gut microbiome. R

Spirulina can promote growth of:

  • Bifidobacterium R
  • Lactobacillus acidophilus R
  • Lactobacillus bulgaricus R
  • Lactobacillus casei R
  • Lactococcus lactis R
  • Streptococcus thermophilus R

Spirulina can also promote the growth of these above strains when cultured in fermented foods (like yogurt or dairy).  R

Other examples have shown that in combination with probiotics, spirulina is able to protect the intestinal microbiota. R

In quails, spirulina can act as an antibiotic (enhancing their gut biome by boosting lactobacilli levels). R

It should be noted that spirulina can also decrease Bifidobacterium animalis, while increasing Clostridium irregulare. R

5. Protects Against Pathogens

 
https://www.hindawi.com/journals/omcl/2017/3247528/

https://www.hindawi.com/journals/omcl/2017/3247528/

 

Along with modulating the gut biome, spirulina has anti-microbial properties. R

Spirulina can inhibit growth (by producing extracellular metabolites with antibacterial activity) of certain bacteria:

  • Bacillus pumulis R
  • Bacillus subtilis R
  • Candida albicans R
  • Escherichia coli R
  • Klebsiella pneumoniae (low/no activity) R
  • Pseudomonas aeruginosa R
  • Proteus vulgaris R
  • Salmonella typhirium (low/no activity) R
  • Staphylococcus aureus R

It can also help break down bacterial biofilms. R

Spirulina also has antiviral effects against:

  • Adenovirus Type 7 and Type 40 R
  • Astrovirus Type 1 R
  • Coxsackievirus B4 R
  • Foot and mouth disease virus (FMDV) R
  • Herpes simplex virus Type 1 and Type 2 (HSV-1 & HSV-2) R
  • Rotavirus Wa strain R

5. Protects The Lungs

Oxidative stress is commonly associated with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). R

In patients with COPD, 30 and 60 day supplementation of spirulina helped improve symptoms along with reducing serum biomarkers of oxidative stress such as malondialdehyde (MDA), lipid hydroperoxide, and cholesterol. R

This 30 and 60 day supplementation of spirulina also showed an increase in HDL levels and antioxidant levels of catalase (CAT), GSH, vitamin C, and the activity of SOD and glutathione-s-transferase (GST). R

6. Helps With Weight Loss

 
 

Intake of 2.8 g of spirulina thrice a day results in a significant reduction in body weight. R

Spirulina has been considered as a potential antiobesity drug. R

It can reduce serum leptin levels in mice. R

In sheep, spirulina was able to decrease intramuscular fat. R

In contrast, some studies have shown obesity can reduce many of the antioxidant effects of spirulina. R

7. Protects The Liver

Spirulina can reduce liver and adipose tissue inflammation. R

For example, spirulina can protect against the lipid peroxidation of fatty liver diseases. R

It can improve non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD). R

It can also lower LDL levels, AST levels and ALT levels. R R

Spirulina can protect the liver against lead acetate-induced hepatic injury in rats. R

Spirulina can also restore glutathione (antioxidant) levels in the liver. R

PC (in spirulina) can also inhibit expression of tumor growth factor-beta 1 and hepatocyte growth factor. R

8. Protects The Heart and Vascular System

 
 

Spirulina is anti-hypertensive. R

It is able to decrease both systolic (SBP) and diastolic (DBP) blood pressure in hypertensive rats. R

When mice were subjected to high doses of tilmicosin (an antibiotic used to treat cattle for respiratory illness), spirulina was able to protect against the toxic effects and damage to the heart (reducing elevated creatine kinase (CK) and CK-MB). R

One mechanism of it's ability to protect the heart is by protecting against antibiotic-induced mitochondrial damage. R

Also, spirulina can restore and stabilize human serum albumin levels (HSA). R

9. Mitigates Effects Of Certain Toxins

Spirulina can protect the body against toxicity induced by carbon tetrachloride (CCl4), by metals (arsenic, mercury, chromium, cadmium, and fluoride), by the insecticide deltamethrin, and by the drugs tilmicosin (as shown above), gentamicin, and erythromycin. R

For example, when mice were exposed to high doses of chromium, spirulina was able to mitigate toxic damage to the kidneys. R

And another example, male rats were given arsenic and spirulina helped mitigate oxidative stress and attenuate testicular damage and sperm abnormalities. R

In addition, spirulina is can protect the body from the toxic effects of chemotherapy drugs such as cisplatin and doxorubicin. R

Spirulina has also been shown to protect against the toxic effects of immunosuppressants like cyclosporine. R

Spirulina is more effective against toxins when combined with other antioxidants. R

Spirulina is also able to help chelate the body of certain heavy metals. R

10. Has Anti-Cancer Properties

 
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/27293463

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/27293463

 

PC in spirulina is also able to halt the cell cycle in cancer cells (between the M and G1 phase). R

 
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/27293463

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/27293463

 

It can also induce cancer cell apoptosis (programmed cell death) through many pathways (as seen above). R

During prostate cancer the combination of the anti-cancer drug, Topotecan (TPT), and PC significantly cut down the dosage of TPT (by 90%) with the same effectiveness. R

In vitro, methyl gamma linolenate (from spirulina) was shown to be effective against lung cancer cells. R

Spirulina is a great cancer prevention agent as it has a great effect on cancer that is spreading (metastatic) than non-metastatic cancer cells, thus preventing tumor progression. R

Although other animal studies have shown that spirulina lack antitumor effects. R

12. Is Neuroprotective

Reduction in antioxidant capacity and increase in reactive oxygen free radicals are largely associated with the aging of human organs and neurodegenerative diseases. R

Cytokine expression is significantly increased in the cerebrospinal fluid and brain tissue of patients with brain injury or infarction. R

PC (naturally found in spirulina) can decrease infarct size and increases behavior disorder in rats with cerebral artery obstruction. R

PC can also increase brain derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF). R

It can also improve the survival of brain cells (similar to n-acetylcysteine (NAC)). R

In aged obese mice, the combination of spirulina and licorice root was able to improve cognitive function (by reducing glucose, cholesterol and leptin levels, while reducing acetylcholinesterase activity). R

In Parkinson's Disease (PD) there is progressive neurodegeneration affecting dopaminergic neurons in the negrostriatal pathway. R

A high amount of ROS and inflammation is seen in the brain of PD patients. R

In PD animal models, spirulina is able enhance the recovery of striatal dopamine tyrosine hydroxylase (TH) in the substantia nigra. R R

Spirulina was also able to raise glutathione levels in the brain, protecting against further damage. R

Spirulina can potentiate the antiparkinsonian effect of amantadine when administered in combination. R

For example, when spirulina was given along with amantadine to PD animal models, animals had a better response against induced brain damage compared to animals given only amantadine or nothing at all. R

They saw improvements in different behaviors such as body movements, locomotor activity, distance travelled, ability to walk backwards and muscle coordination. R

Spirulina can protect against the loss of neurons by α-synuclein, a common problem in the pathogenesis of PD. R R

Gamma-linolenic acid (found in spirulina) can decrease lipid peroxidation, lowering the amounts of prostaglandins, leukotrienes, and platelet-activating factor, exerting an anti-inflammatory effect. R

Spirulina also protects the hippocampus against inflammation (such as lipopolysaccharide induced acute inflammation). R

It has shown to protect against viruses (such as adeno-associated virus vector) that cause neurodegeneration. R

PC in spirulina can help against autoimmune disorders like experimental autoimmune encephalitis (EAE). R

It is able improve myelin and axonal damage of EAE. R

One example of this is by PC's ability to upregulate expression of T cell (Treg), fork head protein 3 (FOXO3), CD25, IL-10, and TGF-beta). R

Also in lactating pups, spirulina is able to reduce brain inflammation in after LPS-induced inflammation. R

Spirulina can also protect the hippocampus in the presence of kainic acid. R

12. Has Anti-Diabetic Properties

 
 

Decreased insulin sensitivity and hyperglycemia is a common problem with diabetic patients and is very toxic to cells (causing excess oxidative stress). R

When mice were fed fructose, spirulina was able to improve insulin sensitivity and attenuate hyperglycemia-mediated oxidative stress. R

Spirulina was also able to reverse the harmful effects of fructose to increased TNFalpha and decreased adiponectin. R

Kidney (renal) damage is a common problem in diabetic patients. R

PC (found in spirulina) can inhibit cisplatin-induced renal toxicity and oxidative stress. R

It can also prevent cellular damage induced by oxalic acid-mediated oxidative stress in canine kidney cells and decrease ROS and lipid peroxidation in cells. R

In renal cells, provides significant protection from mitochondrial membrane permeability and increases ATP production. R

It prevents the occurrence of diabetic nephropathy by inhibiting NADPH dependent superoxide production. R

13. Enhances The Skin

 
 

Spirulina can inhibit the damage caused by ultraviolet-B (UVB) to the skin. R

It can enhance wound healing. R

It can also enhance collagen production. R

14. Improves Anemia

Anemia is usually defined as a decrease in the total amount of red blood cells (RBCs) or hemoglobin in the blood and the lowered ability to carry oxygen, resulting in feeling tired, weakness, shortness of breath or a poor ability to exercise. R

Common causes of anemia are due to nutritional deficiencies in iron and vitamin B12. R

Spirulina is high in iron and pseudo B12.

Positive effects of Spirulina at doses ranging between 1 g/day and 200 g/day against anemia have been reported in children, runners, senior citizens, patients with pathologies such as nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD), T2D, or HIV-infected. R

It improves hemoglobin (Hb) levels. 

15. Protects The Eyes

 
 

Age related cataract is the leading cause of blindness associated with the accumulation of oxidative stress in the eye lens. R

PC (found in spirulina) can reduce oxidative stress and enhance antioxidant enzyme levels, decreasing the incidence of cataract. R

It can also help regulate and balance the electrolytes in the eyes. R

Spirulina can help maintain eye lens transparency (via regulation of the lens crystallin, redox genes, and apoptotic cascade mRNA expression). R

16. Protects The Ears

Spirulina can reduce the expression of KCC2 genes. R

Higher expression of KCC2 is involved with tinnitus. R

Spirulina has also shown in other animal studies to reduce tinnitus (via inhibition of expression of NR2B, TNFa, IL-1b, and COX2 genes). R R

17. Helps With Chronic Pain

Consuming 1g of spirulina a day was able to attenuate chronic pain in some patients. R

18. Helps With Fatigue

 
 

Spirulina can increase people's ability to resist mental and physical fatigue. R

When participants were given mental and physical fatigue tasks, they performed better 4 hours after supplementation of spirulina. R

Caveats

Spirulina is safe in humans and is currently being used in clinical trials. R

Side Effects

Spirulina can cause insomnia. R

Spirulina may interact with other substrates (and pharmaceuticals) that involve cytochrome p450 enzymes, such as immunosuppressant, antihypertensive, and lipid lowering drugs. R

Two cases of anaphylaxis caused by Spirulina tablets were reported of which one in a 17-year-old male who had a history of atopic dermatitis, asthma, allergic rhinitis, and a possible pollen-food syndrome (oral allergy symptoms to tomato and cucumber). R

Three cases of autoimmune-mediated skin damage were reported, of which one in a 82-year-old woman, whereas the other two cases were observed in subjects consuming Spirulina as ingredient of multicomponent-nutraceuticals (organic cayenne pepper, ethylsulfonylmethane, and the algae Aphanizomenon flos-aquae and Spirulina or Ginseng, Ginkgo biloba, and Spirulina). R

Also there was a case report of hepatotoxicity involved a 52-year-old Japanese man who had a history of hypertension, hyperlipidemia and type 2 diabetes (T2D) and taking medications (amlodipine besilate, simvastatin, and acarbose).

Toxins

Cyanobacterium can have dangerous toxins and neurotoxins such as microcystins and BMAA. R R

Microcystins have been linked to gastrointestinal problems along with liver damage. R

This is even worse for children and could result in shock or death. R R

Chronic exposure to microcystins (even at very low levels) can be toxic to certain organs and possibly cause cancer. R R

Multiple studies have linked BMAA to increase chances of Alzheimer's, Parkinson's and ALS. R R R R

Spirulina also may have high levels of lead, mercury, and arsenic. R

That is why it is PARAMOUNT to get spirulina from a quality source.

Genetic Problems

Having methylation problems with a1298c can predispose you to produce less tetrahydrobiopterin or BH4.

Some children with a mutation in this SNP have a buildup of phenylalanine in their blood causing phenylketonuria, which can cause brain damage. 

Spirulina contains phenylalanine. R

Supplementing with BH4 would ameliorate this problem.

My Experience

When I take spirulina, I get an energy boost and an increased sense of well-being.

I also am able to exercise for longer and get better gains.

I will usually take that tablets or powder and dissolve them in pineapple and/or coconut water before a workout.

Where To Get Spirulina

 
 

Spirulina strains cultured with seawater accumulate more bioactive substances and will have a higher nutritive value. R

Also, to ensure high quality and lower chances of exposure of toxins these are the two I use:

Mechanism Of Action

Spirulina:

  • Activates NRF2 R
  • Decreases caspase-3 R
  • Decreases IL-1b R
  • Decreases IL-4 R
  • Decreases IL-6 R
  • Decreases Nitric Oxide R R
  • Decreases TNFa R
  • Downregulates NR2B R
  • Downregulates VEGF R
  • Increases CD25 expression R
  • Increases Dopamine R
  • Increases FOXO3 expression R
  • Increases GSH and GPX R
  • Increases GST activity R
  • Increases H3 Aceylation R
  • Increases IL-2 R
  • Increases IL-10 R
  • Increase p53 activity R
  • Increases SOD activity R
  • Increases TGF-beta R
  • Increases Tregs R
  • Inhibits Bcl-2 R
  • Inhibits cytochrome P450 R
  • Inhibits COX-2 R
  • Inhibits iNOS R
  • Inhibits NADPH R
  • Inhibits NF-kB R
  • Reduces HbA1c R
  • Reduces H2O2 R 
  • Reduces MMPs expression R
  • Reduces ROS R 

More Research

  • How spirulina can survive very low temperatures R
  • Cilofungin can reduce the growth of Spirulina and Chlorella. R
  • A spirulina-rich diet may protect against bacterial inflammation. R
  • Glucomannan and glucomannan plus spirulina added to pork significantly block dietary cholesterol effects on lipoproteinemia. R