The potential health benefits of spirulina, which include immune health, cardiovascular health, and potential anti-cancer effects, should also encourage dietary supplementation, according to the review published in the journal Nutra Foods,
Entitled Potential health benefits of spirulina microalgae; a review of the existing literature, the article was written by Bob Capelli, vice president sales and Marketing of Cyanotech which produces and sells spirulina and Gerald Cysewski, the company’s chief scientific officer.
After reviewing studies looking at the health benefits of products made from the blue-green algae, the authors concluded that: “Spirulina shows potent immune-stimulating effects (and) …. anti-viral activity against a variety of harmful viruses.”
It also “…shows promise as a cancer preventative agent and in the treatment of tumors,” and has “…far ranging cardiovascular benefits including improvement of blood lipid profiles, prevention of atherosclerosis, and control of hypertension.”
In humans, spirulina produces an immuno-stimulating effect by enhancing the resistance to infections, the capacity of influencing hemopoieses (the process by which new blood cells are formed) and stimulating the production of antibodies and cytokines.
Spirulina’s anti-viral properties were noted both in simple water extracts and dried bomass. The authors concluded that the algae’s anti-viral properties are derived both from its polysaccharides as well as other components.
In terms of cancer prevention, the authors acknowledged a shortage of human clinical research. But in animal studies they highlighted a numerous studies showing spirulina’s potential to prevent carcinogenesis and to shrink tumours.
By contrast, the cardiovascular benefits of spirulina are described in many papers, according to the review article. A review published in 2009 noted several reports suggesting that spirulina may have a beneficial effect in the prevention of cardiovascular diseases. Decreases in blood pressure and plasma lipid concentrations, especially triacylglycerols and low density lipoprotein-cholesterol have been demonstrated as a result of oral consumption of spirulina.
Further research into the potential of spirulina and its constituent pigment C-phycocyanin in the four areas noted promise to unlock further health benefits, noted the authors.
The authors reviewed a series of published studies, most of which appeared in the past 10 years.
Many studies investigated benefits from pure Spirulina biomass, but some also focused on extracts of spirulina or isolated compounds from spirulina. These were mainly C-phycocyanin, the blue-green pigment found only in spirulina and other species of blue-green microalgae.
Research into the health benefits of this uni-cellular, blue-green microalgae began in the 1970s and has accelerated during the past 10 years.
Volume 9, Pages 16-26
"Potential health benefits of spirulina microalgae; a review of the existing literature"
Authors: B. Capelli, G. Cysewski