For some scholars, spirulina is a type of seaweed. For others, this product is a cyanobacterium. But, there is a consensus of the medical class about the use of this material as a natural supplement much appreciated by athletes.
According to the nutrologist Tamara Mazaracki, a member of the Brazilian Association of Nutrology (ABRAN), this alga can be considered one of the most nutritious foods of the plant.
“It contains a high concentration of nutrients, such as beta-carotene, phycocyanin, polyphenols, vitamins (mainly vitamin E, K1, K2, B12), minerals (potassium, manganese, sodium, calcium, magnesium, iron , zinc, iodine), a lot of protein and acids essential fatty acids”, cites the doctor.
Therefore, the also called spirulina can be used in the treatment and prevention of several diseases, such as cardiovascular problems, diabetes and even chronic diseases. In addition, it is a friend of weight loss diets , as it helps with weight loss and fights obesity.
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What is Spirulina for?
“Due to its richness in nutrients and phytochemicals, spirulina supports brain, liver and cardiovascular health,” explains nutrologist Mazaracki. The doctor also says that this type of supplement can be used in child development , as it contributes to growth and other parameters related to health.
Reduces cholesterol and triglycerides
According to Tamara, spirulina acts in the reduction of blood fats, such as cholesterol and triglycerides. In addition, it also “inhibits lipid peroxidation, a chemical reaction that oxidizes LDL cholesterol, making it dangerous.”
For these reasons, the supplement helps to prevent cardiovascular disease and atherosclerosis, characterized by the accumulation of fat in the arteries, causing these vessels to harden and impairing blood flow.
With the daily use of this natural product, the body starts to increase the activity of lymphocytes, a type of cell that is part of the body’s immediate defense. This means that there is a stimulation of the immune system, preventing or reducing allergic reactions .
For example, when an antigen enters the body, it is received by a defense force called innate immunity. If this functionality is not able to destroy the invading micro-organism, the body has a primary immune response, eliminating the problem.
However, this response can be exaggerated, causing hypersensitivity, resulting in some signs such as edema, redness and vasodilation. But, when using spirulina, the body ends up being strengthened by the antibodies and therefore the innate immunity tends not to fail.
Strengthens the musculature
According to the nutrologist, this product increases the level of cellular energy, delaying fatigue in physical activity of great intensity and duration. For this same reason, it has been used as a supplement for athletes.
“When eaten before training, they are preferably used as a source of energy ”, reports a study published in the Revista Brasileira de Nutrição Esportiva.
In addition, seaweed has a beneficial composition for sports practitioners, such as antioxidants , vitamins, proteins, minerals, essential fatty acids and carbohydrates. The latter, in turn, is very important to replenish glycogen stores in muscles, preventing damage and strengthening these structures.
Helps regulate blood glucose
The reduction of sugar levels in the blood is another benefit provided by spirulina. Thus, patients who have type II diabetes can enjoy the antidiabetogenic effects of this product.
“In a clinical study carried out in humans involving 15 diabetics, a decrease in serum glucose in fasting patients was observed after 21 days of supplementation of 2 g/day of Spirulina”, highlights an article published in the Journal of Basic and Applied Pharmaceutical Sciences.
Treats and prevents chronic diseases
According to the nutrologist Tamara Mazaracki, this alga is considered valuable for the prevention and treatment of chronic diseases, as it has a profile of nutrients and therapeutic effects, with total freedom from toxicity.
“A study in overweight hypertensive patients showed that three months of regular spirulina consumption reduced BMI [body mass index] and weight, and also resulted in improvements in blood pressure and endothelial function, contributing to a healthier circulatory system ”, complements the professional.
Helps in the treatment of malnutrition
Malnutrition is still a very present problem worldwide, affecting mainly children from developing countries. This condition is due to prolonged intake of foods that do not provide the elements necessary for health, such as sugars, lipids, proteins, amino acids, vitamins, fiber and others.
But, according to some studies, the use of 1 g/day of spirulina is already able to promote nutritional changes in the patient’s life in the long term.
For example, this same amount was administered to 5,000 children affected by malnutrition caused by vitamin A deficiency. After 150 days of treatment, there was a drop from 80% to 10% in the spots caused by this pathological state.
Reduces kidney toxicity
The kidneys are organs that can suffer due to the accumulation of toxic substances such as alcoholic beverages or even some medicines , such as paracetamol. However, this natural product is rich in phycocyanin, a substance related to the preventive effect of renal toxicity.
According to data from the World Health Organization (WHO), anemia affects 1/3 of the planet’s population. Another serious problem is related to the side effects often associated with conventional treatments for this condition, such as nausea, vomiting, diarrhea and colds.
For all these reasons, it is important to look for effective and less invasive alternatives to treat and prevent anemia . One of these ways is using spirulina supplementation, as it is rich in minerals and has modulating effects on the intestinal mucosa.
Helps prevent cancer
This benefit is associated with the presence of β-carotene in the alga, this substance is a precursor of vitamin A in the body, which can act as a powerful antioxidant.
For those who don’t know, antioxidants are molecules that protect cells against oxidation caused by free radicals. These, in turn, are unstable and in large quantities can destroy cellular structures, giving rise to tumors .
Contributes to brain health
Magnesium is one of the components of this supplement, and this mineral participates in neurochemical transmission, controlling nerve cells. In addition, it also helps with cardiac activity and muscle contractility.
Does Spirulina lose weight?
According to the nutrologist, spirulina helps to lose weight because it contributes to satiety . For example, in a 3 gram serving of seaweed, it is possible to have 2 grams of protein.
“A high-level research sought to determine the effects of spirulina on anthropometric parameters (body measurements), serum lipids, appetite and vascular endothelial health in obese individuals. The 12-week treatment was effective in controlling appetite and body weight , confirming the effectiveness of this nutraceutical in preventing obesity and its complications”, explains the doctor.
How to take?
Spirulina is a food supplement, for this reason it is sold over the counter, without the need for a prescription. “The usual dose varies between 1 and 5 grams daily . The taking time depends on the objective: if it is to lose weight, it should be taken between 15 to 20 minutes before meals”, recommends Tamara.
One of the ways to enjoy the benefits of this seaweed is taking two capsules a day, before or after meals . According to the doctor, these pills usually come with 500 mg each.
“Spirulina powder has an intense flavor, so it can be mixed with citrus juice in a dose of 1 flat (tea) spoon (5 grams)”, teaches the professional.
Curiosities about this product
There are some curiosities involving spirulina, such as a variety of blue type and its applications. Also, this product is often confused with another one called chlorella. Below, you can understand a little more about these two topics.
The traditional and most common type of this supplement is dark green in color, as it is rich in chlorophyll. However, there is a slightly bluish tint version, which comes from the extraction of a pigment called phycocyanin .
“In other words, blue spirulina is just one of the elements contained in green spirulina. In addition to the beautiful blue color, phycocyanin is a powerful antioxidant and anti-inflammatory . It activates enzymes that prevent atherosclerosis, protecting the lining of blood vessels (endothelium)”, explains Tamara Mazaracki.
Spirulina e chlorella
While spirulina grows in salt water , chlorella grows in fresh water. Also, phycocyanin is only found in some species of blue-green algae and chlorella is a type of green alga.
Side effects and contraindications
First of all, the nutrologist recommends buying spirulina capsules or powder in reliable places. That’s because a low quality product can be contaminated by harmful compounds.
“People who take anticoagulants , who have clotting problems or severe autoimmune diseases should avoid using them. In this case, it is better to use blue spirulina (phycocyanin)”, warns the doctor.
Also, some people may be allergic to algae. On the other hand, people with phenylketonuria, a condition that disables the breakdown of molecules of an amino acid called phenylalanine, should not consume this natural product as it is rich in this substance.
Finally, the nutritionologist explains that spirulina is safe for pregnant women . But, it is always important to consult the specialist before starting to use the supplement.
My name is Ellie Lauderdale, MD and I am USA based professional Nutritionist .
I am a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist and board certified specialist in sports dietetics who is trained in integrative medicine. I have worked with hundreds of clients, from those suffering with chronic disease to professional and olympian athletes. My goal is to help optimize you from the inside so that you can feel, perform, and look your best on the outside.