Spirulina can be considered, due to its high content of nutrients, a superfood. It is made from cyanobacteria of the genus Arthrospira, which grow in fresh and salt water. It’s named spirulina because of its spiral shape when it is observed in a microscope. Widely used in antiquity in different cultures for its medicinal properties, in recent years it has reappeared with renewed strength, especially as a result of initiatives such as the United Nations with its program of use of this cyanobacterium in its space missions.
One of its main properties is the high content of high quality non-animal protein (comparable to the egg), which contains all the essential amino acids. In addition to its protein value, it is rich in vitamins B1, B2 and B3 as well as iron and copper. It also contains micronutrients such as magnesium, potassium and manganese.
It is also a fantastic source of natural antioxidants that can protect from the oxidation that we are subjected to. The most active antioxidant it contains is phycocyanin, which is able to neutralize free radicals and inhibit the production of mediators of inflammation, in addition to conferring the characteristic blue-green coloration.
Regarding the prevention of cardiovascular diseases, spirulina has shown beneficial effects in different risk factors. Some studies have shown their ability to reduce total cholesterol, LDL cholesterol and triglycerides, and in some cases it has been seen as even increased levels of HDL cholesterol (“good” cholesterol). Hypertension, another known cardiovascular risk factor, seems that it can also decrease according to a study, especially with doses of spirulina between 4 and 5g per day, through nitric oxide, a potent arterial vasodilator. But not only can be effective in relation to cholesterol or hypertension, some studies have also shown their effectiveness in significantly reducing the amount of sugar in the blood, although some studies have been conducted in animals. However, there is also evidence, although minor, that it can be effective in humans. In relation to its effects on cancer, spirulina has been studied especially in oral cancer. In a study conducted in 87 people with pre-cancerous lesions of the oral mucosa, the administration of spirulina for 1 year evidenced a regression of the lesions in a significant way in the patients who took it and approximately half of these re-developed the lesions when you stop taking it. Thus, in the absence of more studies, the likely to have some anti-cancer properties that could be confirmed in the future.
Finally, it seems that it can have a beneficial effect in allergic rhinitis, improving both nasal secretions and sneezing and pruritus; and in anemia, although the effects in the latter have been observed only in one study and further research should be deepened.
Keep in mind that although spirulina is a food, and not a medication, it can cause some side effects in certain people. Symptoms such as thirst, constipation, nonspecific dizziness, abdominal discomfort or mild skin reactions can be part of its adverse effects and we have to consult our doctor. We should also do it in case of suffering from thyroid problems or kidney failure, cases in which it could be contraindicated, also in pregnant women or children. In any case we can say that spirulina is a safe and ideal food supplement to add to a healthy diet and habits, which can have beneficial effects for our health and that will surely be talked about more and more!
Dr. Marc Tarruella i Plandolit. Doctor, health and nutrition expert.
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