Spirulina, a type of blue-green algae, has been ingested throughout ancient history, with many even classifying it as a superfood. Although it may seem kind of gross to eat algae, spirulina is now commercially available in several different tasteless forms such as powders or pills, making it an easy addition to your diet. Many studies have explored the health benefits of spirulina, five of which are discussed in more detail in this article.
Spirulina, a type of blue-green algae, has been ingested throughout ancient history with many even classifying it as a superfood due to its variety of included nutrients.
Viewed as a superfood, spirulina contains many nutrients including proteins, vitamins, minerals, and omega fatty acids.
Health benefits of spirulina include weight control, heart disease prevention, blood sugar stabilization, and blood pressure control.
Some individuals are cautioned against using spirulina including children, pregnant women, and individuals with clotting disorders or autoimmune diseases.
Health benefits of spirulina
The number of benefits behind taking spirulina can only promote health improvement such as:
Viewed by many as a superfood, spirulina contains several different nutrients including:
- Vitamins including thiamin, riboflavin, and niacin
- Minerals such as iron and copper
- Omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids
In addition to offering many necessary dietary nutrients, spirulina remains low in cholesterol and fat, making it a potentially healthier option for obtaining nutrients within the diet. Spirulina also contains many chemical compounds that act as antioxidants that can improve many biological processes in the body.
Several studies have been conducted to study the effect of spirulina on weight loss. One notable study looked at 53 participants with a body mass index (BMI) of greater than 25, classifying them as obese. This study implemented a calorie-restricted diet for all participants and randomly assigned them to either take a daily supplement of spirulina or a placebo. Results showed that participants who took the spirulina had a significantly lower body weight after 12 weeks. Several other studies noted a decrease in overall appetite in individuals taking spirulina supplements, contributing to weight loss and control.
Heart disease prevention
Globally, the leading cause of death is heart disease, often which occurs due to elevated levels of cholesterol and triglycerides over time. These molecules contribute to the development of heart disease by causing a buildup of fatty plaques in the blood vessels, making it more difficult to get blood to the heart. Ultimately, this can result in heart disease and potentially even a heart attack. Because of this, many global health campaigns have sought to increase awareness about ways to reduce cholesterol levels and improve heart health.
Several studies have shown a link between taking spirulina supplements and a reduction in total cholesterol and triglycerides. These studies indicated that not only can spirulina lower the LDL (“bad”) cholesterol in the body, but it can also increase the HDL (“good”) cholesterol, resulting in an improved amount of total cholesterol. Because of the relationship between elevated cholesterol and heart disease, it is reasonable to conclude that taking spirulina may potentially decrease your risk of cardiovascular disease.
Blood sugar stabilization
Spirulina has been shown to significantly reduce blood glucose levels, a major benefit to individuals with diabetes. Though still in the early stages of research, one animal study using mice with type 1 diabetes found that supplementation with spirulina resulted in lower blood glucose levels and higher concentrations of insulin in the body. Though more research needs to be done, especially on human subjects, these findings are promising for individuals with diabetes or poor blood sugar control.
Blood pressure control
Individuals with hypertension, or high blood pressure, are at an increased risk for many conditions including heart disease and stroke. Maintaining healthy blood pressure is an important goal for many people, and this is often achieved with the use of prescription medications. However, studies have shown a relationship between supplementation with spirulina and a reduction in blood pressure, indicating that taking spirulina may reduce the need for or lower the necessary dosage for prescription blood pressure medications.
One study compiled the results of several smaller studies to analyze the effects of spirulina on blood pressure and found that in the 230 participants studied, blood pressure was decreased by about five millimeters of mercury (mmHg). Though a relatively small decrease in overall blood pressure, these results were significant and indicated that spirulina offers potential antihypertensive benefits.
Risks of taking spirulina
As with any dietary supplement, it is best to consult your healthcare provider before adding them to your diet. Additionally, some individuals are cautioned against using spirulina including children, pregnant women, and individuals with clotting disorders or autoimmune diseases. Though rare, some associated side effects of spirulina include:
- Allergic reaction
- Muscle aches
- Nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea
Boasting many nutrients and touted as a superfood by many, spirulina may be an excellent addition to your daily diet. The potential health benefits offered by spirulina are numerous and include weight loss, heart disease prevention, and blood sugar and blood pressure control. Though safe for most, be sure to consult your healthcare provider before regularly implementing it into your diet.
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