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There is no question that spirulina is a nutritious food, but it isn't cheap. 1 Protein can be obtained much more easily and inexpensively from legumes, nuts, grains, and animal foods; iron from dark greens, prunes, and meat; and carotenes and vitamins from standard fruits and vegetables.
Spirulina might have other specific therapeutic uses beyond general nutritional support, but the evidence supporting these recommendations is highly preliminary at best.
Manufacturers of spirulina supplements sometimes claim that the plant can reduce appetite, thereby helping overweight individuals control their food intake. However, one small double-blind study of spirulina for weight loss failed to find a significant difference between spirulina and placebo treatment. 2 One small double-blind trial did find evidence that a blue-green algae called Chlorella pyrenoidosamight be useful for fibromyalgia . 3 It is commonly stated that spirulina and related products can enhance immunity . 4 5 However, most of the evidence supporting this statement is too weak to mean much; the one meaningful trial, a double-blind study of 124 healthy adults, failed to find that chlorella supplements enhanced the immune response to influenza vaccine. 6 Evidence from animal studies, preliminary human trials and one small double-blind, placebo-controlled study suggests that spirulina or other forms of algae might improve cholesterol profile. 7 Very preliminary evidence hints that spirulina may help prevent cancer . 8 9 Test tube and animal studies suggest that spirulina might have some activity against the HIV, but much more research needs to be done before we could say that spirulina is helpful against HIV infection . 10 Highly preliminary evidence suggests that spirulina or other blue-green algae products may counter allergic reactions, such as hay fever and hives , 11 help protect the liver from toxic chemicals, 12 reduce blood pressure , 13 and control symptoms of ulcerative colitis .
Despite widespread publicity, there is no evidence that spirulina is useful for attention deficit disorder .
- Facts and Comparisons. Spirulina monograph. The Review of Natural Products. February 1998.
- Becker EW, Jakober B, Luft D, et al. Clinical and biochemical evaluations of the alga Spirulina with regard to its application in the treatment of obesity. A double-blind cross-over study. Nutr Rep Int. 1986;33:565-574.
- Merchant RE, Andre CA. A review of recent clinical trials of the nutritional supplement Chlorella pyrenoidosa in the treatment of fibromyalgia, hypertension, and ulcerative colitis. Altern Ther Health Med. 2001;7:79-80,82-91.
- Qureshi MA, Ali RA. Spirulina platensis exposure enhances macrophage phagocytic function in cats. Immunopharmacol Immunotoxicol. 1996;18:457-463.
- Qureshi MA, Garlich JD, Kidd MT. Dietary Spirulina platensis enhances humoral and cell-mediated immune functions in chickens. Immunopharmacol Immunotoxicol. 1996;18:465-476.
- Halperin SA, Smith B, Nolan C, Shay J, Kralovec J. Safety and immunoenhancing effect of a Chlorella-derived dietary supplement in healthy adults undergoing influenza vaccination: randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial. CMAJ. 169(2):111-7.
- Iwata K, Inayama T, Kato T. Effects of Spirulina platensis on plasma lipoprotein lipase activity in fructose-induced hyperlipidemic rats. J Nutr Sci Vitaminol. 1990;36:165-171.
- Schwartz J, Shklar G, Reid S, et al. Prevention of experimental oral cancer by extracts of Spirulina-Dunaliell algae. Nutr Cancer. 1988;11:127-134.
- Mathew B, Sankaranarayanan R, Nair PP, et al. Evaluation of chemoprevention of oral cancer with Spirulina fusiformis. Nutr Cancer. 1995;24:197-202.
- Ayehunie S, Belay A, Baba TW, et al. Inhibition of HIV-1 replication by an aqueous extract of Spirulina platensis (Arthrospira platensis).J Acquir Immune Defic Syndr Hum Retrovirol. 1998;18:7-12.
- Kim HM, Lee EH, Cho HH, Moon YH. Inhibitory effect of mast cell-mediated immediate-type allergic reactions in rats by spirulina. Biochem Pharmacol. 55(7):1071-6.
- Torres-Duran PV, Miranda-Zamora R, Paredes-Carbajal MC, et al. Spirulina maxima prevents induction of fatty liver by carbon tetrachloride in the rat. Biochem Mol Biol Int. 1998;44:787-793.
- Merchant RE, Andre CA. A review of recent clinical trials of the nutritional supplement Chlorella pyrenoidosa in the treatment of fibromyalgia, hypertension, and ulcerative colitis. Altern Ther Health Med. 2001;7:79-80, 82-91.