What is Spirulina
Spirulina is a blue-green algae packed with antioxidants, B-vitamins, and nutrients to support your immune system and provide a variety of health benefits. Spirulina is a plant-like organism that grows naturally in subtropical climates, oceans and some large, fresh water lakes. Just like other plants, this cyanobacteria gets its energy from the sun.
Properties of Spirulina
People have used blue-green algae for decades as a source of dietary protein, vitamins, antioxidants, and minerals. Even the Aztecs harvested spirulina for its nutritional benefits. Spirulina is packed with a variety of nutrients including B-complex vitamins, vitamin E, manganese, iron, essential amino acids, and more. Tested benefits of spirulina range from antioxidant and anti-inflammatory compounds to muscle proteins and anticancer properties.
Spirulina as an Antioxidant
Antioxidants are chemicals that prevent or slow cell damage caused by free radicals, or atoms that have been exposed to enough oxygen they become chemically imbalanced and begin looking for additional electrons. These free radicals can cause a domino effect with other cells, causing more of them to become chemically imbalanced. Antioxidant compounds provide electrons to unstable cells and can help repair damage caused by free radicals. Chronic inflammation can occur when cells begin to damage each other; this, in turn can lead to more serious health problems like cancer or heart disease.
Spirulina contains several compounds shown to have antioxidant properties, including phycocyanin. Phycocyanin is the pigment that gives spirulina its blue-green color, and it serves as a major antioxidant and anti-inflammatory agent. This key ingredient can only be found in blue-green algae and gives spirulina a step up on other supplements. Studies are continuing to show phycocyanin’s anti-inflammatory benefits to help reduce damage caused by cell damaging diseases such as cancer and arthritis.
Strength and Endurance
Exercise-induced oxidative damage is a major contributor to muscle fatigue, which is simply a reduction in the ability of the muscle to generate force. The specific cause of the fatigue may vary, but studies are being done to see is dietary antioxidant supplements can prevent or prolong fatigue.
Oxidative damage to muscle proteins can cause fatigue; however, spirulina serves as both a source of antioxidant and protein, potentially delaying fatigue during exercises. Researchers from Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise conducted a study on athletes recovering from exercise-induced oxidative injuries that contributed to muscle fatigue. They found that the runners showed a greater increase in exercise performance and levels of antioxidants after taking spirulina vs. other supplements.
Spirulina and Oral Cancer
There is evidence to suggest spirulina can have anti-cancer properties. One study published in the journal Nutrition and Cancer tested the effects of spirulina on 87 people who regularly chewed tobacco and had precancerous lesions in their mouths. Over the course of one year, 45% of the group who took spirulina daily saw a complete regression in their lesions.
Spirulina and Allergies
Evidence shows that spirulina can boost the immune system and help protect against nasal allergies, or allergic rhinitis. Allergic rhinitis is inflammation in the nasal airways and is triggered by environmental allergens. One study tested the effects of spirulina on people suffering from allergic rhinitis, and results shows that taking the supplement dramatically reduced rhinitis symptoms such as nasal discharge, sneezing, congestion and itching.
Overall, spirulina is incredibly healthy and can assist in aiding a range of health problems; however, it is not the answer to any and all health problems. While is it packed with vitamins and nutrients that can have extremely beneficial effects on your body, it does not serve as an adequate daily source for the nutrients you need. It serves as a supplement to assist your body function at its best!
Sources: Greatest, Live Science