Spirulina ( Blue-Green Algae )

Spirulina is a familiar example of the blue-green algae, which is a collection of 1,500 species of minute marine plants. Among the most common varieties of blue-green algae that are consumed by the humans are Spirulina maxima and Spirulina platensis. Although the vitamin B12 enclosed in Spirulina is not fit for directed use by people, this variety of the blue-green algae are heavily loaded with protein content and also comprises carotenoids, essential fatty acids, minerals and other vitamins. Interestingly, the health benefits claimed from consuming spirulina or other blue-green algae are not owing to scientific findings, but tales passed down since the ages! Nevertheless, laboratory tests as well as researches on animals have shown that spirulina and the extracts from spirulina possess several therapeutic properties. These researches have demonstrated that large amounts of spirulina and extracts from the substance possess antioxidant, anti-viral, anti-cancer, anti-allergy, immune-enhancing, liver defensive, blood vessel comforting and blood lipid lessening consequences.

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A restricted study conducted on humans have demonstrated that a blue-green algae variety Spirulina fusiformis has substantial potential to reverse the pre-cancerous lesions or wounds of the mouth known as leukoplakia. The study noted that 45 per cent of the subjects who were administered one gram of Spirulina fusiformis for a year every day witnessed improvement in their condition, compared to only seven per cent of the group who were administered the conventional placebo or panacea. According to another controlled study on humans, on an average overweight people who took 8.4 grams of Spirulina fusiformis every day shed three pounds in four weeks. On the other hand, people who were receiving placebo lost only 1.5 pounds during the same period. Moreover, although the disparity was found to be noteworthy and there was no adverse consequences on blood pressure or serum cholesterol owing to the consumption of spirulina. Another study conducted in a while observed that there was an insignificant cholesterol reducing effect on the individuals taking 4.2 grams of spirulina daily for around eight weeks. However, even in this case, the serum triglycerides, blood pressure and the body weight of the individuals given spirulina remained as before.

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Uses

Spirulina is basically a blue-green, single-celled type of algae that succeeds in fresh water bodies that are warm and alkaline, for instance ponds and lakes. The algae offers several health benefits and, hence, has been consumed by humans since long. In due course of time, spirulina has provided nourishments to inhabitants of Asia, Africa and South America. The algae was used by the Mayans as well as Aztecs as a major part of their diet. In present times, people who are conscious about their health hold spirulina in high regard worldwide.

It may be noted that the tissues of our body releases toxic substances and free radicals when the body is under tremendous stress, for instance, undertaking extreme physical training. Spirulina encloses chlorophyll which facilitates the elimination of such waste and toxic products and also rinses out the blood, liver and kidneys. All bodily systems also work very effectively when our kidneys and liver are functioning well.

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This kind of purifying effect is very vital when you are on a low-carb diet like South Beach diet, Atkins diet and others. Such diets may put an immense workload on our kidneys and the liver as they result in augmented elimination of surplus ketones. In addition to cleansing the blood, kidneys and liver, spirulina also offers other health benefits like protecting us against the toxins present in the environment, water and air pollution as well as additional impurities that we come into contact with in our daily life.

People who are very enthusiastic about their health have a preference for spirulina, as this algae contains high concentration of powerful nutrients. While it has an impressive protein content (60 per cent among all vegetable proteins), spirulina also encloses a potent blend of essential vitamins like vitamin E, vitamin B-complex, as well as minerals iron, calcium, magnesium, copper and zinc. In addition, this algae is a wonderful resource of beta-carotene (a potent antioxidant) and gamma linolenic acid or GLA (an essential fatty acid).

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Spirulina is often referred to as a 'super' algae and its dark bluish-green hue is attributed to the presence of chlorophyll as well as phycocyanin. The green color of spirulina owes to the presence of chlorophyll, at times referred to as 'green blood', since it is extremely comparable to hemoglobin. It is believed that chlorophyll helps to alleviate inflammation, and simultaneously regularize the release of digestive acids. The blue color of spirulina is owing to the presence of phycocyanin - a substance that has relation with bilirubin, a pigment present in the humans. It may be noted that bilirubin is vital for the healthy functioning of the liver as well as the assimilation of amino acids into the body. These pigments, which are naturally present in our body, can be digested very easily thereby, enabling the body to take in the nutrients fast. Spirulina is becoming increasingly popular, especially among environmentalists, as it is easy to grow this marine plant effectively and without wiping out any of its important attributes that are useful for our health.

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Compared to soybeans, spirulina has the competence to make twenty times more protein for every area. It makes 40-fold more protein compared to corn and 200 times more protein each area in comparison to beef cattle. Moreover, this aquatic plant also makes use of lesser water for each area of protein compared to other foods. In effect, people who cultivate spirulina have claimed that this algae only loses significant amount of water by means of evaporation. Farming spirulina does not result in erosion of the soil because production of algae actually increases the use of brackish water and non-fertile land. In fact, many people are of the view that cultivating spirulina is amongst the simple and best means to make our planet green again.

Although spirulina contains concentrated amounts of various nutrients, surprisingly it does not contain much calories, starches and fats. What is amazing is that only seven per cent of the constituents of spirulina are fats and the major part of this is essential fatty acids. Essential fatty acids contained by spirulina aid in breaking up blood cholesterol and, at the same time, augment the health of our skin, hair and nails.

On average a spirulina tablet of 500 mg dosage has just a couple of calories. Nevertheless, this aquatic plant does provide us with some amount of carbohydrates, which are present as glycogen and rhamnose - our body can absorb these two carbohydrates quite easily. Hence, the sugars present in spirulina have the ability to supply us with energy that is not only healthy, but also perk us up quickly.

Sources of spirulina

The blue-green algae is native to Central and South America as well as Africa where they are found growing in abundance in lakes, especially the ones that have rich salt contents. Commercially, the blue-green algae are grown in open-air tanks and are harvested for their nutritional value. Blue-green algae are used as nutritional supplements, mostly as a substitute for other proteins.

Deficiencies and susceptibility

The blue-green algae are not an indispensable nourishing substance and hence it is never related to any deficit condition. Nevertheless, people who do not eat enough vegetables daily to fulfill the requirements of the body may gain by consuming the blue-green algae that comprised carotenoids and a number of nourishing substances. As the blue-green algae are a whole protein, it may be substituted for some protein elements in our diet to make it vigorous. Nonetheless, large quantities of blue-green algae need to be consumed in order to get enough of the nourishing substances contained in them.

Usual dosage

The blue-green algae may be taken in different forms - flakes, powder, capsules and even tablets. Normally green-algae supplement manufacturers recommend taking 2,000 mg to 3,000 mg of the substance daily. However, the entire dose is not to be taken at one time, but divided into several parts every day. Studies conducted on animals have shown that the best quantity to be taken is around 34 grams or a little more of the substance daily for a person weighing around 150 pounds.

Side effects and cautions

The use of blue-green algae as a supplement is relatively safe as there is no side effect from the nourishing substance. Nonetheless, it should be noted that the blue-green algae has the potential to build up heavy metals from unhygienic water. Although uncontaminated blue-green algae have been discovered, eating blue-green algae collected from such areas may alarmingly enhance the body's stack of metals like lead, mercury and cadmium. In fact, animal hair and insect parts have been found to pollute some samples of spirulina. However, studies conducted on animals have shown that consuming spirulina is safe during pregnancies. On the other hand, another widely used species of the blue-green algae - Aphanizomenon flosaquae - is reported to manufacture toxins or poison. In addition, there are a few reports of allergic reactions owing to consumption of the blue-green algae.

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