Ingredients Spotlight: Spirulina

News Written by Richard Harris

Spirulina has become a popular compound of late, and for very good reason. But what is it? 

Well, Spirulina grows in fresh water lakes around the world and is a ‘blue – green algae’..! Despite only becoming popular in recent times, Spirulina and its benefits have been used for centuries.

The ancient Aztecs thrived on Spirulina that was sourced from Lake Texcoco in Mexico, and for those who live around the Lake Chad in Africa, Spirulina has been a mainstay in their diet for generations.

An Algae? Really?

Absolutely! Spirulina contains a wealth of nutrients vital to promote good health.

In fact, Spirulina is the world's highest known natural source of protein, with its make up between 60 – 70% protein! To put this in to context, raw meat is only 27% protein. It is also important to note that the protein within Spirulina contains all nine essential amino acids, making it a complete protein*. Several other ‘plant based’ proteins do not contain all 9 essential amino acids. Small wonder that Spirulina is a popular choice by Vegans as a source of protein!

Spirulina is also made up of numerous vitamins (the highest plant based source of Vitamin B12**) minerals, trace elements, salts… the list goes on!

Ok. Now I’m listening!

Great! As well as being a source of complete protein, Spirulina has been heavily researched, with evidence suggesting its health benefits are plenty. These benefits have been discovered with doses ranging from just 1g of Spirulina per day!

Recent research has highlighted Spirulina as a promising ingredient in improving and maintaining cardiac health. The protein make up of Spirulina, specifically the protein ‘Phycocyanin’, acts as an effective antioxidant against free radical build up in cardiac tissue, potentially reducing cardiac inflammation and improving tissue health.

Spirulina has also been used heavily in research in an attempt to promote better blood lipid (cholesterol) profiles, with promising evidence leading to suggestions it may help lower the risk of cardiovascular illnesses.

The protein discussed earlier, ‘Phycocyanin’, has also been linked to reducing the destruction of pancreatic beta cells, the cells responsible for the secretion of insulin. This is significant in the fact that it can help reduce the risk of developing diabetes!

Insulin resistance; a risk factor involved in the development of Type II diabetes, is a condition where cells fail to allow the normal function of insulin, thus leading to high blood glucose levels. There is some evidence to suggest Spirulina can help reverse this phenomenon; improved insulin sensitivity, reduced risk of developing Type II diabetes!

It sounds like a ‘superfood’?!

If there were such things, then this algae may just make the list. It is one of the reasons why we include 1.1g of Spirulina per serving in our mygreens.

As well as the cardioprotective and blood glucose improving actions of Spirulina, research also highlights its potential as a neuroprotective compound; reducing the risk of developing parkinsons disease.

One claim that many compounds are linked to is their ability to help ‘detoxify’ the body, but with little evidence to support these claims. Spirulina is one compound that could lay claim to its ‘detoxification’ abilities.

Detoxify? Isn’t that just a buzz word?!

Yes. And no. One study highlighted significantly reduce arsenic levels in the body with those suffering from chronic arsenic poisoning, all from ingesting just 250mg of Spirulina daily. There is also evidence in animals to further enhance Spirulina’s detoxification abilities by highlighting reductions in heavy metal levels such as mercury, reducing the potential harm caused by heavy metal poisoning.

Safe to say…

… Spirulina is at the forefront of research in compounds that can potentially benefit all organ systems in the human body. Remember, at MPN, we believe you cannot reach your pinnacle without sound health first. Spirulina is certainly a compound that you need in order to maximise your health. 

Team MPN

* Foods that are a source of a complete protein contain the necessary amounts of the nine essential amino acids needed by the body. The human body can synthesize the other eleven non-essential amino acids, meaning it is vital to ingest the nine essential amino acids in our diets.

** Although Spirulina contains a high amount of Vitamin B12, the majority of the vitamin B12 contained within Spirulina cannot be used by the body. Another algae source, Chlorella, is seen as a better alternative.

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