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Spirulina Research and Studies

While Spirulina research conducted over the years has clearly shown its multi-faceted health promoting effects, the two latest studies in the areas of immunomodulation and cancer protection tell the big story.

Spirulina Controls Immunomodulation and Uprequlates Immunity

Spirulina's most powerful health benefits lie in its ability to stimulate and maintain immune system activity. The results of the Mao, Van De Water and Gershwin study, published in the Journal of Medicinal Food (2000), and conducted at the university of California at Davis School of Medicine, provide continued understanding and proof of the awesome power of Spirulina.

The study, performed on Spirulina grown by Earthrise Nutritionals, demonstrated that Spirulina was able to raise the levels of three cytokines (specialized proteins produced by immune system lymphocytes) particularly one form of interferon (IFN)-y, to 13.6 times basal levels, and two forms of interleukins, (IL)-1 beta to 3.3 times basal levels, and IL-4, to 2.0 times basal levels. This evidence is highly convincing in terms of expanding Spirulina research and it's use in food. Earlier, the results of the Baojiang study, given at the Second Asia-Pacific Conference on Algal Biotechnology, 1994, concluded that polysaccharides of Spirulina platensis, at the dosage of 150-300 mg/kg by injection or taken orally, can increase the percentage of T-lymphocyte in the blood. The results demonstrate that Spirulina polysaccharides can improve cellular and humoral immunity.

Hayashi, in the Journal of Nutritional Science Vitaminology, showed that Spirulina extract significantly enhanced interleukin-1 (IL-1) production from peritoneal macrophages. These results suggest that Spirulina enhances the immune response, particularly the primary response, by stimulating macrophage functions, phagocytosis, and IL-1 production.

Spirulina Prevents Cancer

At the 30th Annual Meeting of the Japanese Society for Immunology in November 2000, breakthrough research was reported by the Osaka Institute of Public Health. Spirulina, in conjunction with BCG-CWS, a cell wall component derived from Tubercle bacillus; was able to enhance the anti-tumor propagation effect of BCG-CWS. This inhibitory effect occurred because Spirulina upregulated the tumor destroying activity of natural killer (NK) cells and the cytokine interferon gamma.

This heightened activity was observed 1-2 weeks after initiating Spirulina use, continuing 12- 24 weeks after treatment ceased.

Researchers believe that the clinical findings support the serious potential for Spirulina as an Immunotherapy agent. Mishima and colleagues reported in Clinical & Experimental Metastasis, 1998, that Ca-SP, calcium spirulan isolated from Spirulina platensis, could reduce the lung metastasis of B16-BL6 melanoma cells by inhibiting the tumor invasion of basement membrane probably through the prevention of the adhesion and migration of tumor cells.

Spirulina Is A Powerful Antioxidant

As a food additive, Spirulina maxima contains beta-carotene, tocopherols and phenolic acids, which are proven to exhibit antioxidant properties. The antioxidant activity of Spirulina can be attributed to phycocyanin, the blue pigment found in blue-green algae that contains phytochemicals with scavenging properties. The Miranda study (1998), published in the Brazilian Journal of Medical and Biological Research, demonstrated a 71 % antioxidant capacity for the group taking the Spirulina extract and 54% for the group that did not, indicating strong antioxidant protection.

The results obtained indicate that Spirulina provides some antioxidant protection for both in vitro and in vivo systems. The Romay study demonstrated that phycocyanin is able to scavenge the very dangerous hydroxy radical and inhibit the oxidation of lipids in the liver.

Spirulina Is Cardioprotective

At the Avinashilingam Institute for Home Science, Deemed University in Coimbatore, India, Ramamoorthy and colleagues tested the effects of Spirulina on patients with a combination of high cholesterol (above 250 mg/dI) and ischemic heart disease. They concluded that Spirulina plays a key role, lowering blood cholesterol levels and improving lipid profiles.

Spirulina's cell wall is unique too. It is made up of mucopolysaccharides that provide numerous health benefits.

Of special interest is the ability of these mucopolysaccharides to lower blood fats. This was also brought to light in a 1976 study showing that Spirulina controlled the tendency and ability of cholesterol and other lipoproteins to bond with arterial receptors and attach to artery walls.

Spirulina Lowers Blood Pressure

Research studies show that Spirulina was able to cause a significant change in vascular tone by increasing the synthesis and release of nitric oxide and by decreasing the synthesis and release of a vasoconstricting substance from the endothelial cells.

Spirulina Is Anti-Viral

A 1998 study conducted at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute at Harvard Medical School has also given us some positive news. Using an aqueous extract of Spirulina, researchers were able to inhibit the replication of the HIV-1 virus in human T-cells of the immune system, mononuclear blood cells and Langerhans cells of the pancreas. While this was a test-tube study, it tends to confirm what is seen in animals fed Spirulina or Spirulina extracts. A 1993 issue of Phytotherapy Research reported scientists feeding Spirulina extract to hamsters infected with a lethal form of Herpes Simplex Virus. Hamsters had prolonged survival times and increased survival rates when fed Spirulina extract before infection.

Taking Spirulina

While no official guidelines for recommended daily intake have been established at this time, many experts suggest 3,000 mg per day as a preventive, healthy dose, ideally taken with food in servings of powder, capsules or tablets.

For therapeutic use, 10,000 mg and even 20,000 mg per day is indicated. Spirulina is available in forms that are convenient to take, easy to digest, have no saturated fat, and have not been treated with nor contain chemicals or pesticides. Spirulina is a nutritional wonder food.
A Colorful Conclusion

While many dietary supplements and foods regularly "pop" on the market with a big bang, they frequently become short lived, trendy items without strong science behind them.

Although long known to man, green plants, earth's most ancient foods, have now emerged as the world's newest nutritional wonders. They hold the power to nourish, protect and heal, the body, extending lifespan at the same time. Because the research on Spirulina is extensive, thorough and very convincing, we believe it will be a world powerfood of the future.

New green food supplements are always in development. Interest and purchases of Spirulina and green food supplements are rising steadily, as people are being given an opportunity to learn a great deal more about them and their exceptional health benefits. The time has come for the power of green foods and green food supplements to be unleashed into the world food chain to improve the health regimens of people everywhere. Whether the choice is tablets, capsules or green food powders to mix into juices and other beverages for a healthy treat, the future of health is green!

About the Authors

Gary Bushkin, PhD, CNC and Estitta Bushkin, PhD, CNC, are natural health authors, journalists and consultants with diverse experience in nutrition and the natural health products industry. Earning their degrees from the Clayton College of Natural Health, this versatile duo has co-authored two books, "FAA's - All About Green Food Supplements" (Avery Publishing, Spring 1999) and "The Folic Acid Book" (DW Press, Spring, 2001. As contributing editors to popular consumer and trade magazines, the Bushkin's have penned dozens of articles about natural health, nutrition and alternative medicine for Better Nutrition, Food Distribution Magazine, Great Life, Health Products Business, and are members of the Health Products Business Editorial Board. They were also "Q & A - Ask the Experts" columnists for Nutrition Science News and Health and Nutrition Breakthroughs. As consultants to the natural products industry, they have developed and formulated dietary supplements and functional foods. The Bushkins are Certified Nutritional Consultants and members of the American Association of Nutritional Consultants and the Coalition for Natural Health.

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DISCLAIMER:This information and these products have not been evaluated by the FDA. These products and information are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease, disorder, pain, injury, deformity, or physical or mental condition. Results are not typical. Individual results may vary.