There spirulina it is both a food and a dietary supplement, both composed of a real biomass of cyanobacteria (blue-green algae), edible for humans as much as for animals, with excellent nutritional properties and good efficacy in preventing / treating certain nutritional deficiencies.
The two microbiological species that make up the spirulina I'm: Arthrospira platensis is Arthrospira maxima. Cultivated all over the world, these blue-green algae are now widely integrated into the diet due to their nutritional profile exceptionally rich in useful and beneficial components for health; among the various particularly important nutritional factors we recognize: essential amino acids, essential fatty acids, some minerals and certain vitamins.
In 1974, the "World Health Organization" (WHO) described spirulina as an "interesting food, potentially superfood" for many reasons. Among the various reasons, the richness of iron and proteins stand out, and the possibility of being given to children without any risk, was even considered "a food very suitable". The United Nations founded in 2003 the “Intergovernmental Institution for the use of Micro-algae Spirulina Against Malnutrition”.
In the late 1980s and early 1990s, both NASA (CELSS) and the European Space Agency (MELiSSA) proposed spirulina as one of the primary foods to grow during long-term space missions.
Note: Spirulina algae is also used as a supplement in the aquaculture, aquarium and poultry farming industry.
Nutritional properties of spirulina
Dehydrated spirulina contains 5 % of water, 24 % of carbohydrates, 8 % of fats and approximately 60 % (51-71%) of proteins.
In dried powder form, a 100 g amount of spirulina supplement provides a whopping 290 kilocalories (kcal) and is a rich source - 20 % or more of the Daily Value (DV) - of numerous essential nutrients:
- Proteins: 60 %, with high biological value, therefore with essential amino acids in the right quantities and proportions in reference to the specific needs of the human being
- Vitamins of group B: thiamine or vit B1 (207 % DV) and riboflavin or vit B2 (306 % DV)
- Minerals: iron (219 % DV) and manganese (90 % DV)
- Lipids: 8%, especially fatty acids, among which the contents of polyunsaturated - also essential and semi-essential omega 3 and omega 6 - gamma-linolenic acid (GLA), alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), linoleic acid (LA), stearidonic acid stand out (SDA), eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and arachidonic acid.
Warning! Spirulina not it naturally contains biologically active vitamin B12 (cyanocobalamin) and therefore its supplements should not be considered a useful source of cobalamin. Having to increase the nutritional intake of cobalamin, such as in the vegetarian, vegan and raw food diet, it is therefore advisable to choose a fortified product or add a specific one.
Effectiveness of taking spirulina
Spirulina is used as an excellent food supplement of proteins of high biological value but of vegetable origin, water-soluble vitamins of group B and some minerals such as iron and manganese.
It can be safely taken up to doses of 10 - 19 grams per day (g / day) and for several months.
The study of the nutritional applications of spirulina, considered an ecologically sustainable, healthy and nutrient-rich food supplement, mainly concerns sustainability, the treatment of malnutrition and dietary support in long-term space flight or future missions to Mars.
Note: in the field of food safety, the advantage of spirulina is that, with the same production of proteins and energy, it requires fewer resources (land and water) than livestock.
Drug interactions of spirulina
Spirulina can give rise to adverse drug interactions when taken with some prescription drugs, such as those affecting the immune system and blood clotting.
Spirulina quality safety and toxicology
Spirulina is made up of cyanobacteria, some of which - other than A. platensis is A. maxima - are known for the production of toxins such as microcystins, BMAA and more. The levels found are however lower at the limit set by most food and drug safety agencies - for example the “Oregon Health Department”. Although it is a food supplement and not a drug, the controls of the "European Food Safety Agency" (EFSA) on imported products are pressing and guarantee their total safety.
The Chinese Food and Drug Administration (Chinese FDA) reports that there is some contamination from lead, mercury and arsenic in spirulina supplements marketed in China. One study reported the presence of lead up to 5.1 parts per million (ppm) in a sample taken from a commercial supplement. That said, this It depends especially since place of cultivation, therefore spirulina supplements approved by European and American bodies are to be considered perfectly safe.
Possible Side Effects of Spirulina
Any adverse effects related to taking spirulina can include nausea, diarrhea, feeling fatigued and headache.
Contraindications of spirulina in case of pathologies or special conditions
Like all protein-rich foods, spirulina contains high levels of the essential amino acid phenylalanine (2.6 - 4.1 g / 100 g). That's why it should be totally avoided by people with phenylketonuria - a rare genetic disease that prevents the body from metabolizing phenylalanine, which then accumulates in the brain and causes damage.
Spirulina contaminated from microcystins - not the normal one - has various potential manifestations of toxicity, especially for children, among which we mention: liver damage, shock and death.
Use in animal feed and aquaculture
Several studies have been conducted on the use of spirulina as an alternative feed for terrestrial and aquaculture animals.
Spirulina can be the feed for:
- Poultry and quail - increasing the content too much, the meat can take on a yellow and red color due to the presence of carotenoids
- Pigs and rabbits
- Dairy cattle
- Aquaculture of various fish species.
Scientific research on spirulina
Spirulina has been studied as a possible dietary supplement for subjects (adults and children) with HIV, and for the control of blood glucose in subjects with type 2 diabetes mellitus.