Amazing Health Benefits Of Spirulina by Alex Leaf, M S
My name is Alex Leaf and this presentation is all about spirulina. If you've ever tried spirulina powder my bet is that you never want to taste it again. It's not pleasant and yet it's been consumed for centuries by the natives living around lake chad in Africa and traded as an important commodity between the Aztecs of Central America and Spanish conquistadors. In the few places where this cyanobacterium grows naturally, spirulina has been harvested eaten, and traded despite tasting like pond water. Why? Certainly one reason is that spirulina is an incredibly rich source of protein vitamins and minerals but I think there was something else to it.
I'd bet that spirulina was seen as a general health tonic that made people feel good. After all, several studies have shown that spirulina protects the heart liver and intestinal cells from oxidative stress and mitochondrial damage stimulates mitochondrial biogenesis, and attenuates metabolic dysfunction. These benefits are largely due to a little molecule it contains called c phycocyanin which could possibly be the most potent phytochemical in existence through mimicking the structure of bilirubin and having similar physiological effects. In this presentation, I'm going to share with you the incredible benefits of spirulina and explain why. It's a true superfood compound and the best place to start is by explaining why its structural similarity to bilirubin is so important.
In 1901 Augustine Gilbert discovered a liver disorder now known as gilbert syndrome in which a genetic mutation reduces the body's ability to break down a little molecule called bilirubin and consequently causes it to be chronically elevated. Other than mild jaundice that can appear during periods of exertion stress and fasting the condition is usually benign and doesn't require treatment. In fact, people with gilbert syndrome seem to have incredible metabolic health compared to those without a 50 lower risk of death from any cause compared to the general population a 60 to 80 percent. Lower risk of heart disease a 20 lower risk of type 2 diabetes higher antioxidant stats and less oxidative stress. Improved blood vessel function and longer telomeres there's no ambiguity here bilirubin is protecting those with gilbert syndrome. Mice genetically altered to mimic gilbert syndrome are resistant to obesity and have higher tissue concentrations of mitochondria.
If you take normal mice and feed them an obesogenic diet supplementing bilirubin reduces the extent of metabolic dysfunction that ultimately develops you see bilirubin is a potent antioxidant and anti-inflammatory molecule that's been implicated in the prevention of metabolic syndrome and diabetes cardiovascular diseases and kidney disease. These incredible benefits are due primarily to bilirubin's ability to inhibit NADPH oxidases which are enzymes that create free radicals and contribute to the oxidative stress seen in many disease states including fat cells in obesity blood vessels in the heart in cardiovascular diseases microglia astrocytes and neurons and brain diseases the pancreas of diabetes the colon of colon cancer the liver of fatty liver the kidneys of kidney disease the bone of osteoporosis and the retina of macular degeneration. Basically, NADPH oxidases are a fundamental source of oxidative stress and disease and bilirubin directly binds to and inhibits them thereby protecting against metabolic dysfunction and a host of other pathologies spirulina's primary phytochemical mimics bilirubin.
Spirulina supplementation could therefore bestow many of the benefits seen in gilbert syndrome. We see many of the cardioprotective effects of gilbert syndrome play out with spirulina supplementation further supporting a connection between the two numerous clinical trials have shown that spirulina supplementation improves metabolic health. For example, a meta-analysis of 12 studies involving adults with metabolic syndrome found that an average of just two grams per day of spirulina significantly lowered fasting glucose blood pressure, and blood lipids. After two to three months these benefits have profound implications for your long-term health. Based on another meta-analysis of 49 studies looking at the relationship between LDL cholesterol and cardiovascular diseases we could expect regular supplementation with spirulina to reduce your risk of having a major cardiovascular event by at least 25 percent. Several other systematic reviews and meta-analyses have supported these findings reporting that spirulina improves glycemic control alleviates dyslipidemia and reduces visceral fat in older adults postmenopausal women and those with metabolic dysfunction. The effects are particularly pronounced if you're someone currently dealing with metabolic dysfunction for example in adults with type 2 diabetes 2 grams of spirulina per day reduces fasting blood glucose by 12 post-meal glucose by six percent and hba1c by 11.
After just two months in obese adults with medication-controlled hypertension supplementing just two grams of spirulina per day reduced body weight and blood lipids while increasing total antioxidant status and insulin sensitivity compared to a placebo. In adults with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, two to four grams of spirulina per day improved blood lipids reduced oxidative stress and increased antioxidant enzyme activity, and lastly, if you're someone with non-alcoholic fatty liver disease a condition that currently affects one out of every four adults worldwide and is a common comorbidity of obesity and diabetes then spirulina should be on your supplement shelf. Supplementation with four to six grams per day of spirulina for six months has been shown to reduce liver enzymes liver fat insulin resistance and blood lipids on top of improving metabolic health. Spirulina has an abundance of evidence showing that it improves endurance exercise performance and reduces fatigue in both recreational athletes and the average joe looking to improve their health through exercise.
In one study for example researchers had recreational runners run at a steady state for two hours and then do an all-out sprint for as long as they could handle it compared to those taking a placebo supplementing with six grams of spirulina per day for six weeks increased the sprint time until physical exhaustion by 30 percent enhanced fat oxidation during the two-hour run by 10 increased glutathione concentrations by 23 and reduced exercise-induced increases in lipid peroxidation by 34 percent. Other studies have reported similar observations one found that supplementing with seven and a half grams of spirulina increased the duration that the participants could exercise by 7.3 percent while reducing markers of oxidative stress and another reported that three grams of spirulina taken for eight weeks reduced physical fatigue during exercise and mental fatigue afterward. Lastly, one group of researchers wanted to see how spirulina and exercise interact to affect the health of overweight and obese adults. So they divided participants into four groups for 12 weeks. Sedentary taking placebo exercising taking a placebo sedentary supplementing with four and a half grams of spirulina per day or exercising and supplementing spirulina. They found that regardless of whether the participants exercised or not spirulina significantly reduced body weight reduced blood lipids and improved cardiorespiratory fitness.
That being said the improvements in cardiorespiratory fitness were most pronounced in those who supplemented alongside their exercise program and I want to end this presentation by briefly touching on some other less investigated avenues of potential benefits for spirulina including how it impacts pain allergies and detoxification processes. One study using spirulina extract containing high concentrations of its primary bioactive molecule phycocyanin. Participants with chronic joint pain experience significant reductions in pain severity after just two weeks as far as allergies go one group of researchers recruited adults who suffered from allergic rhinitis and had them supplement with either 2 grams of spirulina or a placebo daily over six months. Those fortunate enough to be randomized to the spirulina group experienced a 70 to 80 percent reduction in allergy symptoms which was more than double that of the placebo group. They also reported twice the satisfaction and perceived effectiveness of the intervention. And finally, there's preliminary evidence that spirulina can help detoxify the body of heavy metals like arsenic in animals, and having adults with arsenic poisoning supplement with just 500 milligrams of spirulina per day is able to reduce their arsenic concentrations by 50 percent after 16 weeks compared to minimal changes in those taking a placebo while the precise mechanism isn't really worked out yet the spirulina did cause a sharp spike in urinary arsenic secretion suggesting that it may enhance the body's own intrinsic ability to remove toxic metals.
In summary, spirulina is a cyanobacterium possessing one of the most potent phytochemicals in existence phycocyanin this molecule is structurally similar to the antioxidant in anti-inflammatory bilirubin that we naturally create. Thereby giving spirulina many of the benefits of bilirubin these benefits include a reduced risk of death and cardiovascular disease as evidenced by studies of people with gilbert syndrome a liver disorder that leads to elevated bilirubin levels. Clinical trials have shown that spirulina supplementation reduces insulin resistance in blood lipids enhances exercise performance lessens fatigue lowers pain improves allergies and facilitates heavy metal detoxification. Overall the science overwhelmingly shows that spirulina is a true superfood that improves metabolic health physical function and vitality.