What are its benefits?
Research has shown benefits from spirulina’s protein, phycocyanin, may include antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, pain relief, and brain-protective effects. It has been shown to block tumor growth and kill cancer cells. It can reduce absorption of cholesterol, lowering cholesterol levels. It reduces triglyceride levels. Spirulina increases nitric oxide production in the body, which can help blood vessels relax. Furthermore, spirulina’s vitamin and mineral content supports a healthy immune system.
Specific microbiome studies have been carried out:
- A recent study showed the prebiotic qualities of algae like spirulina. A sugar in algae, sulfoquinovose, stimulates the growth of very specific key organisms in the gut microbiome. These key organisms include the bacterium Eubacterium rectale, one of the ten most common gut microbes in healthy people. It ferments sulfoquinovose via a metabolic pathway only recently deciphered, producing a sulfur compound, dihydroxypropane sulfonate, which in turn feeds other beneficial intestinal bacteria that eventually produce hydrogen sulfide gas. The delicate balance of these metabolic pathways was also noted: in low amounts, hydrogen sulfide can have an anti-inflammatory effect on the intestinal mucosa. But increased hydrogen sulfide production by gut microbes (typically seen in people with diets high in fat and meat) is associated with chronic inflammatory diseases and cancer.
- A second study demonstrated that spirulina might help protect against age-related liver inflammation by modifying pathways in the microbiome.
What is it?
Spirulina is a blue-green algae (cyanobacteria) that is a highly nutritious food component. It is a source of thiamine (vitamin B1), riboflavin (vitamin B2), niacin (vitamin B3), copper, iron, and magnesium. It also contains a protein called phycocyanin.