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Possible spirulina side effects                       Child Africa
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SPIRULINA:
The Magic Food (4 of 7)

Genene Tefera, DVM, PhD
Microbial Genetic Resources Department, Institute of Biodiversity Conservation
Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, January, 2009


CHEMICAL COMPOSITION

Since 1970, Spirulina has been analyzed chemically. It has been shown to be an excellent source of proteins, vitamins and minerals.

Proteins
Spirulina has a high protein concentration (60%-70%
of its dry weight). Spirulina is useful in human nutrition, due to the high quality and quantity of its protein. The nutritive value of a protein is related to the quality of amino acids, digestibility coefficient, as well as by its biological value. Spirulina contains essential amino acids; the highest values are leucine (10.9% of total amino acids), valine (7.5%), and isoleucine (6.8%). Denaturation of Spirulina protein is observed when algae are heated above 67 ºC, at neutral aqueous solution. Hydrophobic regions interaction during heating and hydrogen bonds formation during cooling are aggregation and gelation factors of Spirulina protein.

Vitamins
Among food, Spirulina has a relative high provitamin A concentration. An excessive dose of b-carotene may be toxic, but when the b-carotene is ingested from the Spirulina or another vegetable it is usually harmless since the human organism only converts into vitamin A the quantity it needs. Spirulina is a very rich source in vitamin B12, and that is a reason why these Cyanobacteria are of great value for people needing supplements in the treatment of pernicious anemia.

Lipids
Spirulina contains 4-7% lipids. Spirulina has essential fatty acids: linoleic acid (LA) and g-linolenic acid (GLA). The latter is claimed to have medicinal properties and is required for arachidonic acid and prostaglandin synthesis. GLA lowers low-density lipoprotein, being 170-fold more effective than LA.

Minerals
Iron in some nutritional complements is not appropriately absorbed. Iron in Spirulina is 60% better absorbed than ferrous sulfate and other complements. Consequently, it could represent an adequate source of iron in anemic pregnant women.

Carbohydrates
Spirulina platensis contains about 13.6% carbohydrates; some of these are glucose, rhamnose, mannose, xylose and galactose. Spirulina does not have cellulose in its cell wall, a feature that makes it an appropriate and important foodstuff for people with problems of poor intestinal absorption, and geriatric patients. A new high molecular weight polysaccharide, with immunostimulatory activity has been isolated from Spirulina and is called “Immulina”. This highly water-soluble polysaccharide represents between 0.5% and 2.0% (w/w) of the dry microalgae.

Nucleic acids content
One of the main concerns about the consumption of microorganisms is their high content of nucleic acids that may cause disease such as gout. Spirulina contains 2.2%-3.5% of RNA and 0.6 %-1% of DNA, which represents less than 5% of these acids, based on dry weight. These values are smaller than those of other microalgae like Chlorella and Scenedesmus.

Pigments
Some natural pigments are found in Spirulina. These pigments are responsible for the characteristic colors of certain flamingo species that consume these Cyanobacteria in the African Valley. This knowledge has promoted the use of this microorganism as source of pigmentation for fish, eggs and chicken. Spirulina also increases the yellowness and redness of broiled chicken due to accumulation of zeaxanthin.

 

 

 

 

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Low-quality spirulina can promote serious side effects
Spirulina from polluted sources can lead to severe side effects by building up excess levels of lead, mercury and cadmium in your system. Low-quality spirulina can also easily become contaminated by animal hairs and insect fragments. You always want to make sure that you get high-quality spirulina nutrition from quality supplements like Liqua Spirulina.

Spirulina side effects
Spirulina is known to be relatively safe even in high doses and without side effects. Research is somewhat scarce and some adverse effects could manifest depending on dosage, quality and personal biochemistry. Scientists say up to 50 grams spirulina per day could be safe, but the recommended dosage usually varies between 1 to 8 grams per day depending on quality. With Re-Vita LiquaHealth 2 servings per day usually is more than sufficient.
A 2006 study of mice shows that intake of spirulina can decrease bone mineral density under estrogen-deficient conditions (1). It is therefore plausible that Tavita Barbasco Plus, a natural and effective hormone balancing supplement with tens of thousands of users in Scandinavia, should be recommended to women over 40 years taking spirulina supplements. Combining Barbasco Plus with Liqua Health has resulted in many media published testimonials in Norway.
When starting with spirulina supplementation you might experience what is perceived as spirulina side effects due to natural processes spirulina may trigger, like detoxification of the body or the enzymatic and probiotic effects on the digestive system. Results can be experienced as passing “side effects”. These so called spirulina "side effects" are a healthy sign that spirulina is doing your organism good. However, if you are an insulin dependent diabetic or type 2 diabetic you should consider consulting your physician before taking spirulina. The same goes for anyone who might be predisposed to gout (also known as podagra or uric acid arthropathy).
High-quality spirulina is considered relatively safe and even recommended during pregnancy. Although animal studies are promising, no human research has looked into possible side effects during pregnancy, consulting your physician is always advisable.

(1) Ishimi Y et al, Effects of spirulina, a blue-green alga, on bone metabolism in ovariectomized rats and hindlimb-unloaded mice. Biosci Biotechnol Biochem. 2006 Feb;70(2):363-8.

Avoid side effects from spirulina
Look for well established and trusted brands that provide you with relevant information about production, quality and safety to avoid spirulina side effects. Keep in mind that you might experience some passing “side effects” from spirulina as it takes effect on your organism. A healthy detoxification process could be perceived as a “side effect”, but usually passes within two weeks.