Joe & Anne Lewis
lewis at lava.net
Sun Oct 12 12:01:08 PDT 1997
I recently saw this information about Spirulina on the Wellness Web page, I
copied it and attached it here.
SPIRULINA, CHLORELLA, AND BLUE GREEN ALGAE
1) Overview--The Hype and the Facts
2) Nutrients in Algae
3) Potential Benefits in Athletics, Pregnancy and Early Childhood
4) Algae as a Diet Food
Algaes such as spirulina, blue green algae and chlorella are aquatic plants
which have no roots, leaves, seeds, or flowers, have been in existence for
more than 2 billion years, and on a pound for pound basis have a higher
percentage of protein than and Vitamin B complex than plants. Organizations
such as the Center for Aerospace Information study algaes for their
potential benefits as components of biological life-support systems, but
its advocates sometimes refer to it as a miracle food and make other
extravagant claims that detract from the
possibility that it may have some use in the human diet."
An article in the National Council Against Health Fraud (NCAHF) website
quotes a health food store's literature as saying chlorella "is a 'God'
food", that algae can "rid the body of excess toxins," make "foot odor ...
a thing of the past", reduce the desire for alcohol experienced by
alcoholics, benefit diabetics by enhancing the immune system, affect "body
pH balance," promote "excess fluid release [and] blood sugar
normalization," regulate the menstrual cycle for women, and "contains
growth factor for children," all without any side effects. The author says,
"The product itself is likely harmless, but the claims made are clearly
outrageous and unsupported by scientific evidence, and what's more, the
little green pills smell and taste like grass clippings."
Consumers should be aware that food supplements are not well regulated and
there is no guarantee of their efficacy, much less their safety. As long as
no claims are made that a product is therapeutic or curative, manufacturers
are left pretty much alone.
In an article titled, "Is Blue Green Algae Good For the Brain?", author
Suzanne Rostler wrote, "Its fans call it 'brain food,' claiming it has
powers to boost energy, stimulate the immune system, heighten mental
clarity and increase sexual stamina. Its detractors say it is nothing more
than pricey pond scum and the latest bit of nutrition quackery. Eating it
can cause nausea and vomiting. Some strains have been found to cause
paralysis in laboratory animals."
The human body has evolved over thousands of years to recognized and absorb
nutrients from natural, organic food. Humans and animals cannot derive
nutrients directly from the soil. Soil must first be processed by plants.
In their natural cycles, plants extract minerals from soil via the sun's
stimulation of photosynthesis. Through photosynthesis, plants create
acids, enzymes and other food components. Algae has a deep green-blue color
from pigments such as chlorophyll (green), phycocyanin (blue) and
carotenoids (orange). These pigments are composed in part of phytochemicals
that harvest the sun's energy and protect plants from the sun's radiation.
Algaes were used for centuries by ancient cultures such as the Aztecs,
contain several dozen nutrients, and are considered by some food experts as
one of the most complete foods known. (An acre of spirulina can produce
about twenty times more protein than an acre of soybeans or corn and 200
times more than beef, of which 95% is digestible and assimilated versus
about 20% for beef.)
However, most information about the effects of algae is anecdotal, and even
studies show positive results, they may be the result of a placebo effect.
It's also doubtful that many people will find algae palatable enough to eat
in quantities that could bestow therapeutic qualities.
Harvard and other research centers are studying algae to determine its
effect on the immune system. The immune system is composed of the thymus,
spleen, lymph nodes, bone marrow, gastrointestinal tract, and other
components that neutralize or remove foreign substances from our systems.
An immune response to foreign invaders triggers various white blood cells
to secrete antibodies known as immunoglobins to destroy toxins such as
environmental pollution, viruses,
infections, pollen and bacteria. One of the nutirents in algaes is
phycocyanin, a blue pigment structurally similar to beta carotene, which is
thought to enhance the action of the immune system, and act as a natural
cleanser to help protect the body from degenerative diseases. Another is
gamma linolenic acid (GLA), found in the seeds of a few flowers, and human
GLA stimulates the production of prostaglandins which regulate growth and
function of the heart, blood and busculature. Research has shown that cells
deficient in GLA are fragile and subject to a variety of degenerative
Nutrients in Algae
The most beneficial supplements are generally the most natural ones. As is
implied when the body sometimes rejects them through nausea if they are
taken on an empty stomach, typical vitamin and mineral pill combinations
often aren't recognized by the body as food. Algaes are a natural food
source of nutrients that the body can absorb and use immediately. The
minerals in algae are bonded--chelated--to the amino acids making them more
bioavailable and easier for the body to fully use. They are about 65%
protein, containing all 8 essential amino acids and 10 non-essential amino
acids. By comparison, protein in eggs is 45%, brewer's yeast 45%, soybeans
40%, dried skim milk 35%, and beef 17%. However, protein is a
"macronutrient" and algaes (nicknamed "pond scum" by detractors) can be
difficult for many people to accept on a taste test basis and are generally
taken in small servings, so they are probably better thought of as a source
of sometimes hard to get micronutrients such as trace minerals than as a
serious source of protein.
Algaes are also a source of antioxidants, substances such as Vitamins C, B
complex, and E that counter damaging free radicals. They contain the
minerals manganese and copper, the trace element selenium, and
sulfo-glycolipids and polysaccharides, "nutriceuticals" that are gathering
increasing interest in the treatment of various diseases, including some
cancers. Gram for gram, algaes are richer in calcium than virtually any
other food. (Keep in mind that algaes are
supplements to other foods, not a replacement. It is likely that one would
eat much smaller portions than the average serving of other foods.)
Algaes are a source of zinc which is an essential co-factor in more than
100 enzymes, and an essential mineral in antioxidant enzyme reactions. Most
people get only about half of the daily requirement of zinc in their diet,
and a deficiency of zinc increase ones susceptibility to infections and
eventually leads to low levels of blood immunoglobins. Zinc is also
important for a healthy
prostate. Whether algaes are the most useful source to supplement zinc is
Algaes have as much as 58 times the concentration of iron as raw spinach
and 28 times that of beef liver. Iron deficiency has been linked to a wide
variety of defects in immune response functions. Iron supplements are often
formulated from inorganic rock or metallic sources and poorly absorbed by
the body. They can cause side effects such as stomach ache, heartburn,
nausea, vomiting, diarrhea and constipation. Although the iron in algae is
non-toxic, some people experience mild reactions in the early stages of
Spirulina in Athletics, Pregnancy and Early Childhood
Algae for Athletes
We're often told that we can get all the nutrients we need from a "well
balanced diet". Tell that to a world-class athlete. Even sedentary people
can have a hard time getting all the nutrients they need from the average
diet. Muscles depend on a vast series of electrochemical interactions.
Athletes put considerable stress on their muscle fibers which they (often
violently) contract to produce movement. When they are in training and
developing larger and stronger, at the point where they are making no
further gains in performance, they have reached a limit known as "adaptive
response" and further progress in speed or strength is halted. The adaptive
response, or level of functional output, is directly related to the
metabolism or energy production within the cells. To make further gains,
better metabolism is required. This requires high quality nutrition. Each
minute, three hundred million or more cells in our bodies wear out and die.
Most of them are immediately replaced by division of the remaining cells.
Athletic activity speeds cell destruction and the increases the need for
nutrients. Algae is used by some athletes as a source of quick energy.
Algae stores its energy directly as glycogen. Most proteins and
carbohydrates are not quick energy foods because they have to be converted
to glycogen and can be difficult to digest--in fact they take quite a bit
of energy to
Algae in Pregnancy and Early Childhood
In mothers, fetuses, infants, and during early childhood nutrient
deficiencies are especially serious. Rapid growth of children requires
plenty of protein, vitamins, and minerals. Deficiencies can cause
potentially permanent damage. Pregnant and nursing woman are advised to
increase protein by as much as 70%, but to increase calorie intake by no
more than 15%. An increase in the Vitamin B complex is often suggested
during pregnancy. Algae has a low calorie to protein profile and high
concentration of B vitamins which make it a potentially useful
supplement during pregnancy.
Algae As An Appetite Suppressant
Some people in the U.S. are using algae to help suppress their appetites.
Algae contains the amino acid phenylalanine, which is thought to act
directly on the appetite center of the brain. But research and outcomes
about the effectiveness of algae in weight loss is sparse. The best way to
lose weight is to eat less and exercise more. There are no magic potions.
We suggest that if algae
is used as a diet supplement, one should also add plenty of appetite
suppressing bulk, primarily from fiber rich fruits and vegetables.
Sales of algae products are soaring. Distributors of Cell Tech's Super Blue
Green Algae have grown from 7,000 in 1985 to about 350,000 in 1995. Marta
Kollman, president of Cell Tech, says, "Let's face it: we don't eat
correctly so we are missing some basic nutrients. The human body is an
amazing thing if you feed it the right stuff." True, but it doesn't
necessarily follow that the answer is in taking algae supplements. A
balanced diet can provide "missing nutrients", probably cheaper and
certainly with a better taste.
If you decide to take an algae supplement, we recommend a product from the
Revita Company called Liqua Spirulina, a liquid product sweetened with
fructose to add to palatibility, and with increased bioavailablity because
liquid nutrients are more absorbable by the body. As a snack drink mixed
with water or (skim) milk, cereal, herbal tea, or as some of us usually eat
it--straight--a packet of Liqua Spirulina contains about 50 calories per
serving and adds more nutrients but fewer calories than other snacks.
Liqua Spirulina is made with deionized water, natural flavors and colors,
gum arabic, and less than 1/10 of 1% potassium sorbate and sodium benzoate
as preservatives. Re-Vita uses a pure grade of spirulina grown in
pollution-free solar ponds in the California desert. No pesticides,
herbicides, or chemical additives are used in its growing, harvesting or
packaging process. Each
lot is checked with a battery of quality control tests.
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