Blue-green algae, also known as cyan bacteria, are microscopic organisms that grow in both fresh and salt water. They are among the oldest life forms on Earth and have been used as a food source for centuries by various cultures.
Today, blue-green algae are widely consumed as dietary supplements, especially spirulina and chlorella, which are the most popular and researched types.
But what makes blue-green algae so beneficial for your health? In this article, we will explore 6 surprising health benefits of blue-green algae and how to use them safely and effectively.
Table of Contents
1. Rich in Nutrients
One of the main reasons why blue-green algae are considered a superfood is their impressive nutrient profile. They are rich in protein, vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and essential fatty acids that your body needs for optimal functioning.
For example, just two tablespoons of spirulina powder contain over 40% of your recommended daily intake of copper and more than 20% of your iron intake. That same amount of spirulina also provides 30% of your riboflavin intake, 22% of your thiamine intake, and almost 10% of your niacin intake.
Spirulina also contains magnesium, potassium, manganese, zinc and selenium.
Blue-green algae are also a great source of protein, especially for vegetarians and vegans. Spirulina has about 60% protein by weight, while chlorella has about 50%.
Additionally, blue-green algae contain omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids, which are important for your brain, heart and skin health. Spirulina has a ratio of about 1.5:1 of omega-6 to omega-3, while chlorella has a ratio of about 2:12.
2. Powerful Antioxidant and Anti-Inflammatory Properties
Another reason why blue-green algae are good for your health is their ability to fight oxidative stress and inflammation in your body. It can damage your DNA, proteins and lipids, leading to chronic diseases such as cancer, diabetes and heart disease.
Blue-green algae are a fantastic source of antioxidants, which can neutralize free radicals and protect your cells from damage. Phycocyanin can scavenge various types of free radicals and block the production of molecules that promote inflammation.
Studies have shown that phycocyanin can reduce oxidative stress and inflammation in various tissues and organs, such as the liver, kidneys, brain, heart and blood vessels. It can also modulate the immune system and enhance its response to infections.
3. May Lower Cholesterol and Triglyceride Levels
Many risk factors are linked to an increased risk of heart disease, such as high cholesterol, high triglycerides, high blood pressure and diabetes. Fortunately, blue-green algae may help lower some of these risk factors and improve your heart health.
Several studies have shown that spirulina can lower total cholesterol, LDL (bad) cholesterol and triglycerides in people with high levels of these lipids. It can also increase HDL (good) cholesterol, which protects your arteries from plaque buildup.
The mechanism behind these effects is not fully understood, but it may involve the antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties of phycocyanin, as well as the modulation of lipid metabolism by spirulina’s protein and fatty acids.
One study found that taking 1 gram of spirulina per day for three months reduced total cholesterol by 8.9%, LDL cholesterol by 15.1%, triglycerides by 16.3% and increased HDL cholesterol by 4.5% in people with high cholesterol.
Another study found that taking 4.5 grams of spirulina per day for six weeks reduced total cholesterol by 11%, LDL cholesterol by 16%, triglycerides by 17% and increased HDL cholesterol by 4% in people with type 2 diabetes.
4. May Lower Blood Pressure
One of the ways that blue-green algae can lower blood pressure is by increasing the production of nitric oxide (NO), a molecule that dilates your blood vessels and lowers their resistance. Phycocyanin can stimulate the enzyme that produces NO in your endothelial cells (the cells that line your blood vessels).
Another way that blue-green algae can lower blood pressure is by reducing oxidative stress and inflammation in your vascular system. Oxidative stress and inflammation can impair the function of your endothelial cells and reduce their ability to produce NO. By scavenging free radicals and inhibiting inflammatory molecules, phycocyanin can protect your endothelial cells from damage and restore their NO production.
One study found that taking 4.5 grams of spirulina per day for six weeks reduced systolic blood pressure (the top number) by 8 mmHg and diastolic blood pressure (the bottom number) by 6 mmHg in people with type 2 diabetes.
Another study found that taking 2 grams of spirulina per day for three months reduced systolic blood pressure by 9 mmHg in people with high blood pressure.
5. May Improve Blood Sugar Control
Diabetes can lead to serious complications such as nerve damage, kidney failure, blindness and heart disease if not managed properly.
Blue-green algae may help improve blood sugar control in people with diabetes or prediabetes by enhancing insulin sensitivity and glucose uptake.
Insulin is a hormone that allows glucose to enter your cells for energy or storage. When you have low insulin sensitivity or insulin resistance, your cells do not respond well to insulin and glucose accumulates in your blood instead.
Blue-green algae may improve insulin sensitivity by activating a protein called AMP-activated protein kinase (AMPK), which regulates glucose metabolism in your cells. AMPK can increase glucose uptake by stimulating the transporters that carry glucose across the cell membrane.
It can also reduce glucose production by inhibiting the enzymes that make glucose from other sources (such as amino acids or fats).
Several studies have shown that spirulina can lower fasting blood sugar levels, postprandial (after-meal) blood sugar levels and hemoglobin A1c (HbA1c) levels in people with type 2 diabetes or prediabetes. HbA1c is a measure of average blood sugar levels over three months.
One study found that taking 2 grams of spirulina per day for two months reduced fasting blood sugar levels by 23%, postprandial blood sugar levels by 28% and HbA1c levels by 9% in people with type 2 diabetes.
Another study found that taking one gram of spirulina per day for two months reduced fasting blood sugar levels by 19%, postprandial blood sugar levels by 25% and HbA1c levels by 8% in people with prediabetes.
6. May Support Weight Loss
Obesity is a global health problem that increases the risk of many chronic diseases such as diabetes, heart disease and cancer. Losing weight can be challenging for many people due to various factors such as genetics, lifestyle habits. Blue-green algae also help to reduce your weight gain problem if you use consistently.
Important Note: You should also consult your healthcare provider before taking blue-green algae products if you have any medical conditions or allergies, or if you are pregnant, breastfeeding, or taking any medications. Some blue-green algae products may interact with certain drugs or supplements, or may worsen some health problems.