The blue-green algae may help lower cholesterol
Spirulina is a type of blue-green algae that is rich in nutrients, including B vitamins, beta carotene, and vitamin E. It is cultivated for use both as a dietary supplement and as a whole food. Spirulina is a good source of vegan protein and is thought to have other health benefits, some of which have been proven and others that have not.
This article takes a closer look at the evidence supporting the use of spirulina as a dietary supplement and whether it delivers on its health claims.
What Is Spirulina Used For?
Beyond its nutritional value, spirulina is used in complementary and alternative medicine to treat a number of health conditions. Spirulina contains certain compounds that may benefit your overall health, including antioxidants, minerals, chlorophyll, and phycocyanin (the pigment which gives the algae its blue color).
These and other compounds are believed by some to prevent or treat a variety of medical conditions, including:1
- Hyperlipidemia (high cholesterol ad triglycerides)
- Viral infections
- Certain cancers
To date, there are few studies that strongly support these claims. With that said, there is some evidence of spirulina’s health benefits.
Spirulina shows some promise in treating high cholesterol and high triglycerides, according to a study in the Annals of Nutrition and Metabolism.
For this study, 78 healthy older adults were given either a spirulina supplement or an inactive placebo. After four months, the adults given spirulina had greater reductions in cholesterol than those given the placebo.2
The researchers believe that antioxidants found in spirulina, including phycocyanin, were responsible for this effect.
Spirulina may help relieve symptoms of allergic rhinitis (hay fever), according to a small study conducted at Eskisehir Osmangazi University in Turkey. When compared to participants who were given a placebo, those given spirulina were reported to have greater relief of sneezing, stuffy nose, nasal discharge, and itching.3
Even so, the researchers were unable to say how spirulina was able to relieve these hay fever symptoms.
A small study published in Nutrition Research and Practice found that spirulina may improve insulin sensitivity and lower total cholesterol levels in people with type 2 diabetes.
After taking a daily spirulina supplement for 12 weeks, 37 adults with diabetes not only had improved glucose (blood sugar) control but also saw reductions in their cholesterol, triglycerides, and blood pressure.4