Spirulina - Super Food

All about Spirulina. Spirulina as a human and animal food, spirulina as a medicine. Spirulina production and clutivation methods.

Monday, July 25, 2005

Spirulina from Cyanotech Co. Safe

Cyanotech Corporation Announces Results of Independent Laboratory Testing of Spirulina

by Suzi Fraser

Cyanotech Corporation recently announced the results of testing done at the Department of Biological Sciences at Wright State University (Dayton, Ohio), on Spirulina Pacifica confirming the absence of BMAA.

An article, "Diverse taxa of cyanobacteria produce b-N-methylamino-L-Alanine, a neurotoxic amino acid" by Cox et al., appeared in the April 2005 issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS 102:5074-5078). This study showed a potential toxin, BMAA, was found in diverse groups of cyanobacteria, which may have raised some concern over the safety of Spirulina, a product sold worldwide as a dietary supplement. On April 13, 2005, Cyanotech Corporation filed a Form 8-K with the Securities & Exchange Commission in response to a press release issued by Earthrise Nutritionals, LLC which cited such concern and mentioned Cyanotech.

Spirulina (Arthrospira) was not included among the 30 types of cyanobacteria tested and referenced in the article. Cyanotech, however, took the precautionary measure of submitting samples of its spirulina products for independent testing for BMAA. The Company first approached Dr. Paul Alan Cox, the primary researcher and co-author of the PNAS article, who did not respond to the request. The Company then enlisted the services of Professor Wayne W. Carmichael to test its Spirulina product. Professor Carmichael is a full Professor in the Department of Biological Sciences at Wright State University and a leading expert in the field of cyanobacterial toxins. On June 3, 2005, Professor Carmichael reported his findings confirming the absence of detection levels of the suspected neurotoxin BMAA in Cyanotech's Spirulina Pacifica.

"The results of the test confirm that our Spirulina contains no trace of BMAA and we are pleased to provide this reassurance to our customers of the integrity of our products," said Gerald R. Cysewski, Ph.D., Chairman, President and Chief Executive Officer. "One of the primary goals of Cyanotech is to offer microalgal products which provide high value to our customers and this affirmation of the absence of detectable BMAA in our Spirulina is further evidence of our commitment to quality and safety of our products."

Cyanotech Corporation, a world leader in microalgal technology, produces high-value natural products from microalgae and is the world's largest commercial producer of natural astaxanthin from microalgae. Products include BioAstin(R) natural astaxanthin, a powerful antioxidant with expanding applications as a human nutraceutical; NatuRose(R) natural astaxanthin for the aquaculture and animal feed industries; Spirulina Pacifica(R), a nutrient-rich dietary supplement; and phycobiliproteins, which are fluorescent pigments used in the immunological diagnostics market.

Spirulina - Supplement for Hungry Market

Parry Nutraceuticals [ http://www.parrynutraceuticals.com ] has been synonymous with the food supplement Spirulina for many years now. One does remember the numerous press advertisements, all in patent yellow predominantly, putting forth to the public the virtue of this algae. But did you know that Parry’s Spirulina is the result of twenty years of intensive research in micro-algal technology?

It started off as an initiative for providing nourishment for the under privileged village children and became a committed movement for ushering in better health, on a far larger scale. Scientific cultivation processes and stringent quality checks ensure that Parry’s Spirulina is the best available internationally. The rich green colour due to a far higher presence of Chlorophyll-A offers non-contestable proof. If you notice, Parry’s Spirulina is mild to taste and has a better odour.

The product meets all international food safety and quality guidelines like the USFDA, JHFA and European health food standards. Each batch is regularly analysed at the in-house labs. Parry’s Spirulina is also analysed in various international labs such as SGS at frequent intervals. The production facilities adhere to good manufacturing practices and has obtained the GMP / Sanitation certification from the Department of Health & Preventive Medicine. The production facility also has the critical PFA (Prevention of Food Adulteration) license.

Parry Nutraceuticals is part of the US$ one billion Murugappa Group and is one of the best sources of micro algal health supplements and other speciality products. Parry Nutraceuticals products include Micro Algal Products like Organic Spirulina, Natural Mixed Carotenoids and Astaxanthin apart from Natural Lutein Esters, Tea Extracts - Green / White and Other Speciality Offerings.

Source: www.prleap.com

Friday, July 22, 2005

Spirulina - Super Food of the Future

Imagine a food whose nutrient profile is more potent than any other plant, grain or herb. A food that is filled with antioxidants and nutrients that protect your immune system and that is free of harmful pesticides. A food you can carry with you anywhere in the world without worrying about refrigeration.

That food may already exist.

It is widely documented that certain forms of algae contain the highest known concentration of beta carotene, a powerful antioxidant that prevents molecular damage to your body Spirulina is 60 percent vegetable protein (which is easy to digest), and is rich in B-12, B complex vitamins, and iron. This form of algae also contains a substance called phycocyanin and long-chained sugars called polysacharrides, both known to stimulate the immune system and help us resist disease.

Spirulina offers an astonishing 20 times more protein than soybeans and 200 times more protein than beef. Of course, not everyone is convinced that blue-green algae is the nutritional savior some claim it is. David of the Center for Science in the Public Interest contends it's just a "mediocre vitamin pill." Others voice concern that certain species of algae (much like certain mushrooms) are toxic and that even non-toxic forms may soak up contaminants when grown in the wild. However, when supplements are farm-grown, neither should be a concern.

There's no doubt that algae and spirulina are popular nutritional supplements, and that many people do feel this plant gives them a powerful energy boost and heightens mental clarity. Spirulina is also a very useful source of packaged greens when one is travelling in foreign countries where fresh foods may not be safe or available, or if you are simply on the run and don't have time to sit down for your daily recommended helpings of veggies. You can still get your required dose of fiber, nutrients and antioxidants. Spirulina is available as chewable tablets or powder, and can be mixed with water or added to healthy blended shakes.

"Blue-green ALGAE is earth's first life FORM, 3.6 billion years old. It's SUNLIGHT transformed into LIFE."

Source: www.psychologytoday.com


Spirulina Effect on Cancer Prevention and Treatment

Nature can provide you with valuable weapons against cancer, but like all things, it's up to you to use them. Although the Japanese have known about and used spirulina for medicinal purposes for years, this form of microalgae is still not "mainstream" in American diets.

Spirulina natively grows in alkaline, warm-water lakes. Demand for this whole food has sparked the cultivation of spirulina for commercial use in specially designed algae farms. As a result of this new distribution, you can buy spirulina supplements in your local health food store. Western medicine is finally taking note of spirulina's anti-cancer benefits, and you owe it to yourself to do the same.

Potent cancer-fighting phytonutrients


Spirulina's blue-green color is more than a pretty facade; it is also the source of much of its cancer-prevention abilities. In Healing with Whole Foods, Paul Pitchford writes, "Important to note in the area of prevention, spirulina is richly supplied with the blue pigment phycocyanin, a biliprotein which has been shown to inhibit cancer-colony formation."

Like tree leaves, spirulina also obtains its color from chlorophyll. According to Alan Keith Tillotson's One Earth Herbal Sourcebook, the high levels of chlorophyll in spirulina may explain its ability to stop cancer colonies from forming. As Tillotson writes, "Foods and herbs that contain high levels of chlorophyll show pharmacological evidence of cancer prevention, perhaps because pigments in green vegetables (and algae) … bind with and thus stimulate excretion of cancer-causing chemicals." If cancer cells are stopped before they can form colonies, your body's naturally occurring cancer cells won't be able to run amok and develop into symptomatic cancer.

If you're not familiar with the link between cancer and immune system function, you may have been a little confused by the last point. You might be thinking, "Wait a minute. The reason why I don't have cancer cells in me is because I've never been diagnosed with cancer." The truth is, however, we all have cancer cells within us. Cancer cells develop within our bodies all the time, but our immune systems normally fight them before they develop into the disease we know as cancer. In other words, if you are diagnosed as "having cancer," that means only that your immune system didn't kill your body's naturally-occurring cancer cells the way it was designed to.

This immune system / cancer link explains why spirulina effectively prevents cancer. Spirulina is best known as an immune booster, and this property has medicinal implications far beyond cancer prevention. In A Natural Physician's Healing Therapies, Mark Stengler, ND, writes, "Spirulina stimulates natural killer cells and similar anti-immune components of the immune system that can help fight cancer cells." Furthermore, these spirulina-stimulated killer cells can fight illnesses other than cancer, ranging from the common cold to HIV.

Scientists have been exploring spirulina's ability to treat cancer, although most of the research in this area has been exclusively related to oral cancer. Animal studies repeatedly show that spirulina hinders the growth of oral cancer. Moreover, Indian scientists conducted the first human study of spirulina-based cancer treatment in 1995. "[These scientists] reported a complete regression of pre-cancerous mouth lesions in 45 percent of subjects who were given extracts of spirulina for 12 months," wrote Earl Mindell, RPh, PhD, in Earl Mindell's Secret Remedies.

Consider adding spirulina to your diet, especially if your current diet contains foods high in animal protein, such as meat and cheese. In Healing with Whole Foods, Paul Pitchford writes, "The special form of protein in spirulina benefits those with problems resulting from excessive animal protein, which does not assimilate well and further burdens the body with waste products." If you already have cancer, making a few diet modifications, such as adding spirulina and restricting meat and cheese, can make all the difference in your recovery, according to Patrick Quillin's Beating Cancer with Nutrition and Joseph B. Marion's Anti-Aging Manual. This difference can be the deciding factor between life and death.

Source: www.newstarget.com
Written by Dani Veracity

Spirulina's Effect on the Stroke Induced Brain Damage

A new study suggest that diets featuring spinach, spirulina, and blueberries may reduce ischemic stroke-induced brain damage, which occurs when the arteries are blocked by a blood clot, impeding the oxygen supply to the brain.

The study, conducted on rats by Paula Bickford and her colleagues at the University of South Florida, is published in the Journal of Experimental Neurology. Researchers found that those rats treated with a diet of blueberries or spinach had the stroke size reduced by 50 percent compared to untreated rats. Among those rats treated with spirulina, the reduction of stroke lesions was 75 percent. Antioxidants may counteract the free radicals burst that leads to brain cell death in ischemic strokes, the researchers believe.

Thursday, July 07, 2005

Spirulina Vs. Wild Blue Green Algae

Spirulina Is the Safe Blue-Green Algae
Many people have asked about the differences between Spirulina and wild blue-green algae harvested from lakes. Spirulina is one particular kind of blue-green algae with a centuries long history of safe human consumption. It is well known to be safe and nutritious. Hundreds of published scientific studies over the past thirty years have documented no toxicity.

Some Wild Blue-Green Algae Are Toxic
Blue-green algae is also called cyanobacteria. Wild species grow in lakes and waterways, consuming whatever nutrients are in the water. Some species of cyanobacteria are toxic just like mushrooms and some land plants. Most kinds of microcystis, anabaena and aphanizomenon flos-aquae are toxic. Wild blue-green algae has not been subject to Spirulina's long safety testing. Companies that harvest wild species of blue-green algae from natural lakes cannot have the same degree of control as growing Spirulina at Earthrise Nutritionals' farm. Harvesting wild algae presents a far greater risk of contamination by cyanobacterial toxins.

Spirulina Can Be Cultivated In a Controlled Environment
Spirulina can be cultivated in a monoculture, uncontaminated by other cyanobacteria. Farms can be specially designed and operated to produce Spirulina under controlled conditions that do not allow the growth of other contaminant cyanobacteria as in lakes and waterways. Finally, at Earthrise Nutritionals, 40 quality control tests assure Spirulina meets all international food safety and quality standards. It is already known to be safe and nutritious, and the technology and quality control at an advanced farm assures purity and safety.

Source: www.earthrise.com

Spirulina Smoothie Recepie

Lovely, tasty, spirulina super smoothie:

1 cup frozen berries
1 banana
2 cups of low fat soy milk
2 tbs spirulina powder

Combine all ingredients in a blender and mix until smooth.
Enjoy!

Spirulina as a Fish Food

A lot has been written about Spirulina as a food source for humans, but it seems it would also be a great food for animals, especially fish.

Preliminary studies indicated that channel catfish fed spirulina had an increase in the number of splenic macrophages determined by esterase staining compared to controls. Not only were more macrophages present in the spleen, but also the macrophages appeared activated. Activation determined by morphology on scanning electron microscopy, was characterized by the presence of numerous folds and ruffles. This research was performed on a single population of catfish over a period of months. While data suggests nonspecific immuno-stimulation elicited by spirulina in the diet, further study on different populations of fish is underway to confirm the preliminary data.

More recently, there has been new interest concerning the therapeutic effects of Spirulina as a "probiotic" or booster for the immune response system in animals and fish. Probiotic means "that which promotes life". The probiotics will help to prevent the infection from occurring in the first place. Recent studies have found that Spirulina algae functions as a probiotic, allowing the fishes own immune system to function at a higher level of activity. The idea of using probiotics for disease control is receiving greater attention lately due to ineffectiveness of the available antibiotics, and the publics growing interest over the use of probiotics or holistic type medications.

Benefits to using Spirulina Algae as a fish food comes from the increased and more uniform growth rates when fed at the recommended .5-2.0% inclusion rate. Spirulina improves the intestinal flora in fish by the breakdown of otherwise indigestible feed components, thereby extracting more nutrition from the feed. The same beneficial flora or bacteria produce vitamins and displace harmful which is why fish fed Spirulina have less intestinal compaction, a slimmer abdomen, and are more resistant to infection. Spirulina stimulates the production on enzymes that transport fats within the fish s body. The fish utilized the fat to power growth instead of just storing it and becoming flabby.

The 5 ppt carotenoid pigments that are concentrated in Spirulina algae improve and intensify the coloration in fish. This is especially important for koi and goldfish for commanding a higher price in the marketplace. Chlorophyll and phycocyanin also enhance the skin colors.

Studies in Japan on marine yellowtail showed that fingerlings fed a ration of 0.5% (5 ppt) spirulina resulted in a significant gain in survival over the non-Spirulina fed group. Similar results were obtained from professional Discus fish breeders whom incorporate Spirulina powder into the diet for newborn Discus fry.

Fish farmers have found that including Spirulina in the diet reduced the amount of medication or therapeutics that are normally required to treat sick fish. Spirulina also reduced toxicity of medications and may itself have anti-viral properties. Most disease treatments on the market are "water baths" in which the fish must absorb the drug from the aquarium water. Unfortunately, the treatment water is often discharged down the drain into our environment and waterways. Orally feeding your fish a diet containing Spirulina could effectively reduce or eliminate the need for bath treatments. Using Spirulina algae as a "prophylactic" treatment in place of antibiotics can effectively reduce wastewater pollutants, eliminating costly treatment systems and increases the effectiveness of existing systems.

Spirulinas cell wall is rich in muco-proteins that enhance the natural mucus layer of the fishes skin. This results in a shiny appearance, healthier fins are less app to tear, and improved resistance to skin infections. Spirulinas soft cell wall enables it to be easily digested.

Many fish, especially African Cichlids and Gold Fish, eat a lot of blue green algae and the wild. Blue green algae like Spirulina have a special protein called Phycocyanin not not found in another algae or terrestrial plants. Japanese scientists have linked Phycocyanin to improved kidney and liver function. The effects of Phycocyanin are the reasons that Japanese fish farmers make extensive use of Spirulina.

Their experience is that the fish grow less obese and have improved survival rates, superior growth and appearance over those not fed Spirulina. This, of course, means higher selling prices for them.
Spirulina and other micro-algae contain essential fatty acids that are essential for proper development and functioning of the internal organs. Without the proper fatty acids, many saltwater fish will not breed or survive.

Colorations in fish depend to a large degree upon the pigments that they get from their food. The most important pigments are of a class called carotenoids. These include beta-carotene and xanthophylls. Spirulina is the natural food highest in carotenoid pigments, some 20 times the amount found in carrots. Spirulina contains at least six forms of this pigment providing a "rainbow" of color possibilities. When feeding your fish a food containing Spirulina, you will see better colorations within a few weeks.

Spirulina flakes are available from several manufacturers and are a vitamin-rich, vegetable supplement for live bearers and plant eating tropical and marine fish. An excellent supplement for Goldfish too! Just be careful - too much Spirulina can be harmful.


Spirulina and the Immune System

Apparently spirulina has the ability to stimulate the immune system which could be beneficial in some individuals, and potentially harmful in those who already have an overactive immune system or an autoimmune condition. Therefore, spirulina is not advised to be taken regularly for those who have lupus, autoimmune thyroiditis, pemphigus vulgaris, and similar conditions.

Looking for all-in-one supplement to help you stay well?

Spirulina is the best recommended supplement that has the similar nutritional components if compared to a wholefood range product in the market. Most notably, spirulina is 65 to 71 per cent complete protein, with all essential amino acids in perfect balance. It is very nutritious and rich in betacarotene, the B vitamins, chelated minerals, gamma linolenic acid (GLA), enzymes, pigments (chlophyll, phycocyanin and xanthophyll) and micronutrients required for cell repair. It improves stamina and increases endurance to prevent one from feeling lethargic.

Both the antioxidant and the immune-enhancing effects of spirulina appear to have additional anticancer effects, possibly by releasing a chemical in the body that attacks tumour cells. It also reduces recovery time for those after surgery. Spirulina fits into practically any dietary plan because it is an extremely digestible, high-energy, low-calorie, low- fat natural food containing an incredibly wide range of important nutrients. The multi-minerals will also do a great job in providing you with all the needed minerals and vitamins. This is because it is an excellent one- a-day supplement to your daily diet. It contains betacarotene, the complete range of B vitamins, vitamins C, E, bioflavonoids plus major minerals such as zinc, iron, calcium and magnesium. It is beneficial to consume products that offer a wide range of anti- free radical nutrients that combines betacarotene, vitamins C, E and the mineral zinc. Garlic, a natural source of selenium, is sometimes added to ensure an adequate level of protection against degenerative disease.

FREE OnLine "Spirulina - Earth Food" Book by R.Henrikson

For over 20 years as President of Earthrise Company and Director of Earthrise Farms, Robert Henrikson pioneered spirulina algae as a world food. Henrikson joined Larry Switzer in 1977 to build the first U.S. spirulina farm. Robert became President in 1981. With foresight of future food and health trends, he established spirulina as a supplement and pioneered a new global industry. If you want to know more about spirulina and its benefits you can read the whole "Spirulina - Earth Food" book on line.

Earthrise Company markets health products and nutraceuticals under several popular trademarks in the USA and 30 countries. Earthrise Farms, located in the sunny California desert, is the world's largest spirulina farm, with a production capacity of over 500 tons a year. Spirulina yields more nutrition per acre than any other food, and requires less land, water and energy than conventional crops. A spirulina farm can produce food without pesticides or herbicides, and represents an ecological food production model our planet needs.

A prolific writer and spokesperson, he has authored numerous articles and newsletters and produced educational videotapes. He has appeared on radio and television interview and news shows and has presented seminars around the world on health trends, nutrition and sustainable agriculture. Henrikson has developed several websites about spirulina, its health benefits with an extensive scientific library online.

In 1989, he founded Ronore Enterprises Inc, to publish Earth Food Spirulina: How this remarkable blue-green algae can transform your health and our planet. The 4th edition was published in 1997. The 5th edition was published online in 1999. Earth Food Spirulina is considered the most complete and authoritative work on spirulina and has been translated and published in Spain (’94), China (’95), Slovenia (’96), Macedonia (’97), Italy (‘98), Taiwan ('99) and France ('02).

Spirulina Production

The main commercial large-scale culture of microalgae started in the early 1960s in Japan with the culture of Chlorella, followed by Spirulina in the early 1970s at Lake Texcoco, Mexico. The third major microalgae industry was established in Australia in 1986.

The first plant in USA (Earthrise Farms) for the exploitation of Spirulina, built in 1981 in California, emerged as the result of a research work on its culture by Dainippon Ink & Chemicals, Inc. of Japan and Proteus Corporation of California. Spirulina grows quickly and produces 20 times more protein by surface unit that soy beams (Henrikson, 1994). When comparing the growth of Spirulina and the agricultural crop cycles, the difference in the time of production is noticeable. In agriculture, the harvest is obtained after several months of cultivation, while Spirulina is produced continually.

Production process of Spirulina requires clonal or unialgal cultures (isolation of a single algal unit or trichome). The method begins with the determination of physical and chemical parameters of the water sample, which constitutes the main ingredient of the growth medium. The Spirulina samples should remain under dim light or in darkness and at 20-25°C; freezing temperature is not recommended because it favors lysis and death (Rippka, 1988). Isolation of the microorganism is carried out under an intensely lighted microscope and with a capillary pipette so that one and only one filament is selected by its morphological attributes (color, size of trichomes, length and apical filament characteristics). If axenic cultures, specific for physiologic and biochemical studies of algae, are wanted, special treatments such as: centrifugation followed by ultrasonic treatments with antibiotics and potassium tellurite are required (Hoshaw and Rosowski, 1979).

Cyanobacteria are grown in many liquid and solid culture media such as: BG11, ASM-1, Z8, SAG, BBM, AA, KMC, Kn Cg-10, D (Rippka, 1988) and Spirulina grows in culture media such as: Zarrouk, SSM (Sea Saltpeter Medium).

Zarrouk medium (Zarrouk, 1966; Borowitzka, 1992) is frequently used during the isolation process and the SSM medium is preferred in the industrial production stage (Ayala, 2000). Eight mayor medium factors influence the productivity of Spirulina: luminosity, temperature (30°C), inoculation size, stirring speed, dissolved solids, pH (8.5-10.5), water quality, macro and micronutrient presence, (C, N, P, K, S, Mg, Na, Cl, Ca and Fe, Zn, Cu, Ni, Co, W).

Spirulina production may be carried out in closed and open systems. The first one involves laboratory photo bioreactors. This is not used in industrial production. The open system, denominated raceway, due to its low production cost, easy handling and high production of biomass, is frequently chosen for industrial production. This method uses a pond with a central islet, a motor operating a paddle wheel which allows continuous displacement of the liquid culture in the peripheral channel.

Productive process has nine stages:

1. Filtration and Cleaning, a nylon filter at the entrance of the water pond is needed;
2. Pre-concentration,
to obtain algal biomass which is washed to reduce salts content;
3. Concentration,
to remove the highest possible amount of interstitial water (located among the filaments);
4. Neutralization,
to neutralize the biomass with the addition of acid solution;
5. Disintegration,
to break down trichomes by a grinder;
6. Dehydration
by spray-drying; this operation has great economic importance since it involves about 20-30% of the production cost.
7. Packing
is done in sealed plastic bags to avoid hygroscopic action on the dry Spirulina; and
8. Storage,
in corrugate cardboard boxes, and in fresh, dry, dim, pest-free, and clean storeroom, preventing Spirulina pigments from deteriorating.

9. Quality control for Spirulina as a food includes microbiological standard tests, chemical composition test, and test for heavy metals, pesticides and extraneous materials (insect fragments, rodent hair and feather fragments).

Spirulina Consumption Benefits

Studies have shown that Spirulina consumption during 4 weeks reduces serum cholesterol levels in human beings by 4.5% (Henrikson, 1994) and significantly reduces body weight by 1.4 +/- 0.4 Kg after four weeks. These reports indicated no changes in clinical parameters (blood pressure) or in biochemical variables (hematocrite, hemoglobin, white blood cells, sedimentation rate) and absence of adverse effects. The reduction of cholesterol is partly owed to the g-linolenic acid cyanobacteria high content.

The b-carotene is one of the most effective substances to counteract those free radicals that alter cells causing cancer. Studies at the Harvard University School of Dental Medicine found a reduction in mouth cancer when b-carotene extracts, obtained from Spirulina, are consumed. The b-carotene solution applied to oral cancer tumors in hamsters reduced the tumor number and size and in some cases these disappeared (Schwartz and Shklar, 1987). Spirulina extract induces the tumor necrosis factor in macrophages, suggesting a possible tumor destruction mechanism.

An extract of sulfated polysaccharides, called Calcium-Spirulan (Ca-SP), made up of rhamnose, ribose, mannose, fructose, galactose, xylose, glucose, glucuronic acid, galacturonic acid, and calcium sulfate, obtained from Spirulina, showed activity against HIV, Herpes Simplex Virus, Human Cytomegalovirus, Influenza A Virus, Mumps Virus and Measles Virus (Henrikson R, 1994). Current investigation in this field is searching for extracts that inhibit the AIDS virus replication (Ayehunie, et al., 1998) and allows these patients to improve their health.

Spirulina excretes variable quantities of products from its metabolism such as: organic acids, vitamins, and phytohormones. Cell extract of Spirulina maxima has shown antimicrobial activity against Bacillus subtillis, Streptococcus aureus, Saccharomyces cerevisiae, and Candida albicans. The presence of high quantities of acrylic acid in Spirulina was substantiated at the end of the seventies. This substance shows anti-microbial activity, in a 2 mg/L of biomass concentration. Propionic, benzoic and mandelic organic acids were also found.

Lactobacillus population in human gastrointestinal tract is increased by Spirulina consumption. This means: food digestion and absorption improvement, intestinal protection against bacterial infections and immune system stimulation (Henrikson, 1994; Schiffrin, 1997). Immune system modulation is due to interference on production and NK cytotoxicity.

Spirulina reduces: hepatic damage due to drug abuse and heavy metal exposure, inflammatory response, cells degeneration, anaphylactic reaction, Bitot’s spots, and Cesium-137 and Strontium-90 radiation in Chernobyl children (Henrikson, 1994).

Spirulina contains vitamin A, important in preventing eye diseases; iron and vitamin B12, useful in treating hypoferric anemia and pernicious anemia, respectively; g-linolenic acid, appropriate in treatment of atopic child eczema therapy; to alleviate premenstrual syndrome, and in immune system stimulation (Pascaud, 1993). Spirulina also has a positive effect on cardiac disease, Parkinson`s disease, malnutrition, sclerosis (Richmond A, 1992; Fox, 1993, Fox, 1998; Thein, 1993) and wounds cure (Richmond, 1992).

Other benefits are attributed to Spirulina: anti-arthritic effect due to the anti-inflammatory and antioxidative properties of phycocyanin (Ramirez,2002); anti-atherogenic property (Kaji.,2002), tumor burden inhibition (Dasgupta, 2001); chemo protective and radio-protective effect (Zhang.,2001); and antioxidant activity on lead-induced toxicity in rats (Upasani, 2001).

In Mexico, Spirulina is used in to enrich candies. In Australia and New Zealand beverages of this substance are marketed. In Japan, India, and Singapore Spirulina-enriched appetizers are sold specially to pregnant women, children and elderly. Spirulina is not only food, but also a natural coloring in Japanese chewing gums. Countries like Chile, France, Cuba, Germany, Switzerland, Spain, Portugal, Sweden, Holland, Belgium, Denmark, United Kingdom, Australia, and New Zealand market food complements, which include Spirulina as the main component. Internationally, skin care products, shampoos, dyes, masks, creams and tonics containing this microorganism are marketed. In Sweden low calorie bread enriched with Spirulina is sold, and in France a vegetable pâté, made of Spirulina, is sold as bread spread (Henrikson, 1994).

Many agricultural and industrial materials are being prepared from cyanobacteria. These include: biomass, restriction nucleases, antifungal, antineoplastic, antimicrobial, anti-leukemia and herbicidal compounds. Some pigments have been produced from cyanobacteria. Other products from microalgae are: amino acids, and fertilizers.

Spirulina has been studied as an animal cell-growth stimulant (Kerby and Rowell, 1992) and in the treatment of residual waters using alginate. Phycocyanin shows activity on vegetable cell cultures with production of secondary metabolites as anthocyanin. This pigment has the ability to inhibit oxidative damage in DNA and hence it may be used as a therapeutic agent (Bhat., 2001).

Spirulina is used in Japan and Taiwan as aquarium fish food, in United States to enhance color, speed the growth and sexual maturation of canaries and exotic birds (Saxena, et al., 1983). Cattle and horse breeders affirm that when adding Spirulina to silage, the quantity of sperms in males and the fertility in females are increased (Henrikson, 1994). Labeo rohita (rohu), an Indian carp, showed greater growth after being fed with Spirulina. In chickens, Spirulina increases the mononuclear phagocyte system function thereby enhancing their disease resistance.

Spirulina Chemical Composition

Since 1970, Spirulina has been analyzed chemically. It has been shown to be an excellent source of proteins, vitamins and minerals (Switzer, 1980).

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%), (Cohen, 1997). 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 an gelation factors of Spirulina protei(Chronakis, 2001).

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 (Henrikson R., 1994).Spirulina is a very rich source in vitamin B1, and that is a reason why these cyanobacteria is of great value for people needing supplements in the treatment of pernicious anemia (Richmond, 1992; Becker, 1984; Belay, 1997).

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 (Cohen, 1997).

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 (Richmond, 1992). 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 (Pugh, et al., 2001).

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 (Toyomizu, et al., 2001).

History of Spirulina in Human Consumption

It is not known with accuracy when man began to use microalgae. The current use of these resources has three precedents: tradition, scientific and technological development, and the so-called, “green tendency” (Henrikson, 1994).

Bernal Díaz del Castillo, a member of Hernán Cortez´s troops, reported in 1521, that Spirulina was harvested from the Lake Texcoco, dried and sold for human consumption in a Tenochtitlán (today Mexico City) market. This author makes reference to "..small cakes made of a mud-like algae, which has a cheese-like flavor, and that natives took out of the lake to make bread,..." (Ciferri, 1983).

Years later, the Franciscan friar Bernardino de Sahagún wrote: “... in certain periods of the year, very soft things are gathered from Mexican lakes. They look like curdles, have a clear blue color, and are used to make bread, that then eaten cooked...” Natives gave this food the name of Tecuitlalt, which in their language literally means “excrements of stones”. In 1524, friar Toribio of Benavente related that the Aztecs harvested the Tecuitlalt, using clothes for pressing and the resulting dough was placed on sand and exposed to the sunshine for its drying. Once Spanish Conquest was over, the topic of the Tecuitlalt was not mentioned again, and its elaboration fell into oblivion, possibly due to contagious disease outbreaks, attributed to the new customs adopted by the Indians, new foods, and the deep social, political and religious changes brought by the Europeans.

In 1940, the French phycologist P. Dangeard mentioned a cake called dihé, consumed by the people of the Kanembu tribe, near the African Lake Chad, in the sub-desert area of Kanem. Dihé is a hardened cake of blue-green algae, collected at the banks of small ponds surrounding the lake and later on sun-dried. Dangeard studied the dihé samples and concluded that it was a purée of a spring form blue algae, main constituent of the phytoplankton in a large number of the African Valley’s lakes (Ciferri, 1983). Between 1964 and 1965, the botanist Jean Leonard (Leonard, 1966), who participated in the Belgian Trans-Saharan Expedition, was impacted when he observed "a curious bluish green substance, similar to cookies…" Leonard confirmed that dihé was made up of Spirulina, obtained from alkaline lakes in the Kanem desert, northeast of Lake Chad.

At that time, a group of French investigators studied some samples of Spirulina (S. maxima) that grew abundantly in Lake Texcoco, near Mexico City (Ciferri, 1983; Richmond, 1992). From the scientific point of view, the microalgae cultivation began in 1919 with Warburg’s investigations. This scientist was well known for his works on dense suspensions of Chlorella, as a tool to study photosynthesis. The easy manipulation under controlled conditions and the experimental reproducibility made the microalgae favorite organisms for biochemical, vegetable physiology and photosynthetic studies.

In 1950, the United States and Japan began the experimental cultivations of this microorganism to investigate its chemical composition and industrial applications. Japan was the first country to produce Chlorella using this microorganism as diet food or a water-soluble extract, denominated Chlorella Growth Factor (Devlin, 1975). From 1970, the nutritional and medicinal studies on Spirulina have proliferated. In 1970, the German Federal Republic supported investigations on human consumption of Spirulina in India, Thailand and Peru. In the Asian countries, the production was focused on nutritious support for the undernourished population; in Peru, efforts have been made to industrialize the production of Scenedesmus.

In 1970, the massive production of microalgae, which could be used in protein production and in water treatment, was projected . Spirulina is marketed and consumed in: Germany, Brazil, Chile, Spain, France, Canada, Belgium, Egypt, United States, Ireland, Argentina, Philippines, India, New Zealand, Africa, and other countries, where public administration, sanitary organisms and associations have approved human consumption.

Sunday, July 03, 2005

What is Spirulina?

Spirulina is a photosynthetic, filamentous, spiral-shaped, multicellular and green-blue microalga. The two most important species of which are Spirulina maxima and Spirulina platensis.

Before Columbus, Mexicans (Aztecs) exploited this microorganism as human food; presently, African tribes (Kanembu) use it for the same purpose. Its chemical composition includes proteins (55%-70%), carbohydrates (15%-25%), essential fatty acids (18%) vitamins, minerals and pigments like carotenes, chlorophyll and phycocyanin. The last one is used in food and cosmetic industries.

Spirulina is considered as an excellent food, lacking toxicity and having corrective properties against viral attacks, anemia, tumor growth and malnutrition. It has been reported in literature that the use of these microalgae as animal food supplement implies enhancement of the yellow coloration of skin and eggs yolk in poultry, growth acceleration, sexual maturation and increase of fertility in cattle.