Algae News You Can Use

May 16, 2012 Written by JP    [Font too small?]

The notion of sprinkling algae into a protein shake or spreading it on toast probably seems foreign or just plain bizarre to most people. But, fortunately, many fresh and sea water dwellers have no problem using algae as an essential food source. And, in a roundabout way, humans end up deriving some of the benefits of algae by consuming the fish that feast on it.

Some of most common algae used in dietary supplements are: Chlorella vulgaris, Haematococcus pluvialis, Schizochytrium sp and Spirulina platensis. Chlorella and spirulina are generally sold in encapsulated or powdered forms that are characterized by a deep, blue-greenish hue. In contrast, Haematococcus and Schizochytrium don’t bear much resemblance to algae at all. In a supplemental form, the latter two are mostly presented in oil-filled soft gels that contain valuable antioxidants (astaxanthin) and fatty acids (DHA).

With so many supplements on the market, you may wonder why you should care about yet another class of nutraceuticals. The answer to this question can be found in several recent studies. If you or someone you know has hepatitis C, using spirulina was recently shown to improve liver function and decrease viral load more effectively than milk thistle, a popular hepatoprotective herb. Astaxanthin, a carotenoid contained in Haematococcus, benefited skin condition (moisture content, sebum level and wrinkle appearance) when taken orally (6 mg/day) and applied topically. A daily dose of 6 grams of chlorella tablets may improve immune function and protect against infections by increasing the level of secretory immunoglobulin A. Finally, an omega 3 extract from Schizochytrium demonstrated a positive effect on lipoprotein distribution in a group of obese and overweight adults at risk for heart disease. Specifically, the DHA rich algae oil increased concentrations of healthy lipids, including HDL cholesterol, and reduced the amount of small LDL cholesterol and total triglycerides. This is especially good news for those with seafood allergies and vegetarians who choose not to consume fish and krill oil.

As with virtually every other supplement class on the market, not all studies analyzing algae turn up positive results. A publication appearing in the January 2012 issue of Maturitas failed to demonstrate additive benefits when combining algae-DHA with calcium and Vitamin D in women with osteopenia. Simply put, those receiving calcium and Vitamin D alone saw the same improvements in bone structure as those taking the nutrients plus 400 mg/day of DHA derived from algae. While disappointing, it’s important to identify the true potential of all supplements. In this case, algae oil didn’t provide additional support in relation to bone health. However, this let down may point researchers in a different direction that could yield more positive results in the foreseeable future.

Note: Please check out the “Comments & Updates” section of this blog – at the bottom of the page. You can find the latest research about this topic there!

To learn more about the studies referenced in today’s column, please click on the following links:

Study 1 – Spirulina Platensis Versus Silymarin in the Treatment of Chronic (link)

Study 2 – Cosmetic Benefits of Astaxanthin on Humans Subjects (link)

Study 3 – Salivary Secretory Immunoglobulin a Secretion Increases After (link)

Study 4 – Algal Docosahexaenoic Acid Affects Plasma Lipoprotein Particle(link)

Study 5 – Efficacy and Tolerability of Calcium, Vitamin D and a Plant-Based (link)

Chlorella Increases Mucosal Immunity

Source: Nutr J. 2011 Sep 9;10:91. (link)

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Posted in Bone and Joint Health, Heart Health, Nutritional Supplements

9 Comments & Updates to “Algae News You Can Use”

  1. Rob Says:

    Ive used spirulina sparingly, mostly in post-workout shakes, use it due to it suppossed protein/amino acid profile/

    Its touted as a superfood and some claim it do miracles but I think alot of it is hogwash.

  2. JP Says:

    Chlorella Update:

    Nutr J. 2014 Jun 11;13(1):57. [Epub ahead of print]

    Impact of daily Chlorella consumption on serum lipid and carotenoid profiles in mildly hypercholesterolemic adults: a double-blinded, randomized, placebo-controlled study.

    Ryu NH, Lim Y, Park JE, Kim J, Kim JY, Kwon SW, Kwon O.


    High level of serum cholesterol is considered to be a major risk factor for cardiovascular disease (CVD). A double-blinded, randomized, placebo-controlled trial was performed to test the hypothesis that a daily intake of Chlorella may improve serum lipid profile through enhancement of serum carotenoid concentration in mildly hypercholesterolemic subjects.


    Eligible subjects (n = 63) were randomized to either Chlorella (5 g/day) or placebo for a double-blinded trial with a 2-week lead-in period and a 4-week intervention period. Serum triglycerides, total cholesterol, lipoproteins, apolipoproteins and carotenoids were assessed at the beginning and the end of the trial.


    Compared with the control group, the Chlorella group exhibited remarkable changes in total cholesterol (Chlorella -1.6%; placebo 0.03%; P = 0.036), triglycerides (Chlorella -10.3%; placebo 11.9%; P = 0.002), lutein/zeaxanthin (Chlorella 89.6%; placebo -1.7%; P < 0.0001), and alpha-carotene (Chlorella 163.6%; placebo 15%; P < 0.0001). Improvement of serum lipids was supported by significant reductions of very low-density lipoprotein cholesterol (Chlorella -11%; placebo 11.8%; P = 0.006), apolipoprotein B (Chlorella -1.5%; placebo 1.7%; P = 0.044), non high-density lipoprotein (Chlorella -2.6%; placebo -0.5%; P = 0.032), and high-density lipoprotein/triglycerides (Chlorella 4.0%; placebo -9.5%; P = 0.023), suggesting an inhibitory effect of Chlorella on the intestinal absorption of dietary and endogenous lipids. Further, the changes of serum lipids appeared to be associated with the changes of serum carotenoids. CONCLUSION: Daily consumption of Chlorella supplements provided the potential of health benefits reducing serum lipid risk factors, mainly triglycerides and total cholesterol, in mildly hypercholesterolemic subjects. The effect was related to carotenoid consumption. Be well! JP

  3. JP Says:

    Chlorella aids those with fatty liver disease:

    Health Promot Perspect. 2014 Jul 12;4(1):107-15. doi: 10.5681/hpp.2014.014. eCollection 2014.

    The Effect of Chlorella vulgaris Supplementation on Liver En-zymes, Serum Glucose and Lipid Profile in Patients with Non-Alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease.

    Ebrahimi-Mameghani M1, Aliashrafi S2, Javadzadeh Y3, AsghariJafarabadi M4.


    Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) is becoming a public health problem worldwide and using microalgae is a new approach on its treatment. The aim of this study was to investigate the effect of Chlorella vulgaris supplementation on liver enzymes, serum glucose and lipid profile in patients with NAFLD.


    This double-blind randomized placebo-controlled clinical trial was conducted on 60 NAFLD patients from specialized clinics of Tabriz University of Medical Sciences from December 2011 to July 2012. The subjects were randomly allocated into 2 groups: 1) “intervention” (n=30) received 400 mg/day vitamin E plus four 300 mg tablets of Chlorella vulgaris and, 2) “placebo” (n=30) received 400 mg/day vitamin E and four placebo tablets per day for 8 weeks. Weight, liver enzymes and metabolic factors were assessed in fasting serum and dietary data was collected at baseline and end of the study.


    Weight, liver enzymes, fasting blood sugar (FBS) and lipid profile decreased significantly in both groups (P<0.05). The differences in weight, ALP and FBS between the two groups were statistically significant (P=0.01, P=0.04 and P=0.02, respectively).


    C. vulgaris seems to improve FBS and lipid profile and therefore could be considered as an effective complementary treatment in NAFLD.

    Be well!


  4. JP Says:

    Updated 07/25/15:

    Nutr J. 2015 Jul 21;14(1):70.

    Impact of daily supplementation of Spirulina platensis on the immune system of naïve HIV-1 patients in Cameroon: a 12-months single blind, randomized, multicenter trial.

    BACKGROUND: Micronutrient deficiencies occur early in Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) infections they have reverse effects on the nutritional status. The diet supplementation with a natural nutraceutical rich in proteins and micronutrient like Spirulina platensis, may be effective and efficient in delaying HIV disease progression by frequently reported improvement in immune response.

    METHODS: A prospective single-blind, randomized, multicenter study conducted on 320 HIV-1 ARV-naïve participants for 12 months. Participants received either S. platensis supplementation and standard care or standard care and local balanced diet without S. platenis. Selected hematological and biochemical as well as CD4 count cells, viral load copies were assessed at three separate times.

    RESULTS: Among the 169 ART-naïve participants enrolled in the study, the female was mostly represented (67.1 %). The significant increase of CD4 count cells (596.32-614.92 cells count) and significant decrease of viral load levels (74.7 × 103-30.87 × 103 copies/mL) of the patients who received a supplementation of S. platensis was found after 6 months of treatment. Haemoglobin level was also significantly higher in the same group while the fasting blood glucose concentration decreased after 12 months compared to control.

    CONCLUSION: A daily supplementation with S. platensis to diet combined with a reasonable balanced diet has significantly increased the CD4 cells and reduced the viral load after 6 months. Further studies are recommended among a large specific group of people infected by the HIV in order to investigate the mechanisms involved on the effect of S. platensis on immune system.

    Be well!


  5. JP Says:

    Updated 02/20/16:

    Int J Food Sci Nutr. 2016 Feb 17:1-4.

    A randomized, double blind, placebo controlled study of spirulina supplementation on indices of mental and physical fatigue in men.

    Spirulina may increase people’s ability to resist mental and physical fatigue. This study tested that hypothesis in a randomized, double blinded, placebo controlled study in men. After 1 week, a 3 g/day dose of spirulina produced a small, but statistically significant increase in exercise output (Kcals consumed in 30 min exercise on a cross trainer machine). A mathematical based mental fatigue test showed improved performance 4 h after the first time of supplementation as well as 8 weeks later. Similarly, a subjective survey for a sense of physical and mental fatigue showed improvement within 4 h of the first supplementation as well as 8 weeks later. These results show that spirulina intake can affect fatigue in men.

    Be well!


  6. JP Says:

    Updated 05/19/16:

    Biol Trace Elem Res. 2016 Jan 16.

    Effect of Spirulina maxima Supplementation on Calcium, Magnesium, Iron, and Zinc Status in Obese Patients with Treated Hypertension.

    The effects of Spirulina maxima supplementation on calcium, magnesium, iron, and zinc status were studied in a double-blind placebo-controlled trial of 50 obese subjects with treated hypertension, each randomized to receive 2 g of spirulina or a placebo daily for 3 months. At baseline and after treatment, the calcium, magnesium, iron, and zinc concentration in plasma was assessed. It was found that 3 months of S. maxima supplementation resulted in a significant decrease in the iron level in the plasma of obese patients. In conclusion, this is the first clinical study on the influence of spirulina supplementation on mineral status in obese patients with hypertension. Spirulina supplementation affects the iron status of obese Caucasians with well-treated hypertension.

    Be well!


  7. JP Says:

    Updated 08/09/16:

    J Clin Biochem Nutr. 2016 Jul;59(1):45-8.

    Changes in salivary flow rate following Chlorella-derived multicomponent supplementation.

    Decreases in saliva secretion compromise food mastication and swallowing, reduce mucosal immune function, and increase the risk for oral diseases like dental caries. Chlorella is a green alga that contains a variety of nutrients including amino acids, vitamins, and minerals. In our previous study, Chlorella-derived multicomponent supplementation did not affect salivary flow rates in healthy young individuals, but Chlorella-derived supplementation attenuated a decrease in saliva secretion that was observed during a kendo training camp. Hence, we hypothesized that Chlorella-derived supplementation increases saliva secretion in individuals with lower rates of saliva flow. Sixty-four subjects took Chlorella-derived tablets for four weeks. Before and after supplementation, saliva samples were collected by chewing cotton. In the complete study group, there was no difference in saliva production before and after supplementation (1.91 ± 0.11 ml/min before vs 2.01 ± 0.12 ml/min after). Analysis of subgroups based on saliva production before supplementation found an increase in saliva secretion in the lower saliva flow group (1.18 ± 0.06 vs 1.38 ± 0.08 ml/min), but no change in the higher saliva flow group (2.63 ± 0.11 vs 2.64 ± 0.15 ml/min). These results suggest that Chlorella-derived multicomponent supplementation increases saliva production in individuals with lower levels of saliva secretion.

    Be well!


  8. JP Says:

    Updated 08/22/17:

    Eur J Nutr. 2017 Aug 19.

    The effect of Chlorella pyrenoidosa supplementation on immune responses to 2 days of intensified training.

    PURPOSE: Periods of intensified training are associated with immune disturbances, The aim was to investigate the effects of supplementation with Chlorella pyrenoidosa (Chlorella) on secretory IgA (sIgA) responses to 2 days intensified training.

    METHODS: Twenty-six subjects (age 29.1 ± 8.7 years; VO2max 53.7 ± 11.7 ml kg min-1) provided resting saliva samples for determination of sIgA, at baseline (week-0) and following 4, 5, and 6 weeks (weeks-4, -5, -6) of daily supplementation with 6 g/day Chlorella (n = 13) or placebo (PLA, n = 13). During week-4 a 2-day intensified training period was undertaken [morning and afternoon sessions each day, respectively: VO2max test; high-intensity interval training (HIIT, 3 × 30 s Wingate sprints); 90 min at ~60% VO2max; 3 × 30 s HIIT].

    RESULTS: Chlorella increased resting sIgA secretion rate (trial × time, P = 0.016: no change with PLA but increases with Chlorella at week-4, week-5 and week-6, P = 0.020, <0.001, and 0.016). PLA vs Chlorella: week-0 = 54 ± 33 vs 57 ± 37 µg/min; week-4 = 54 ± 35 vs 83 ± 57 µg/min; week-5 = 63 ± 46 vs 98 ± 47 µg/min; week-6 = 58 ± 35 vs 85 ± 59 µg/min. Minimal acute changes in sIgA were seen in response to individual exercise bouts, but it was higher at some times in the Chlorella group (for bouts 2 and 3).

    CONCLUSION: Supplementation with Chlorella has beneficial effects on resting sIgA, which might be beneficial during periods of intensified training.

    Be well!


  9. JP Says:

    Updated 09/17/18:

    Complement Ther Med. 2018 Oct;40:106-112.

    Spirulina platensis effectively ameliorates anthropometric measurements and obesity-related metabolic disorders in obese or overweight healthy individuals: A randomized controlled trial.

    AIMS: Novel alternative treatments such as food supplements may be an effective approach to weight management. The aim of the present study was to investigate the possible effects of Spirulina Platensis (SP) on anthropometric measures, appetite and metabolic parameters in obese or overweight individuals.

    MATERIAL AND METHODS: A total of fifty-two obese and overweight subjects (25 kg/m2 ≤ body mass index (BMI) <40 kg/m2) were randomly selected to be allocated to SP (4 × 500 mg daily tablets along with restricted calorie diet (RCD)) or placebo (placebo tablets along with RCD) for 12 weeks of intervention. Anthropometric measurements and appetite score were assessed at baseline, weeks 6 and 12. Biochemical assessments were performed at baseline and week 12.

    RESULTS: Thirty-eight participants completed the intervention. Body weight, waist circumference, body fat and BMI significantly reduced in the SP group compared to the placebo group (p < 0.001, p = 0.049, p = 0.049 and p = 0.02, respectively). In the SP group, the reduction triglycerides (TG) and high sensitivity C-reactive protein levels was considerably significant compared to the placebo group (p = 0.03, p = 0.02, respectively). Appetite score was significantly reduced in the SP group compared to the baseline (p < 0.001). CONCLUSIONS: This study suggests that spirulina platensis, as a complementary therapy may have beneficial effects on adherence to RCD, management of weight loss and also reduction in TG levels through possible modulatory effects on anti-inflammatory pathways. Be well! JP

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