Editor's comment: Two additional studies were added to the article released a few days earlier to provide readers with more evidence suggesting that spirulina helps people with type 2 diabetes mellitus.
By Jimmy Downs
Wednesday April 24, 2013 (foodconsumer.org) -- A study in Journal of Medicinal Food suggests that taking a dietary supplement called spirulina can help type 2 diabetes manage serum blood sugar.
Panam Parikh, MSc from Department of Foods and Nutrition, M S University of Baroda, in Vadodara, Gujarat, India and colleagues conducted the study and found patients with type 2 diabetes mellitus taking Spirulina for two months improved the blood sugar and lipid profile and a diabetes biomarker HbA1c.
Spirulina is known to enhance immunity against infections such as HIV, allergy and caner and cardiovascular disease like stroke. The current study was intended to evaluate its effect on the blood glucose and cholesterol in patients with type 2 diabetes mellitus.
Twenty-five subjects with type 2 diabetes mellitus were enrolled in the study and randomly assigned to receive 2 grams of Spirulina per day or a placebo for two months. At baseline, the control and study groups had similar medical and nutritional profiles. Blood glucose, glycosylated hemoglobin (HbA1c, which indicates the degree of type 2 diabetes mellitus for a relatively long term) concentrations and lipid profiles in the participants before and after intervention.
Lowered fasting blood glucose and postprandial blood glucose concentrations and reduced HbA1c levels were found in those taking Spirulina supplements. These indicate that spirulina improved long term glucose regulation.
Spirulina supplementation also lowered serum triglyceride concentrations, total cholesterol and low-density lipoprotein cholesterol and increased the level of high density lipoprotein cholesterol.
Additionally, the researchers observed "a significant reduction in the atherogenic indices, TC:HDL-C and LDL-C: HDL-C" and "The level of apolipoprotein B registered a significant fall together with a significant increment in the level of apolipoprotein A1" leading to a significant and favorable increase in the A1:B ratio.
They concluded "These findings suggest the beneficial effect of Spirulina supplementation in controlling blood glucose levels and in improving the lipid profile of subjects with type 2 diabetes mellitus."
An early study led by E. H. Lee from Ewha Womans University in Seoul Korea and colleagues also suggests that taking spirulina supplements can help type 2 diabetes mellitus which may lead to the development of heart disease among other health problems.
The study published in 2008 in Nutrition Research and practice shows that subjects with type 2 diabetes residing in Seoul, Korea taking spirulina for 12 weeks improved many metabolic biomarkers including lipid profiles, inflammatory biomarkers, and blood pressure. That is, spirulina can reduce the risk for heart disease in type 2 diabetics.
Spirulina is high in many nutrients including essential amino acids, essential fatty acids, vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. Its protein content is even higher than that found in meats.
Enrolled in the study were 37 type 2 diabetics who visited a diabetic clinic in Seoul and randomly assigned to take spirulina or a placebo (eight grams per day) for 12 weeks.
At the end of the study, those taking the spirulina supplement lowered serum triglycerides, serum malondialdehyde, total cholesterol, bad cholesterol and interleukin-6, and blood pressure, particularly significantly in those with higher triglycerides, high cholesterol (suffering dyslipidemia), and higher blood pressure at the start of the study.
No adverse effects were observed and spirulina supplementation for 12 weeks did not modify anthropometric parameters.
The researchers concluded " The results suggest that spirulina is a promising agent as a functional food for diabetes management."
Thus far, spirulina is known to potentailly help diseases including hypercholesterolemia, hyperglycerolemia, cardiovascular disease, inflammatory diseases, cancer, and viral infections.
Spirulina has been used as a food for centuries and it is very safe for humans to eat. Although some people on rare occasions may be sensitive to the food, the problem is likely with the consumers. It's just like some people are allergic to peanuts.
More research on spirulina
A study reported in Nutrition Reports International in 1988 suggests that taking spirulina as a dietary supplement can help lower serum levels of cholesterol, which is linked to increased risk for heart disease among other things.
The study involved 30 healthy male volunteers who had mild hyperlipidemia or mild hypertension with half receiving 4.2 grams of spirulina per day for 8 weeks and half receiving the same dose of spirulina for 4 weeks only.
Spirulina significantly reduced the total serum cholesterol and discontinued dietary supplementation led the serum cholesterol back to the baseline.
The reduction in the serum cholesterol was more significant among individuals with hypercholesterolemia and those who had high intake of cholesterol.
The Spirulina dietary supplement did not affect high density lipoprotein cholesterol while a tendency to slightly increase was observed. Spirulina did not change serum concentrations of triglycerides and body weight. And no adverse effects were observed associated with taking spirulina.
Spirulina is readily available over the Internet in the form of powder and it provides more benefits than lowering cholesterol.
More information on spirulina
Spirulina is a nutrient-rich algae and recognized as one of the most healthy foods humans can use. It is commonly used by the Japanese who enjoy a longer lifespan than the peoples in many other countries. It is also commonly used by athletes and people who engage in exercise.
Spirulina contains high protein (60% including all essential amino acids, more protein than red meat does), vitamins, omega-3 fatty acids, minerals and healthful phytochemicals like chlorophyll, a green pigment found in Spirulina.
As an antioxidant, spirulina is a powerful agent of detoxification in the case of arsenic poisoning and others and can be used as a core dietary supplement for a detox program. This healthy food can also protect against infections because it has antiviral and antibacterial properties and help control inflammation because it has anti-allergenic properties. Spirulina has been shown to help inactivate HIV virus and potentially help prevent AIDS. Studies show that Spirulina may also help prevent cancers such as breast cancer and stroke and heart disease because it helps lower cholesterol.
Other benefits of Spirulina include immunity enhancement (infection and inflammtion), prevention of nutritional deficiency in vegetarians and vegans (B12), detoxification (of heavy metals and potential other toxic chemicals/pollutants), excellent source of amino acids that help build and maintain muscle and basic physiological functions, healthy fatty acids that help absorb fat soluble vitamins like A,E,D, and K and lower bad cholesterol and maintain good cholesterol, minerals including calcium, iron, potassium, sodium and magnesium.
Vitamins and minerals and their functions
Vitamin A - retinal health and reproductive function,
B1 - healthy neurons and muscle including the heart,
B2 - energy metabolism from carbohydrates and promoting the production of red blood cells,
B3 - blood sugar control, healthy skin, digestive and nervous systems and energy metabolism from carbohydrates,
B6 - absorption of amino acids and other nutrients for brain function, muscle function and hemoglobin function,
B12 - many physiological functions (vegans and vegetarians must need supplementation of this nutrient.
Calcium - bone health and healthy neurons and good circulation,
Iron - red blood cells and anemia prevention,
Magnesium - nerve and muscle function and others,
Potassium - nervous system and muscle reaction and heart beat regulation.
Dosage for Spirulina
Three to five grams per day are considered safe to use. (Note that this is a dietary supplement, which should not be considered a drug to diagnose, prevent or treat any disease, according to the definition of the Food and Drug Administration. Because of this, the dose recommendation does not imply that Spirulina used in this dose can help prevent or treat or diagnose any disease or condition. The FDA does not recognize anything as effective in preventing or treating anything until the drug regulator approves it for such an indication.)
Potential contraindications for Spirulina
Some people may react differently to Spirulina than others. Although it is generally considered a healthy food, if you are severely allergic to seafood or iodine, don't attempt to use it for any purpose. And if you are pregnant or nursing or have a condition called hyperthyroidism, talk to your physician before using Spirulina.
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