What is Spirulina? : benefits, dangers, how to use it?
Available in powder and tablets, spirulina is a small edible blue-green algae that is used as a cure to take advantage of its many benefits (rich in iron, vitamins, etc.). Composition, dosage, contraindication, danger: know everything.
What is it ?
Spirulina is a microalgae sweet, spiral-shaped, which belongs to the family of cyanobacteria. It has existed for 3.5 billion years and grows naturally in the lakes of India, Mexico or Chad. Used in the 13th century by the Incas and the Aztecs, Europeans discovered it during the conquest of Central America. It will become extremely popular in the early 1970s in industrialized countries. Spirulina was declared in 1974 "the best food for humanity in the 21st century" by the World Health Organization and "the ideal and most complete food of tomorrow" by Unesco. Spirulina is used for food purposes ( especially in Mexico and Chad ),in the form of supplements, because of its nutritional potential, or as a colorant . It is also used in the food animal.
What does spirulina contain?
Three species of spirulina are listed in the order of June 24, 2014 establishing the list of plants, other than fungi, authorized in food supplements and the conditions for their use ( spirulina major, spirulina maxima, spirulina platensis ). The best-selling species of spirulina is Spirulina platensis . The particularity of this seaweed is that it is both low in calories and rich in nutrients : vegetable proteins, carotenoids, iron , Vitamin B12, E, potassium, calcium, chromium, copper, iron , magnesium , manganese, phosphorus, selenium, sodium, zinc, fluorine, gamma-linolenic acid or even in antioxidants.
→ The carbohydrate content of spirulina varies from 14 to 19% of the dry matter.
→ The protein content varies from 60 to 70% of the dry matter of spirulina with a high proportion of essential amino acids.
→ The total lipid content of spirulina (mainly in the form of di- and triglycerides) is generally less than 10%.
What form is spirulina in?
In France, spirulina is marketed as a bulk foodstuff, in the form of powder or food supplements , in the form of capsules or tablets .
What are the benefits of spirulina?
According to a Mexican study dating from 2009 , spirulina would have a real cardio-protective effect linked to its action on blood lipids. Spirulina would indeed promote an increase in HDL cholesterol (good cholesterol), a decrease in LDL cholesterol (bad cholesterol) and triglycerides.
The many antioxidants (phycocyanin and chlorophyll, responsible for its pretty blue-green color) make spirulina a food capable of boosting immune systems at half mast, and give it anti-aging properties. A set of preliminary studies suggest a hypoglycemic effect of spirulina in people with non-insulin-dependent diabetes.
Finally, the exceptional protein content of spirulina makes it very useful for undernourished people or vegetarians or vegans. These proteins are also accompanied by a very high iron content, which earned spirulina its nickname "steak of the sea".
In which cases can we recommend spirulina?
Spirulina is recommended for people with high cardiovascular risks, people with type 2 diabetes, people who have reduced or excluded animal proteins from their diet (flexitarians, vegetarians, vegans), people on a low calorie diet, undernourished people, anemic people or adolescents.
The recommended dosages vary from 1 g per day (as a slimming accompaniment) to 5 g per day in three doses for therapeutic uses (diabetes, hypercholesterolemia, etc.).
Spirulina and weight loss
If spirulina has slimming assets, it does not make you lose weight. It is mainly its high protein content (it contains 60%, or 3 times more than a beef steak!) That makes spirulina interesting as part of a diet. Proteins are satiating and help fight muscle wasting often associated with weight loss. However, keeping your muscles is essential to maintain your healthy weight because it is it that burns calories, even at rest. Another advantage of spirulina as part of a diet: its great richness in minerals and antioxidants, which help overcome deficiencies and keep in shape.
Spirulina can be stored for a long time without its nutritional qualities being affected, provided that care is taken to preserve it from humidity ! Be sure to close the bag with a zip or pliers, or transfer it to an airtight container. It should be ideally stored away from heat and light.
The consumption of spirulina is not recommended for people suffering from phenylketonuria, those with an excess of uric acid, as well as those with an allergic ground. People with too high a ferritin level should also avoid taking a spirulina cure.
In 2017, the National Food Safety Agency ( ANSES ) indicated in a notice that it had received 49 reports of adverse reactions likely to be linked to the consumption of food supplements containing spirulina. Spirulina has been the subject of preclinical and clinical studies, she explained. "The preclinical data did not show the toxicity of spirulina at high doses (for administered doses of up to 30 g / kg / day, see ad libitum in mice). Among the many clinical studies carried out at doses of up to 19g / d of dry spirulina, only a few side effects such as digestive disorders and headacheslinked to the consumption of spirulina have been reported. However, the numbers of these studies are too small to demonstrate rare effects such as individual susceptibility / hypersensitivity. "
→ Among the side effects already observed after the consumption of spirulina-based supplements: stomach cramps, nausea, vomiting and watery stools.
→ In 2014, ANSES made public a case of an allergic reaction (allergic facial angioedema) that occurred after taking spirulina.