What Is Spirulina
Spirulina's Nutritional Analysis
How Spirulina Is Produced
Spirulina Research References
Products Containing Spirulina
Spirulina's Nutritional Analysis
The blue-green algae, and Spirulina in particular, have a
primitive structure with few starch storage cells and cell membrane
proliferation, but rich amounts of ribosomes, the cellular bodies that
manufacture protein. This particular arrangement of cellular
components allows for rapid photosynthesis and formation of proteins. The
lack of hard cellular walls assures that Spirulina protein is rapidly
and easily assimilated by consuming organisms.
Spirulina is approximately 65 to 71 percent protein, depending
on growing conditions. These proteins are biologically
complete, which means they provide all eight essential amino acids in the
proper ratios. Furthermore, spirulina provides all the required amino acids in a form that is easier to digest than meat or soy protein.
These eight essential amino acids are found in Spirulina:
- ISOLEUCINE: Required for optimal growth, intelligence
development and nitrogen equilibrium in the body Used to
synthesize other non-essential amino acids.
- LEUCINE: Stimulator of brain function, increases
muscular energy levels.
- LYSINE: Building block of blood antibodies,
strengthens circulatory system and maintains normal growth of cells.
- METHIONINE: Vital lipotropic (fat and lipid
metabolizing) amino acid that maintains liver health. An anti-stress factor,
it calms the nerves.
- PHENYLALANINE : Required by the thyroid gland
for production of thyroxine which stimulates metabolic rate.
- THREONINE: Improves intestinal competence and digestive assimilation.
- TRYPTOPHANE: Increases utilization of B
vitamins,improves nerve health and stability of the emotions. Promotes sense
- VALINE): Stimulates mental capacity and muscle coordination.
These are the non-essential amino acids supplied by Spirulina:
Spirulina supplies ten of the twelve
non-essential amino acids. "Non-essential" does not mean that these amino
acids are not needed by the body, but merely indicates that the body
can synthesize them itself if it needs to do so, provided the
appropriate nutritional building blocks are available. Nevertheless,
the body is better served if these excellent protein components
are readily and totally available in dietary sources, since all
the amino acids must be on hand as the cells manufacture enzymes,
proteins, hormones, brain chemicals and the other products of
metabolism. Of the thousands of biochemical substances acting and
interacting in the human body, not one is derived from a vacuum; the body is ultimately dependent upon
nutrient intake for all of its functions.
- ALANINE: Strengthens cellular walls.
- ARGININE: Important to male sexual health as seminal fluid
is 80 percent arginine. Also helps detoxify the blood.
- ASPARTIC ACID: Aids transformation of carbohydrates
into cellular energy.
- CYSTINE: Aids pancreatic health, which stabilizes
blood sugar and carbohydrate metabolism. Has been used to alleviate
some symptoms of food allergy and intolerance.
- GLUTAMIC ACID: With glucose, one of the principal fuels
for the brain cells. Has been used to reduce the craving for alcohol
and stabilize mental health.
- GLYCINE): Promotes energy and oxygen use in the cells.
- HISTIDINE: Strengthens nerve relays, especially in the
auditory organs. Has been used to reverse some cases of deafness.
- PROLINE): A precursor of glutamic acid.
- SERINE: Helps form the protective fatty sheaths
surrounding nerve fibers.
- TYROSINE: Slows aging of cells and suppresses hunger
centers in the hypothalamus. Can be synthesized from phenylalanine.
Involved in proper coloration of hair and skin, including protection
Although proteins are the building blocks of life, many trace
minerals can profoundly effect health and metabolism.
The waters Spirulina favors are so saturated with minerals
deposited from ancient soils and mountains that no other plants can live there.
Because Spirulina thrives in such alkaline waters, it
incorporates and synthesizes many minerals and derivative compounds into its
Transformed into natural organic forms by Spirulina, minerals
become chelated with amino acids and are therefore more easily
assimilated by the body. Many times people have ingested
large amounts of inorganic minerals without benefit to health because
the body does not know what to do with these incompatible forms.
In fact, evidence is accumulating that the inorganic minerals can
block absorption of the organic forms, leading ultimately to
mineral deficiency diseases.
Spirulina contains essential minerals and trace elements
absorbed from its growth medium into chelated, easily absorbed forms:
- POTASSIUM : A crucial mineral that regulates body
electrolyte balance. Deficiency can cause heart arrest,
hypertension, adrenal exhaustion and muscular collapse.
- CALCIUM : The most abundant mineral in the body, it
is especially important to bone and dental health, but is also
involved in neural transmissions to the muscles. Spirulina supplies about
as much calcium, gram for gram, as milk.
- ZINC : The pivot point of over thirty vital
enzymatic reactions, with profound effects on mental health, skin tone,
prostate function and healing capacity.
- MAGNESIUM : Deficiency can lead to spasmodic
muscle disorders, including cardiac irregularities. Helps assimilation
of vitamin C, B vitamins and protein.
- MANGANESE : Activates enzyme systems, along with zinc.
Promotes activity of neurotransmitter acetylcholine, and helps
stabilize blood sugar.
- SELENIUM : Originally believed to be a toxic heavy
metal, but now known to be necessary for health. It retards aging,
harmful oxidation and free radical formation, reduces the toxic effect
of carcinogens, and improves cardiac efficiency.
- IRON : Promotes formation of hemoglobin, the
oxygen-carrying blood pigment found in healthy red blood cells. Iron
deficiency is most common among women in their reproductive years.
- PHOSPHORUS : The second most abundant mineral in
the human body, it is found in practically every cell. Functions
with calcium to maintain bone density. Helps to digest carbohydrates
and the B vitamins niacin and riboflavin.
Spirulina supplies several of the vitamins that
all living beings need to carry on metabolic processes:
- PYRIDOXINE or B6 : Involved in breakdown and assimilation
of protein. Protects cardiac health, reduces edema and stabilizes
female hormone levels. Dr. Carl Pfeiffer has demonstrated that
B6, together with the mineral zinc, can cure some forms of schizophrenia.
- BIOTIN : An enzyme that carries
CO, during certain biochemical reactions involved in carbohydrate metabolism. Also
acts as a co-enzyme in the assimilation of other B-complex
vitamins. Biotin is destroyed by eating raw egg whites and some
kinds of raw fish.
- COBALAMIN or B12 : The most difficult of all vitamins
to obtain from vegetable sources. Spirulina is extremely rich in
this rare vitamin, containing approximately the same amount of human available B12 as beef liver, previously thought to be nature's richest source. A single serving of Spirulina easily exceeds the Recommended Daily Allowance of 1.5 to 3 mcg daily. A B12 deficiency results in pernicious anemia, nerve degeneration, premature senility, pronounced fatigue and mental illnesses resembling schizophrenia.
- PANTOTHENIC ACID : The "stress" vitamin, used by the
adrenal glands, along with cholesterol and vitamin C, to manufacture
cortisone and other steroids in response to physical and mental stress.
Deficiency encourages sensitivity to allergy, infection and
degenerative diseases such as arthritis and rheumatism. Ulcers and
hypoglycemia have also been associated with shortage of this vitamin.
- FOLIC ACID : Essential to proper hemoglobin formation
in red blood cells. Deficiency results in anemia, poor growth,
skin pigmentation disorders and premature graying of the hair.
- INOSITOL: Vital lipotropic nutrient that sustains
liver health and helps detoxify carcinogens, particularly excess
female hormones. Helps normalize blood cholesterol levels. With
choline, inositol is used by the liver to manufacture lecithin. Inositol
is the second most abundant vitamin in the body, after niacin.
Recent studies indicate that inositol, with biotin, reduces loss of
- NIACIN : Also known as nicotinic acid and
niacinamide, which is an alternative form, niacin is essential to mental health.
Dr. Abram Hoffer, a renowned pioneer in orthomolecular
psychiatry, has completely relieved schizophrenic symptoms using niacin.
The Physicians' Desk Reference, a pharmaceutical text used by
doctors when prescribing medication, recognizes niacin as an effective
cholesterol lowering agent.
- RIBOFLAVIN or B2 : The most common vitamin deficiency
is that of riboflavin and results in cataracts, failing vision,
watery eyes and uncontrollable eczema.
- THIAMINE or B 1 : A co-enzyme in the breakdown of
dietary carbohydrate. Maintains levels of glucose in the blood.
Deficiency results in weakness, cardiac damage, abdominal distention and
poor oxygenation. Severe shortage results in death; critical
toxemia develops from unmetabolized carbohydrate fragments.
- TOCOPHEROL or vitamin E : Spirulina contains more
vitamin E per gram than pure wheat germ. This nutrient protects heart and vascular health,
promotes oxygenation of cells, and retards aging.
Some substances in plant foods are not true vitamins, but provide
the precursors from which the body can then synthesize the
appropriate vitamins. The carotenoid compounds of Spirulina are of this
nature, since they are used to produce vitamin A.
True vitamin A is found in the pre-formed state only in
animal sources, such as liver. This is the form of vitamin A
sometimes associated with toxicity and overdose, since it is fat-soluble and
is not readily excreted from the body.
In contrast, the carotenoid complexes found in vegetable foods
are converted to vitamin A only as it is needed, thus minimizing
the dangers of toxicity. Spirulina and other algae are
a primary source of vitamin A precursors - it is from algae carotenoids that
fish livers derive and concentrate vitamin A.
Spirulina contains the yellow/orange pigments cryptoxanthine and
beta-carotene from which vitamin A can be made. Spirulina contains carotenoids in these forms:
While the protein, mineral and vitamin value of Spirulina is
impressive, this minute organism is also rich in pigments that are
bio-chemically important to life. Without pigments, organisms could
not synthesize many of the enzymes necessary for balancing metabolism.
The most visible pigment in Spirulina is chlorophyll, a green
molecule common to plants. It releases ions when struck by the energy
of sunlight. These free ions proceed to stimulate the
biochemical reactions that form proteins, vitamins and sugars.
Chlorophyll is sometimes called `green blood" because of its
similarity to the hemoglobin molecule found in human blood cells. In
fact, both are constructed of almost identical molecular structure
called pyrrole rings, and both substances are chemically known as
"porphyrin pigments" by scientists.
The difference is that chlorophyll contains a magnesium ion at
its core, while hemoglobin contains an iron molecule. Magnesium
imparts a green color to the chlorophyll molecule and is involved
in synthesis of other materials, while iron gives hemoglobin a
red coloration and changes the function of the porphyrin molecule
to respiration and breakdown of materials.
It is believed that if chlorophyll is ingested with sufficient
iron, the magnesium can be displaced to yield a hemoglobin molecule.
Experiments in Japan have demonstrated that Spirulina has a
marked positive effect on anemia, possibly due to the conversion of
chlorophyll into hemoglobin. Of course, the high nutrient density
of Spirulina, especially the blood-building vitamins B12 and folic
acid and the amino acids, are also useful in treating cases of anemia.
Chlorophyll has other positive benefits to the body. It
increases peristaltic action and thus relieves constipation, and also
normalizes the secretion of digestive acids. It soothes the
inflammation and reduces the excess pepsin secretion associated with gastric
During World War 11, the drying action of chlorophyll and its
antiseptic qualities made it a common first-aid measure to prevent
festering of wounds. In addition, chlorophyll soothes swelling and
promotes granulation, the process that regenerates new tissue over injuries.
Chlorophyll appears to promote regeneration of damaged liver
cells, and also increases circulation to all the organs by dilating
blood vessels. In the heart, chlorophyll aids in transmission of
nerve impulses that control contraction. The heart rate is slowed, yet
each contraction is increased in power, thus improving the overall
efficiency of cardiac work.
The pigment which gives Spirulina its blue cast is phycocyanin,
found in concentrations of about 7 percent, compared to the I
percent chlorophyll content most commonly found. Phycocyanin is related
to the human pigment bilirubin, which is important to healthy
liver function and digestion of amino acids.
Another important pigment is porphyrin, a red compound that forms
the active nucleus of hemoglobin. Related to this structure is
the polypyrrole molecule of B12, which is essential to the formation
of healthy red blood cells.
These and several lesser pigments such as phycoerythrin,
tetrapyrrole, phytonadione and the carotenoids are not just the "color"
of living organisms, but are used to carry on metabolic processes
throughout the body. Without them, enzymatic reactions would be reduced
until cellular disintegration occurred.
Fats, sugars, salts and calories:
It is probably hard to imagine that a concentrated source of
nutrients such as Spirulina is not also loaded
with fats, starches and calories. Amazingly, Spirulina is only 7 percent lipid, and
most of that is in the form of essential fatty acids that
promote cholesterol normalization. The essential fatty acids sometimes
called vitamin F, include linoleic, linolenic and arachidonic acid. They
are used by the body to manufacture Prostaglandins, the hormonal
regulators of blood pressure and capillary resilience.
The essential fatty acids are involved in respiration in all
the cells, and are especially important to oxygen transport. They
affect the health of the hair, skin and nails, and help break up
cholesterol in the blood stream. They are not dangerous fat but are
absolutely vital to health.
Spirulina contains very little starch or sugar. What carbohydrate
it supplies, roughly 10 to 15 percent, is primarily in the form
of rhamnose and glycogen. These two polysaccharides are easily
absorbed by human cells with minimal intervention by insulin. Hence,
Spirulina sugars provide speedy energy, without taxing the pancreas or
From a caloric standpoint, Spirulina nutrition is economical.
There are only approximately 3.9 calories per gram of protein obtained from Spirulina. You would have to consume about 18.5 calories of raw 75% lean ground beef to obtain a gram of protein. The average 500 mg tablet of Spirulina contains only one to two calories!
Some people are concerned about sodium in their diets, and
have therefore avoided seaweed foods such as nori, wakami and kombu.
These kelp foods are very nutritious, but they do contain significant
sodium amounts. Spirulina avoids the sodium problems of algae that grow
in the sea, yielding only .206 mg of sodium per tablet. Most
hypertension patients are restricted to 2,000 mg or less of sodium per
day; Spirulina has such small amounts of sodium that no danger is
presented to persons on a salt-restricted diet.