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Blue Green Algae

An ancient plant life form, blue green algae is considered one of the most nutrient dense foods, containing up to 70% vegetable protein.1 The algae have been touted as superfoods due to their high concentrations of proteins, vitamins, polyunsaturated fatty acids, and nutrients.1 While the nutrient make-up varies due to environmental conditions, the algae also contain considerable amounts of amino acids, carotenoids, and minerals such as zinc, magnesium, and selenium.2 A number of species make up blue green algae, also known as Cyanobacteria, including Aphanizomenon flos-aquae, Arthrospira platensis (syn. Spirulina platensis), Arthrospira maxima (syn. Spirulina maxima), Arthrospira fusiformis (syn. Spirulina fusiformis), and Nostoc commune var. sphaeroides.3

Blue green algae may be a good source of B12 for those who do not consume meat.4 The algae may reduce the production of pro-inflammatory cytokines by inhibiting NF-κB pathway in macrophages and splenocytes.5 Consumption of the algae may also reduce risks of cataracts and age related macular degeneration.6 Spirulina has been shown to improve insulin resistance in HIV.7 A 2013 review of blue green algae found that they may have inhibitory effects on oxidative stress and inflammation and therefore may help in prevention of cardiovascular disease and nonalcoholic fatty liver disease.3 Other purported benefits of blue green algae include as an immune-enhancer; antiviral, antibiotic, and anticancer effects; metabolic effects leading to weight reduction, and cholesterol-lowering effects.2


1Kay RA. Microalgae as food and supplement. Crit Rev Food Sci Nutr. 1991;30(6):555-573.

2Jensen GS, Ginsberg DI, Drapeau C. Blue-green algae as an immune-enhancer and biomodulator. J Am Nutraceutical Assoc. 2001;3(4):24-30.

3Ku CS, Yang Y, Park Y, Lee J. Health benefits of blue-green algae: prevention of cardiovascular disease and nonalcoholic fatty liver disease. J Med Food. 2013;16(2):103-111.

4Baroni L, Scoglio S, Benedetti S, Bonetto C, et al. Effect of a Klamath algae product (AFA-B12) on blood levels of vitamin B12 and homocysteine in vegan subjects: a pilot study. Int J Vitam Nutr Res. 2009;79(2):117-123.

5Ku CS, Pham TX, Park Y, et al. Edible blue-green algae reduce the production of pro-inflammatory cytokines by inhibiting NF-κB pathway in macrophages and splenocytes. Biochim Biophys Acta. 2013;1830(4):2981-2988.

6Yu B, Wang J, Suter PM, et al. Spirulina is an effective dietary source of zeaxanthin to humans. Brit J Nutr. 2012;108(4):611–619.

7Marcel AK, Ekali LG, Eugene S, et al. The effect of Spirulina platensis versus soybean on insulin resistance in HIV-infected patients: a randomized pilot study Nutrients. 2011;3(12):712-724.

Lori Glenn,  Managing Editor