Spirulina is blue-green algae also also known as cyanobacteria. It is native to Africa, Asia and Central America and has been studied for its medicinal qualities since the 1600s. Spirulina is currently used for a variety of health benefits, including diabetes and abnormal cholesterol levels associated with diabetes. Although some research studies found positive results in diabetics using this supplement, it has not been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for this purpose, and more research is needed to support these indications, according to Drugs.com. If you suffer from diabetes and are considering taking spirulina, talk to your doctor first.
Spirulina contains aminoacids, a variety of vitamins and minerals and plant chemicals such as phycocyanins and chlorophyll that may help diabetics. This algae has significant amounts of vitamins A, B12, B1, B2, B3, B6 and E. Several minerals are also included in this supplement. Spirulina has high amounts of iron, and some calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, manganese, and selenium. This algae is an important source of aminoacids, including 22 of them and also gamma linoleic acid, which is an essential fatty acid. Most important vitamin supplements for diabetics are vitamin E, C, B1, B12, B3, and the minerals magnesium, manganese, potassium, vanadium and zinc, according to Holisticonline.com. Gamma linoleic acid may also help improve nerve complications and lipid levels associated with diabetes.
Diabetes and Cholesterol
Diabetes tends to lower "good" or HDL cholesterol levels and increase triglyceride and "bad" or LDL cholesterol levels. These abnormal levels of fats in the blood increase the risk for heart disease and stroke in diabetics.
A combination of spirulina and another herbal extract decreased blood glucose, total cholesterol and tryglicerides and improved HDL cholesterol in diabetic animals, according to a study published by ZX Huang from School of Pharmaceutical Sciences, Guangzhou, China. This study was published in the February 2005 issue of "China Journal of Chinese Materia Medica." Spirulina's content in fibers and gamma linoleic acid likely helped improve cholesterol levels, suggests Drugs.com.
It appears that spirulina may help improve glucose and cholesterol levels, however larger studies are needed to fully confirm these benefits. Consult a health care provider to find out about optimal dosage, possible side effects and drug interactions of this supplement. Choose a high-quality brand of spirulina supplement, as some products are contaminated with heavy metals, says Drugs.com. Keep in mind that spirulina does not replace, and should not be used to replace, standard medication for diabetes.
- Drugs.com: Spirulina
- Holisticonline.com: Diabetes, Vitamins and Supplements
- American Heart Association: Cholesterol Abnormalities & Diabetes
- China Journal of Chinese Materia Medica: Protective effects of polysacchride of Spirulina platensis and Sargassum thunbeergii on vascular of alloxan induced diabetic rats