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Arthospira (spirulina) is a photosynthetic, spiral-shaped, multicellular and blue-green alga. Cell division occurs by binary fission. As it contains chlorophyll a, like higher plants botanist classify it as micro alga belonging to Cyanophceae class; but according to bacteriologists it is a bacterium due to its prokaryotic structure. Mexicans started using this microorganism as human food. Its chemical composition contains proteins (55%-70%), carbohydrates (15%-25%) and essential fatty acids (18%) vitamins, minerals and pigments like carotenes, chlorophyll and phycocyanin, pigments are used in food and cosmetic industries. Spirulina is considered as excellent food, lacking toxicity and have anticancer, antiviral, immunological properties and it also acts as a potent antioxidant. There has been a significant change in spirulina functions under stress conditions.
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Review article
Tulika Mishra*, Mahavir Joshi, Sanpreet Singh, Pallavi Jain, Ratan Kaur,
Sakeena Ayub, Karamjeet Kaur
Biotechnology Department, University Institute of Science, Chandigarh University, Gharuan, Punjab.
*Corresponding Author
Dr. Tulika Mishra
Head of Department, Biotechnology
Department,Chandigarh University,
Gharuan, Punjab.
Contact number:- +918146651523
Arthospira (spirulina) is a photosynthetic, spiral-shaped, multicellular and blue-green alga. Cell
division occurs by binary fission. As it contains chlorophyll a, like higher plants botanist
classify it as micro alga belonging to Cyanophceae class; but according to bacteriologists it is a
bacterium due to its prokaryotic structure. Mexicans started using this microorganism as human
food. Its chemical composition contains proteins (55%-70%), carbohydrates (15%-25%) and
essential fatty acids (18%) vitamins, minerals and pigments like carotenes, chlorophyll and
phycocyanin, pigments are used in food and cosmetic industries. Spirulina is considered as
excellent food, lacking toxicity and have anticancer, antiviral, immunological properties and it
also acts as a potent antioxidant. There has been a significant change in spirulina functions under
stress conditions.
Keywords: Arthospira (spirulina), blue-green alga, pigments, potent antioxidant
Science Instinct Publications
Mishra et al.
International Journal of Applied Microbiology Science 2013; 2(3):21-35 22
pirulina named as tecuitlatl by Aztecs (Mexicans) that means stone’s excrement during 16th
century. Later due to outbreak of contagious disease, new customs were adopted by people
such as new food, religious and social changes and the topic of tecuitlatl came to an end [1].
Spirulina-“small cakes made of mud like algae, which has a cheese-like flavor, and that natives
took out of the lake to make bread”. They are dried into cakes called “Diha” or “Die”.Some of
the best worldwide known Spirulina producing companies are earthrise farms (USA), Cyanotech
(USA), Hainan DIC microalgae co ltd (China) [2].
Under light microscopy, the blue-green non-heterocystous filaments, composed of vegetative
cells that undergo binary fission in a single plane, show easily visible transverse cross-walls.
Filaments are solitary and free floating and display gliding motility. The trichomes, enveloped by
a thin sheath, show more or less slightly pronounced constrictions at cross-walls and have apices
either slightly or not at all attenuated [3] [4].
Microscopic view of microalgae Spirulina (Cyanobacteria) [4]
Spirulina is characterized by its regularly coiled trichomes. Under some conditions of
temperature and pressure, its helical filaments can convert to abnormal morphologies, such as
irregularly curved and even linear shapes, that are considered as a permanent degeneration that
could not be reversed. However, the linear filaments of Spirulina platensis could spontaneously
revert to the helical form with the same morphology as the original filaments. The ultra
structural, physiological, and biochemical characteristics of linear filaments are different from
those of the original filaments, whereas they are the same for the reverted and the original
filaments [5].
It is a prokaryotic organization with fibrils of DNA region. Spirulina has photosynthetic system,
plucri-stratified cell wall, capsule, ribosome and numerous inclusions. Cell wall is made of four
membered layers: L1, L2, L3, and L4 [6].
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Life cycle
There are three fundamental stages: Trichomes fragmentation, Hormogonia cells enlargement
and Maturation processes, and Trichome elongation. Then this mature trichomes get divided into
filaments or hormogonia, cells in the hormogonia gets increased by binary fission, grows length
wise and takes their helical form[7] [8].
Cultivation of Spirulina
Spirulina is a blue green micro alga. It is an excellent source of proteins, beta-carotene, B
vitamins and minerals like iron. It is a wonder food especially for the undernourished people.
Hence its cultivation is also encouraged in the domestic levels of the developing countries who
are the worst victims of chronic malnutrition. Spirulina also proves to fetch them good amount of
economy. Spirulina is a nutritious protein food supplement and is also used in the manufacture of
several medicines, and cosmetics. Its cultivation on a commercial scale is slowly catching up
with many farmers in India, particularly in Tamil Nadu. Spirulina is cultivated both for the
commercial purpose as well for the domestic use in certain regions that are badly hit by chronic
malnutrition and other deficiency diseases. The domestic house hold level cultivation of spirulina
is very beneficial [8][9].
Domestic cultivation of Spirulina
The domestic cultivation method is well known as the "Mud Pot Spirulina Cultivation". This
method requires mud pots of 35 to 40 liters capacity and an exposed but protected open area. The
medium for the cultivation is the bio-gas slurry which is very cheap and easily available. Then,
the sea-salt, Potassium dihydrogen Phosphate, Cooking Soda and Sodium Chloride, all this is
mix for pure Spirulina culture. The method of working is very simple. All thees pots are buried
till the neck in the ground. These are then filled with water and the slurry medium. Next the pure
Spirulina culture is added to the pots. These are to be kept in sunlight and need to be stirred at
least 4 times a day. After 3-4 days of maturation the Spirulina is ready. It is now filtered in clean
cloth and then washed in fresh water. Spirulina can be immediately used for consumption or if a
powdered form is desired it should be dried immediately [10] [11].
Cultivation of Spirulina for personal consumption
Spirulina Platensis can be cultivated for personal use in a basin. There are many ways of
building an adequate basin depending on variables according to local conditions: out of plastic
covers, hard clay, low walls. It is generally useful, to install a greenhouse or at least a roof on the
basin to protect it from the bad weather to minimize the risk of contamination. The roof can be
made of white or translucent plastic, or other solutions making it possible to let pass a part of the
light. To cultivate Spirulina it is necessary to recreate the close culture medium in which the
microalgae grows naturally. The culture medium is a controlled salt solution in water that
provides to Spirulina all the necessary chemical elements essential for its cultivation.
The pH of the culture medium should be between 8.0 and 11 (basic) [12].
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Table 1. The composition of the culture medium or solution, for a basin of dimension 4m2
The compositions of the culture medium or solution, for a basin of
dimension 4m2 (Chemical composition)
( gm / liter )
Sodium Hydrogen Carbonate
Sea salt
Potassium Nitrate
Magnesium Sulphate
Ammonium Phosphate (monobasic)
Iron Sulphate
The material used for the cultivation of Spirulina is a basic stock of Spirulina that can be
procured from scientific agencies or Spirulina farms. These stocks multiply in the culture
medium by themselves also periodical control of the morphology of Spirulina may be necessary
to exclude mutagen effect due to change in the chemical composition of the culture solution and
because of the environmental factors. Spirulina are the carbon consuming microalgae that
consume carbon dioxide as in photosynthesis; one can increase the influx of Carbon dioxide, by
composting under the greenhouse contiguous to the basin.
The ideal temperature for Spirulina Cultivation is between 35°C and 37°C.The water level of the
basin should be controlled and it should be a minimum of 20 cm. Water should be added when
necessary not impacting the chemical composition or pH of the culture medium. Agitation of the
water of the basin is necessary to homogenize and ensure a good distribution of lighting among
all the filaments of Spirulina. Agitation can be done manually with a clean brush or a wheel, 4
times per day, for 2 minutes. Spirulina is harvested by skimming the surface of the basin and to
initially filter Spirulina in a filter such as a mosquito net. It is further filtered in a filter of
dimensions of 60 microns. Spirulina collected after filtration and reduced in fine powder is
stored in plastic bag/container. Though Spirulina can be consumed fresh, it can also be used after
slight drying. It is better to consume Spirulina within 6 hours of its harvest but can be preserved
for later consumption for a period of up to one year by drying it in the sun or in a solar drier. To
store Spirulina for a much longer time, it is vacuum dried and packed airtight where it sustains
its nutritional qualities for five years [11] [13].
Commercial Cultivation
Spirulina is a simple, one-celled form of blue-green algae that gets its name from its spiral shape.
The product is currently being hailed as the super food of the future because of its exceptional
nutritional content. Spirulina is a better source of protein than either beef or soyabean. The
process involves inoculation of Spirulina culture in tanks having mechanized agitators to
oxygenate the water. About 20-25 gm of Spirulina grows in 1.0 sq. meter surface area of water in
a day. The blue-green algae is removed from water surface and allowed to dry before purification
and production of powder by spray drying process. It can be produced in very low cost and high
cost depending upon the quality standard of infrastructure facility, production quality parameters
and standardization of product followed .Internationally, customer are willing to pay for the
product is premium price and so high end technology can equally viable as in the case low end.
A lot of value added health drinks and products can be generated by using this alga. The
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Spirulina that is to be used for the commercial purpose is cultivated in a different way. The
commercial Spirulina is grown open-channel shallow artificial ponds. Here, the paddle-wheels
are used to stir the water so as to accelerate the growth of Spirulina. The largest commercial
production of Spirulina is carried out in United States, Thailand, India, Taiwan, China, Pakistan
and Myanmar [13].
Fig. 1 Global assessment of research and development for algae biofuel production and its
potential role for sustainable development in developing countries
Laboratory cultivation
Eight major environmental factors influence the productivity of Spirulina: luminosity (photo-
period 12/12,4 luxes), temperature (30 °C), inoculation size, stirring speed, dissolved solids (10
60 g/liter), pH (8.510.5), water quality, and macro and micronutrient presence (C, N, P, K, S,
Mg, Na, Cl, Ca and Fe, Zn, Cu, Ni, Co, Se) [14].
Small-scale commercial production of Spirulina
Spirulina cultivation has a number of advantages over traditional agriculture:
High yield
With around 60 percent protein content, Spirulina's rapid growth means it yields 20 times more
protein per unit area than soybeans, 40 times more than corn, and over 200 times more than beef.
Soil requirements: Spirulina culture does not require fertile land and can actually benefit from
saline conditions.
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Efficient water use: Spirulina uses less water per kilo of protein (approximately 2100 liter/kg
protein) than other crops. Water can be recycled and the only significant water loss is through
evaporation. Spirulina culture uses 25 percent of the water of soya, 17 percent of corn and 2
percent the water required for beef protein. As mentioned above, brackish or saline water can be
utilized [14].
Efficient source of energy
Spirulina requires less energy input per kilo than soya, corn or beef, including solar and
generated energy. Its energy efficiency (food energy output/kg/energy input/kg) is five times
higher than soya, two times higher than corn, and over 100 times higher than grain-fed beef. The
small-scale production of Spirulina is considered as a potential income-generating activity for
households or village collectives. Spirulina might be also dried and processed for local
consumption, especially where poor dietary regimes need to be supplemented. In addition, the
extensive or semi intensive production of Spirulina for animal or aquatic feeds might be
conducted for small-scale farming and aquaculture. As early as 1949, Spoehr and Milner (1949)
suggested that the mass culture of algae would help to overcome global protein shortages.
Ironically, in spite of the lamentably low per capita protein supplies in many parts of the world,
mass cultivation of algae has received only casual interest. The United Nations Environmental
Programme (UNEP) is emphasizing nitrogen fixation and nutrient recycling through a
programme that will establish microbiological centers (MIRCENS), and it is hoped that this will
stimulate interest in micro-algae technology as a component of an integrated recycling system
for rural communities [14].
Spirulina indeed lends itself to simple technology
Cultivation may be carried out in unlined ditches through which flow is low (e.g. 10 cm/second).
Stirring may be provided by a simple device driven by wind energy or harnessed to humans.
Harvesting mat be readily performed using some suitable cloth, and the biomass dehydrates in
the sun. The quality of the Spirulina product obtained in this fashion would not be as high as
what is attained in clean cultures, but product could serve well as animal feed. In Bangladesh,
Spirulina was produced through a pilot project using paddle-wheel under transparent shade in the
campus of BCSIR (Bangladesh Council for Scientific and Industrial Research) in 1980s. Later
BCSIR established a system for the rural culture of Spirulina. In India, the Murugappa Chettiar
Research Centre in Chennai has developed the technology and this has been successfully
propagated on a large scale in the rural areas of Pudukottai district of Tamil Nadu. For instance,
mud pot Spirulina production uses a medium consisting of biogas slurry, 23 g of sea salt or
chemical medium (potassium dihydrogen phosphate, cooking soda and sodium chloride) and
pure Spirulina culture [7] [9].
Production of Spirulina in organic nutrients including waste effluents may contest with the cost
effectiveness. In Nigeria waste water is used for cultivation of Chlorella and Spirulina. Alternate
use of organic nutrient source, waste water effluent available in rural source The fertilizer factory
waste on an average contained phosphate-P (107187 ppm), nitrate-N (3.04.0 ppm), sulfate
SO4-2 (146150 ppm), had a pH of 7.48.5 and electric conductivity of 700–2457 μmhos/cm.
This physico-chemical status of fertilizer factory waste is suitable for the growth of Chlorella
and Spirulina. Approximately, 11.0 percent (w/w dry matter) as no. of Spirulina was obtained
when cultured in 50:50 mixture of effluent and filtered sea water (pH 8.30) after 21 days [9].
Commercial and mass cultivation
The main commercial large-scale culture of microalgae started in the early 1960s in Japan with
the culture of Chlorella, followed by Spirulina in the early 1970s at Lake Texcoco, Mexico.
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Spirulina is produced in at least 22 countries: Benin, Brazil, Burkina Faso, Chad, Chile, China,
Costa Rica, Côte d'Ivoire, Cuba, Ecuador, France, India, Madagascar, Mexico, Myanmar, Peru,
Israel, Spain, Thailand, Togo, United States of America and Viet Nam. The total industrial
production of Spirulina is about 3000 tons a year [13].
Mass cultivation of Spirulina
Spirulina is usually carried out in shallow ponds, equipped with paddle wheels to mix the
culture. Two types of open raceway ponds are typically used: the first is lined by concrete and is
therefore expensive, the second is a shallow earthen tunnel lined with polyvinyl-chloride (PVC)
or some other durable plastic material. Lining of the raceways increases the cost of production of
algal biomass, hence the search for cheaper material and processes, such as low-cost clay
sealing. The surface of commercial raceways varies from 0.1 to 0.5 hectares and culture depth is
usually maintained at 1518 cm. The paddle wheel, large (with a diameter up to 2.0 m and a
speed of 10 rpm) or small (with a diameter of 0.7 m and a speed 2 to 3 times faster than 2.0 m
diameter paddle wheel), is the most common stirring device. One difficulty of this paddle stirring
is that the flow is not sufficiently turbulent to produce an optimum light pattern for single-cell
algae. Thus, other means were used to increase turbulence in shallow ponds or raceways, and
consequently photosynthetic efficiency [14].
Contamination by different algal species may present a severe problem for microalgal cultures
grown in outdoor open ponds. In most cases, the steps that proved effective in prevention of
Chlorella contamination were maintaining a high bicarbonate concentration (e.g. 0.2 M), taking
precautions to maintain the dissolved organic load in the culture medium as low as possible, and
increasing winter temperature by greenhouse heating. Development of grazers in the culture,
mainly the amoebae type, was prevented by the addition of ammonia (2mm). Experience
indicates that contaminating organisms do not present a serious difficulty as long as good growth
is maintained in a mono-algal culture [15].
The whole process consists of eight steps (consisting harvesting, processing and packing):
1) Filtration and cleaning: A nylon filter at the entrance of the water pond is needed.
2) Pre-concentration: To obtain algal biomass which is washed to reduce salts content.
3) Concentration: To remove the highest possible amount of interstitial water (located among
the filaments)
4) Neutralization: To neutralize the biomass with the addition of acid solution.
5) Disintegration: To break down trichomes by a grinder.
6) Dehydration by spray-drying: This operation has great economic importance since it
involves about 2030 percent of the production cost.
7) Packing: It is usually in sealed plastic bags to avoid hygroscopic action on the dry
8) Storage: Stored in fresh, dry, unlit, pest-free and hygienic storerooms to prevent Spirulina
pigments from deteriorating [16] [17].
Phytonutrients in Spirulina
Spirulina is a hard-core super food, non-toxic, absorbable nutrients and considered one of the
most nutritious food on Earth [18] [19]. It is microscopic blue - green algae, often called as
nature's perfect food because of its abundant nutritional profile. It is one of the most easily
digestible and quickly assimilated sources of protein and also one of the richest food sources of
protein, chlorophyll and beta-carotene. It also provides the benefits of vitamins and essential
minerals from a whole food. Spirulina phytonutrients are extremely beneficial to the human body
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as it can increase the immune system of the body. Phytonutrients are special compounds that are
present in Spirulina that has different abilities to ensure good health to everyone. Dried Spirulina
contains about 60% (5171%) protein [7]. It is a complete protein source containing all essential
amino acids, though with somewhat reduced amount of methionine, cysteine and lysine as
compared to the proteins of meat, eggs and milk. It is superior to typical plant protein
like legumes [2] [7] [20].
The main Pigments found in Spirulina are
The most visible pigment in Spirulina is chlorophyll. Chlorophyll is sometimes called green
blood because of its similarity to the hemoglobin molecule found in human blood cells.
Chlorophyll is known as the cleansing and detoxifying phytonutrients, increases peristaltic action
and thus relieves constipation. It also normalizes the secretion of digestive acids. In addition,
Spirulina soothes the inflammation and reduces the excess pepsin secretion associated with
gastric ulcers. It has antiseptic qualities as it reduces swelling and promotes granulation- a
process that regenerates new tissue over injuries, promotes regeneration of damaged cells and
improves overall efficiency of cardiac work.
Spirulina is the richest food source of beta-carotene which is a Vitamin A precursor. It has 21
times more beta carotene than raw carrots and with a spectrum of 10 mixed carotenoids, about
half are orange carotene. These are alpha, beta and gamma. These components are half
xanthophylls which work synergistically at different sites in our body to enhance healthy eyes
and vision and antioxidant protection.
It is a brilliant blue polypeptide which is a source of biliverdin (a green pigment excreted in bile)
which is most potent intra-cellular antioxidants and related to human pigment bilirubin and stem
cells. Its components are important to healthy liver function and digestion of amino acids.
Porphyrin is a red compound that forms the active nucleus of hemoglobin. It is essential for the
formation of red blood cells. It is used as a chelator for heavy metal toxicity and circulation
problems. Porphyrins have the ability to bind divalent metal ions due to the nitrogen atoms of the
tetrapyrrole nucleus.
The central ion in chlorophyll is magnesium, which is freed from chlorophyll under acidic
conditions permitting other metals to bind in its place. Toxic metals, such as mercury, lead and
arsenic, are complexed first then excess amounts of other divalent metals, such as calcium, can
be complexed by porphyrins. By increasing the porphyrin content, the heavy metal binding
capability is also increased, providing clinicians with a natural, effective “chelating” tool.
Spirulina contains a number of enzymes. One of the most significant enzymes is superoxide
dismutase (SOD), which is important in quenching free radicals and in retarding aging. This
essential enzyme is crucial to the body’s ability to assimilate amino acids. Without SOD's
presence in the body, we are unable to create the 10,000’s of long, complex chains of amino
acids known as proteins. In fact, Spirulina is so high in enzyme activity that even after being
dried (at 160 C) it will often start growing again if placed in the right medium, temperature and
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sunlight. Spirulina has been scientifically demonstrated to increase reproduction of lacto-bacilli
(bacteria that digests our food). It contains over 2000 different enzymes [21] [22].
Table 2:- Composition of phytonutrients of Spirulina [23]
Beta-carotene 9-cis
Beta-carotene 13-cis
Beta-carotene 15-cis
Beta-carotene all-trans
Total carotenoids
Superoxide Dismutase
1.60 mg
0.51 mg
0.12 mg
7.80 mg
23.70 mg
14 mg
333 mg
2040 units
Nutritional Benefits of Spirulina Phytonutrients
Carotenoids, including zeaxanthin and beta-carotene
Support immune health, protect against age-related vision loss, protects skin from the effects of
UV radiation [21]. Spirulina contains 4,000 mg/kg carotenoids.
Phycocyanin, (gives Spirulina its blue color)
Supports liver and kidney functions, key to detoxifying the body [19].
Bio-Chelated Iron
Prevents anemia, supports blood health [19].
Vitamin B, especially B-12 is essential for nerve health and healthy hair [21].
GLA Fatty Acid
GLA supports sexual and menstrual health, reducing symptoms of PMS. Also helps balance
mood swings, and reduces inflammation [24].
Protein in Spirulina includes all essential amino acids which supports blood sugar levels and
reduces appetite [12] [8].
Health benefits
This article is an attempt to introduce the basic composition of Spirulina and its biomedical
applications. Spirulina spp. and its processing products are employed in agriculture, food
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industry, pharmaceutics, perfumery and medicine. Spirulina has several pharmacological
activities such as antimicrobial (including antiviral and antibacterial), anticancer,
metalloprotective (prevention of heavy-metal poisoning against Cd, Pb, Fe, Hg), as well as
immunostimulant and antioxidant effects due to its rich content of protein, polysaccharide, lipid,
essential amino and fatty acids, dietary minerals and vitamins. For each application the basic
description of disease, mechanism of damage, particular content of Spirulina spp. for treatment,
in vivo and/or in vitro usage, factors associated with therapeutic role, problems encountered and
advantages are given [7] [8] [13] [20].
Spirulina is the richest beta carotene food, with a full spectrum of ten mixed carotenoids
About half are orange carotenes: alpha, beta and gamma and half are yellow xanthophylls. They
work synergistically at different sites in our body to enhance antioxidant protection. Twenty
years of research proves eating beta carotene rich fruits and vegetables give us real anti-cancer
protection. Synthetic beta carotene has not always shown these benefits. Research in Israel
showed natural beta carotene from algae was far more effective. Natural is better assimilated and
contains the key 9-cis isomer, lacking in synthetic. As suspected, natural carotenoids in algae and
vegetables have the most antioxidant and anti-cancer power [25].
Spirulina is an ideal anti-aging food
Concentrated nutrient value easily digested and loaded with antioxidants. Beta carotene is good
for healthy eyes and vision. Spirulina’s beta carotene is ten times more concentrated than carrots.
Iron is essential to build a strong system, yet is the most common mineral deficiency. Spirulina is
rich in iron, magnesium and trace minerals, and is easier to absorb than iron supplements.
Spirulina is the highest source of B-12, essential for healthy nerves and tissue, especially for
vegetarians [26].
Healthy Dieting with Spirulina
About 60% of Spirulina’s dry weight is protein which is essential for growth and cell
regeneration. It is a good replacement for fatty and cholesterol-rich meat and dairy products in
diet. Every 10 grams of Spirulina can supply up to 70% of the minimum daily requirements for
iron, and about three to four times of minimum daily requirements for vitamins A (in the form of
beta carotene), B complex, D, and K. But it does not contain vitamin C, but it helps maintain this
vitamin’s potency. Spirulina is rich in gamma-linolenic acid or GLA, a compound found in
breast milk that helps in the development of healthier babies. Moreover, with its high
digestibility, Spirulina has been proven to fight malnutrition in impoverished communities by
helping the body to absorb nutrients when it has lost its ability to absorb normal forms of food.
Another health benefit of Spirulina is that it stimulates beneficial flora like lactobacillus and
bifidobacteria in the digestive tract to promote healthy digestion and proper bowel function. It
acts as a natural cleanser by eliminating mercury and other deadly toxins commonly ingested by
the body. Spirulina also increases stamina and immunity levels in athletes, and its high protein
content helps to build muscle mass. At the same time, it can control hunger that may develop
during the most demanding training routines. Thus, it indirectly acts as an effective way to
maintain an athlete’s ideal body weight [27].
The Disease Fighter
Spirulina contains other nutrients such as iron, manganese, zinc, copper, selenium, and
chromium. These nutrients help to fight free radicals, cell-damaging molecules absorbed by the
body through pollution, poor diet, injury, or stress. By removing free radicals, the nutrients help
the immune system to fight cancer and cellular degeneration. Spirulina helps to reduce oral
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cancer tumors in laboratory rats, and may thus provide a big medical breakthrough in cancer
treatment. Spirulina’s ability to reduce the bad cholesterol LDL in the body helps to prevent the
onset of cardiovascular diseases, such as hardening of the arteries and strokes. It also helps to
lower blood pressure. While not clinically proven, Spirulina may also protect against allergic
reactions and liver infection. Research confirms Spirulina promotes digestion and bowel
function. It suppresses bad bacteria like E-coli and Candida yeast and stimulates beneficial flora
like lactobacillus and bifido-bacteria. Healthy flora is the foundation of good health and it
increases absorption of nutrients from the food we eat and helps to protect against infection.
Spirulina builds healthy lactobacillus, aiding assimilation and elimination and relieving
constipation [28].
Removing Toxins
In 1994, a Russian Patent was awarded for Spirulina as a medical food to reduce allergic
reactions from radiation sickness. 270 Children of Chernobyl consuming 5 grams a day for 45
days (donated by Earthrise Farms), lowered radionucleides by 50%, and normalized allergic
sensitivities. Spirulina has a completely unique combination of phytonutrients including
chlorophyll, phycocyanin and polysaccharides, which can help to cleanse our body [29].
For beautiful skin
Spirulina is one of the best anti-ageing agents. It nourishes the skin very well. You have to
simply add 1 spoon of Spirulina to your fruit juice or smoothie. But before eating it out just
apply a little bit on your face. Let it dry and then rinse off, then tone and moisturize. See the
magic in just 3 weeks. Spirulina is loaded with vitamin A (in the form of beta carotene), the
antioxidant widely recognised to maintain healthy skin. Beta carotene helps slow the aging of the
skin which is caused by UV-radiation. It also helps protect the skin from sunburn. Spirulina is
also a powerful source of the antioxidant, super oxide dismutase (SOD), that helps oxygenate the
skin and helps protect the skin from UV-induced damage. Furthermore, Spirulina contains
unusually high levels of the polyunsaturated fatty acid i.e. gamma linolenic acid (GLA) that
contributes to optimal skin elasticity. Eat a good amount of Spirulina everyday along with
carrots, sprouts, oatmeal, oranges, lemons, pumpkin, parsley, purified water and herbal teas.
Anticancer Effects
It has been argued that the combined antioxidant and immune modulation characteristics of
Spirulina may have a possible mechanism of tumor destruction and hence play a role in cancer
prevention. While there are many animal and in vitro studies, there has been only one trial with
human subjects. This study looked specifically at the effects of Spirulina on oral carcinogenesis,
in particular leukoplakia. It is not surprising that few human studies exist to date as cancer
prevention trials with lower cancer incidence as an endpoint have logistic problems, rendering
them essentially impossible to conduct for most malignancies. The study conducted by Mathew
et al., (1995) on a cohort of 77 patients originates from previous trials on hamsters that showed
tumor regression after topical application or intake of Spirulina extract. They reported that 45%
of their study cohort showed complete regression of leukoplakia after taking Spirulina
supplements for 1 year. The authors also reported that there was no rise in the serum
concentration of retinal β-carotene despite supplementation and concluded that other constituents
within Spirulina may have been responsible for the anticancer effects. Even as their results
appear promising, it was an unblinded, non-randomized trial and as such cannot be regarded as
evidence of a positive effect [30].
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International Journal of Applied Microbiology Science 2013; 2(3):21-35 32
Chronic Arsenic Poisoning: A Randomized Trial
Millions of people in Bangladesh, India, Taiwan and Chile are consuming high concentration of
arsenic through drinking water and are at risk of chronic arsenic poisoning for which there is no
specific treatment. A placebo-controlled, double-blind study was conducted to evaluate the
effectiveness of Spirulina extract plus zinc in the treatment of chronic arsenic poisoning. Forty-
one patients with chronic arsenic poisoning were randomly treated by either placebo (17
patients) or Spirulina extract (210mg) plus zinc (2mg) (19 patients) twice daily for 16 weeks.
Each patient was supplied with arsenic-safe drinking water by installing a locally made water
filter at household level. Effectiveness of Spirulina extract plus zinc was evaluated by comparing
changes in skin manifestations (clinical scores) and arsenic contents in urine and hair, between
the placebo and Spirulina extract plus zinc-treated groups. Results showed that Spirulina extract
plus zinc twice daily for 16 weeks may be useful for the treatment of chronic arsenic poisoning
with melanosis and keratosis [31].
Antioxidant and Antiproliferative activity: Treatment for Liver Cirrhosis
Liver fibrosis is a chronic liver disease that will develop to cirrhosis if severe damage continues
to form. A potential treatment for liver fibrosis is to inhibit the activated hepatic stellate cell
(HSC) proliferation or by inducing apoptosis of HSC. It was shown that spirulina inhibit the
proliferation of HSC at the G2/M phase by its antioxidant activity [32]. The main component of
spirulina which play antioxidant role is C-phycocyanin. This study was shown on HepG2 cells
(Human liver cancer cells)[33].
Spirulina and Chronic Fatigue
Spirulina has been promoted as “the food of the future" with “exceptional constituents" that
contribute to high energy levels. A few of these constituents such as polysaccharides (Rhamnose
and Glycogen) and essential fat (GLA) are absorbed easily by human cells and help in energy
release. Spirulina increases healthy lactobacillus in the intestine enabling the production of
Vitamin B6 that also helps in energy release. Despite this promotion, the only available placebo-
controlled randomized trial showed that the scores of fatigue were not significantly different
between Spirulina and placebo. Spirulina administered at a dose of 3g day−1 did not improve
fatigue more than the placebo in any of the four subjects and possibly it has no effect on chronic
fatigue [34] [35].
Allergy, Rhinitis, and Immunomodulation
It has been well documented that Spirulina exhibits anti-inflammatory properties by inhibiting
the release of histamine from mast cells. In randomized, double-blind placebo-controlled trial,
individuals with allergic rhinitis was fed daily, either with placebo or Spirulina for 12 weeks.
Peripheral blood mononuclear cells were isolated before and after the Spirulina feeding and
levels of cytokines (interleukin-4 (IL-4), interferon-γ (IFN-γ) and interleukin-2(IL-2)), which are
important in regulating immunoglobulin (Ig) E-mediated allergy, were measured. Results
showed that high dose of Spirulina significantly reduced IL-4 levels by 32% demonstrating the
protective effects of this microalga toward allergic rhinitis. Spirulina has on IgA levels in human
saliva and demonstrated that it enhances IgA production, suggesting a pivotal role of microalga
in mucosal immunity. A Japanese team identified the molecular mechanism of the human
immune capacity of Spirulina by analysing blood cells of volunteers with pre- and post-oral
administration of hot water extract of Spirulina platensis. IFN-γ production and Natural Killer
(NK) cell damage were increased after administration of the microalga extracts to male
volunteers. In a recent double-blind, placebo-controlled study from Turkey evaluating the
effectiveness and tolerability of Spirulina for treating patients with allergic rhinitis, Spirulina
Mishra et al.
International Journal of Applied Microbiology Science 2013; 2(3):21-35 33
consumption significantly improved the symptoms and physical findings compared with placebo
including nasal discharge, sneezing, nasal congestion and itching. It is well understood that
deficiency of nutrients is responsible for changes in immunity, which are marked as changes in
production of T-cells, secretory IgA antibody response, cytokines and NK-cell activity [36].
Antiviral Applications: In Vitro Studies
There are no in vivo studies providing strong evidence supporting the possible antiviral
properties of Spirulina. The active component of the water extract of S. platensis is a sulfated
polysaccharide i.e. calcium spirulan (Ca-Sp). According to Hayashi et al., (1990) Ca-Sp (calcium
spirulan) inhibits the in vitro replication of several enveloped viruses including Herpes simplex
type I, human cytomegalovirus, measles and mumps virus, influenza A virus and human
immunodeficiency virus-1 virus (HIV-1) [37].
In vitro study by K. Ishii (1999) showed that an aqueous extract of S. platensis inhibited
HIV-1 replication in human T-cells, peripheral blood mononuclear cells and Langerhan cells.
The advantage of using herbs and algal products with proven antiviral properties in fighting
certain viruses is that they can be used through immune-modulation even when the infection is
established [37].
Cholesterol-Lowering Effects and Effects on Diabetes
Cardiovascular disease remains the first cause of death in developed countries, despite increased
awareness and high cholesterol is one of the most important risk factors in atherosclerosis.
nakaya (1988) in the first human study, gave 4.2g day−1 of Spirulina to 15 male volunteers
although there was no significant increase in high-density lipoprotein (HDL) levels, they
observed a significant reduction of low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol after 8 weeks of
treatment. The atherogenic effect also declined [38].Rama moorthy and Prema kumari (1996) in
a more recent study administered Spirulina supplements in ischemic heart disease patients and
found a significant reduction in blood cholesterol, triglycerides and LDL cholesterol and an
increase in HDL cholesterol [39]. Mani., (2000) in a clinical study, found a significant
reduction in LDL: HDL ratio in 15 diabetic patients who were given Spirulina. However, this
study suggested that small Spirulina can be recommended in diabetes [40].
Thus positive effects of Spirulina in allergic rhinitis are based on sufficient evidence but larger
trials are required. The anticancer effects of Spirulina are perhaps derived from β-carotene
(antioxidant); however, the link between β-carotene level and carcinogenesis cannot be regarded
as reason of carcinoma. There are some positive studies on the cholesterol-lowering effects of
Spirulina but larger studies are required before any definitive conclusions can be made. Finally,
there are no high-level evidence trials on the role played by Spirulina in chronic fatigue and in
antiviral applications. At the moment, the literature suggests that Spirulina is a safe food
supplement without significant side-effects but its role as a drug remains to be seen [41] [42]
[43] [44].
Antiinflammatory activity of Spirulina
In vivo as well as in vitro studies on spirulina have shown anti-inflammatory activity which is
because of C-phycocyanin (C-PC) a biliprotein. C-Pc shows this anti-inflammatory activity by
inhibiting pro-inflammatory cytokine formation. Further it was shown that not merely
proinflammatory cytokine has to be inhibited but rather along with them inducible nitric oxide
synthase (iNOS) and cyclooxygeanase-2 (COX-2) expression has to be inhibited for anti-
inflammatory activity of spirulina [45].
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International Journal of Applied Microbiology Science 2013; 2(3):21-35 34
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... Major constituents in Spirulina.Mishra et al., 2013. ...
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The effect of Spirulina on hypercholesterolemic patients was carried out in Coimbatore city. Thirty ischaemic heart disease patients without any complications of the disease and with blood cholesterol levels above 250mg/dl were selected for the study and divided into three groups of 10 each for supplementation of Spirulina. Subjects in groups A and B received 2g and 4g Spirulina per day, respectively for three months. Group C served as control. The study has revealed that Spirulina plays a key role in weight reduction, lowering the blood cholesterol levels and improving the lipid profile of patients.
Diabetes mellitus is a chronic disorder, affecting the metabolism of carbohydrates, fats and proteins. Hyperglycemia is also associated with non-enzymatic glycation of serum proteins thereby enhancing the development of secondary complications affecting multiple organ failure. Ninety percent of the diabetics are non-insulin dependent and this syndrome can be effectively controlled with prudent diet therapy. This has spawned a new era of research leading to the use of few natural unprocessed foods like blue-green algae “Spirulina” which has a galaxy of nutrients like linolenic acid, gamma linolenic acid, antioxi-dants, balanced fatty acid profile, amino acids and super oxide dismu-tase. With these components in mind, the present study was planned to observe the long-term effect of spirulina tablet supplementation (2 g/ day) on blood sugar levels, serum lipid profile and glycated serum protein levels of 15 non-insulin dependent diabetes mellitus (NIDDM) patients. Blood analysis was done at baseline...
The cyanobacterium Spirulina Turpin is characterized by its regularly coiled trichomes. Under some conditions, its helical filaments can convert to abnormal morphologies, such as irregularly curved and even linear shapes, that had been considered as a permanent degeneration that could not be reversed. However, here we found that the linear filaments of Spirulina platensis Geitler could spontaneously revert to the helical form with the same morphology as the original filaments. Further studies showed that the ultrastructural, physiological, and biochemical characteristics of linear filaments were different from those of the original filaments, whereas they were the same for the reverted and the original filaments. The SDS-PAGE analysis revealed at least four proteins or subunits related to Spirulina morphogenesis: The 21.9-kDa and the 20.3-kDa proteins were highly expressed in the helical filaments, whereas the 52.0-kDa and the 31.8-kDa proteins were highly expressed in the linear filaments. The random amplified polymorphic DNA analysis with 96 random primers showed that the genetic background of the reverted filaments was the same as that of the original filaments but distinct from that of the linear filaments. The results indicated that linear filaments of Spirulina could revert to the original morphology under certain conditions, and their other distinctive traits were regained.
In 1997 a survey was conducted among the Kanembu whoharvest Arthrospira (Spirulina) from LakeKossorom in the Prefecture of Lac (Chad). Informationon the amount of Arthrospira harvested and thepreparation and use of dih was obtained byinterviewing the women who daily gather around thelake for the harvesting. Dih is obtained byfiltering and sun drying the algal biomass on thesandy shores of the lake. The semi-dried dih is then cut into small squares and taken tothe villages, where the drying is completed on mats inthe sun. Dih is mainly used to prepare la souce, a kind of fish or meat and vegetable broth.Part of the harvest is sold to local consumers or towholesalers, who trade the product in the markets ofMassakori, Massaquet and N'Djamena and also across theborder of the country. The local trading valueof the dih annually harvested from LakeKossorom (about 40 t) amounts to more than US$100,000, which represents an important contributionto the economy of the area.
Spirulina maxima, provided by Sosa Texcoco Company (México City), was administered to mice of both sexes in a fertility study, at concentrations of 0, 10, 20 and 30% incorporated into the diet. Males were fed for nine weeks while females, for two weeks, and feeding continued during the mating period and gestation. On the other hand, in a peri- and postnatal study, the alga was given only to females at the same concentrations from day 15 of gestation until day 21 post-partum. Treatments were not associated with any adverse effect on reproductive performance, pregnancy rate, number of corpora lutea, resorptions or number of live or dead fetuses. There was no increase in the number of abnormal pups at caesarean section. Length of gestation, parturition status, and litter values were unaffected by treatment. However, there was a statistically significant reduction in bodyweight and survival rate on postnatal days 0–4 at the high dose group in the peri- and postnatal study. The reproductive performance of F1 generation was normal in all groups. We conclude that S. maxima is not toxic to reproduction.