When I joined the natural medicine community, Spirulina was touted as a ‘super-food.’ My personal feeling is that if you have to call yourself something, you probably aren’t that thing. So a super-food? Immediately suspect.
So what is a Super-Food really
It turns out that calling something a super-food just means that it’s nutrient dense – or that it contains high levels of vitamins, minerals, and/or anti-oxidants. Considering how many so-called foods on the market don’t contain nutrition at all, I started to understand the need for the label. And perhaps Spirulina qualifies as a true super-food, considering it’s packed full of protein and vitamins. In addition, Spirulina has potent anti-oxidant and anti-inflammatory activity.
Spirulina is a Super Food AND good for muscle fatigue
Athletes use anti-oxidants and anti-inflammatories to treat their pain and fatigue. Interestingly, the Chinese and Cuban Olympic teams have used Spirulina for years to reduce muscle fatigue. While the reports from the Olympics are anecdotal, there are also a few clinical trials that suggest that Spirulina can help with exercise.
Spirulina is a Super Food AND good for the Brain too!
But it isn’t just good for the gym. It out-performs some of its fruit and vegetable friends when it comes to the brain too. Researchers put Spirulina, apples, and cucumbers head to head for combating age-induced neuroinflammation in rats. The results? Spirulina came in first, then apples, and then cucumbers.
What is beyond Sports and Ageing?
But let’s keep going. If Spirulina can reduce neuroinflammation, it’s possible that it would be helpful for neurodegenerative diseases. Researchers have started to investigate this. Two different animal models of Parkinson’s disease have shown benefit from Spirulina[4,5].
So here’s a food that has strong antioxidant and anti-inflammatory activity, helps with fatigue and with the brain? Sounds super to me. Now I just wish it didn’t taste so bad… Maybe add it to a apple and cucumber smoothie!
- Wu Q, Liu L, Miron A, Klímová B, Wan D, Kuča K. The antioxidant, immunomodulatory, and anti-inflammatory activities of Spirulina: an overview. Arch Toxicol. 2016;90(8):1817-1840. doi:10.1007/s00204-016-1744-5
- Braakhuis AJ, Hopkins WG. Impact of Dietary Antioxidants on Sport Performance: A Review. Sports Med Auckl NZ. 2015;45(7):939-955. doi:10.1007/s40279-015-0323-x
- Gemma C, Mesches MH, Sepesi B, Choo K, Holmes DB, Bickford PC. Diets enriched in foods with high antioxidant activity reverse age-induced decreases in cerebellar beta-adrenergic function and increases in proinflammatory cytokines. J Neurosci Off J Soc Neurosci. 2002;22(14):6114-6120. doi:20026622
- Pabon MM, Jernberg JN, Morganti J, et al. A spirulina-enhanced diet provides neuroprotection in an α-synuclein model of Parkinson’s disease. PloS One. 2012;7(9):e45256. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0045256
- Zhang F, Lu J, Zhang J-G, Xie J-X. Protective effects of a polysaccharide from Spirulina platensis on dopaminergic neurons in an MPTP-induced Parkinson’s disease model in C57BL/6J mice. Neural Regen Res. 2015;10(2):308-313. doi:10.4103/1673-5374.152387