The products of blue-green algae are popular for weight loss, are consumed to reduce cholesterol and prevent cancer. The blue-green species in its natural dry state is used as a source of food in some parts of the world. In supplement form, it is used as a nutritional boost. Spirulina is a natural blue-green algae that is grown commercially in a controlled environment. Another natural blue-green algae, the aphanizomenon flos-aquae (AFA), is grown commercially in nature, allowing for possible contamination. The blue-green algae are bacteria and not real algae. The claims regarding the health benefits of blue-green algae supplements are not scientifically verified.
Blue-green algae is a group of primitive bacteria, known as cyanobacteria, that exhibit photosynthesis, reports plant pathologist Carole A. Lembi of Purdue University. Within this group is spirulina, a unicellular organism found in fresh waters of the alkaline state. Spirulina owes its name to its spiral shape, as seen in the microscope. Natural Ways to Health reports that as a unicellular organism it is singularly large, with sizes that are equivalent to 0.5 mm in length, approximately 100 times larger than other unicellular algae. This unique property makes some spirulina cells visible to the naked eye.
In desert conditions, some species of blue-green algae survive when the water source evaporates and temperatures reach 160 degrees F. Spirulina thrives in waters between 85 to 112 degrees F and alkalinity 8 to 11 pH which is a source of hygienic food, as other organisms can not survive under the same conditions, according to Natural Ways to Health. When spirulina grows, the plants stick together, stick together, which makes harvesting easy. Spirulina also reproduces very fast.
From health benefits to weight loss to cancer prevention, they have hinted at blue-green algae products, according to the University of California Berkeley, which does not promote products for these ends. The general nutritional value derived from spirulina includes proteins, B-complex vitamins, beta-carotene, various minerals and gamma-linolenic acid. Other intended uses of blue-green algae products are for ADHD, cholesterol reduction, viral infections, fatigue and HIV. Spirulina is being touted as the food of the future, since it has the ability to use the food source more efficiently than other blue-green algae, which leads to a product that offers more nutrition, reports Natural Ways to Health.
abstract algae image by maxthewildcat from Fotolia. com
The University of California at Berkeley reports that equivalent nutrition can be obtained in greater quantity and at a lower cost of food than spirulina. The report goes on to say that AFA, which is grown and harvested in the wild, is often contaminated. The AFA is commercially grown under the unique conditions of Upper Klamath Lake, Oregon. According to Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, algae products often use both spirulina and AFA, leading to the possibility of toxic contamination.
Heavy growth areas of blue-green algae, called growths, occur in nature due to fertilizers and waste. This has been associated with toxic events in animals that drink water, according to Purdue's Lembi. Spirulina apparently does not contain toxins in itself, however, many species of blue-green algae can be contaminated with natural toxins called microcystins. Anatoxin is also a contaminant present in several blue-green species. Unfortunately, only a few states have strict rules for the limits of microcystins in algal products.