Obesity is a medical condition that occurs due to many factors and is a worldwide concern. It is characterized by accumulation of fat in the body to an extend that has a negative effect on health.
Obesity is a multifactorial disease as it in turn increases the risk of other diseases like heart disease, type 2 diabetes, certain types of cancer, osteoarthritis and other disorders. It is mainly caused due to over eating, lack of physical activity and genetic factors.
However, obesity can be prevented by incorporating changes in the diet, exercising, medications or surgery. Although preventable it has become a major cause of death worldwide. In 2013, obesity was classified as a disease by the American Medical Association.
In addition to low calorie diet and exercise, scientists are working upon other alternatives like dietary components that help in resolving complications of obesity by providing anti-oxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, lowering levels of cholesterol and reducing risk of heart diseases.
Extensive research carried out in this field suggests that dietary intake of spirulina supplements can help prevent obesity.
What is spirulina?
Spirulina is a biomass of the blue green algae and can be consumed by humans and animals. It is used as a dietary supplement in the form of whole food and is available as a tablet, powder and flake. It is commonly used as a feed supplement in poultry, aquarium and aquaculture.
Spirulina is rich in nutrients and vitamins. Dried spirulina comprises of 60% of protein. It is an excellent source of B vitamins and dietary minerals, iron and manganese.
6 Proven Benefits of Spirulina in obesity
Spirulina has many pharmacological properties that can benefit in obesity and weight loss.
1. It helps in weight loss
Spirulina consumption has found to be helpful in reducing body weight. An experimental study conducted on 40 patients investigated the effect of spirulina on body weight, blood pressure and endothelial function.
The patients were supplemented with 2g of spirulina for a span of three months. The results indicated that spirulina improves body mass index, weight, blood pressure and endothelial function in overweight patients with hypertension.
A study conducted by Wan-Loy et al. showed that Marine algae contain bioactive compounds like fucoxanthin, alginates, fucoidans and phlorotannins that serve various mechanisms helpful in curing obesity. These compounds inhibit lipid absorption and metabolism, have an effect on satiety feeling and inhibit adipocyte differentiation.
What does this mean?
Spirulina consumption has found to be effective in weight loss. It improves the body mass index and in reducing the body weight in overweight patients.
2. It lowers cholesterol levels
Studies show that spirulina reduces levels of total cholesterol in the blood. It is known to reduce levels of bad cholesterol and improve levels of good cholesterol.
An animal study performed by Colla et al. by inducing hypercholesterolemia in the rats by feeding them a diet high in cholesterol. The results showed that supplementation of spirulina in a high cholesterol diet reduced levels of triacylglycerols significantly. It also reduced the serum lipid levels due to the presence of phycocyanin and phenolic compounds.
Studies suggest that spirulina reduces high levels of cholesterol.
What does this mean?
High levels of cholesterol are common is obese patiests. It increases risk of hypercholesterolemia and cardiovascular diseases. Spirulina supplements have the ability to reduce serum cholesterol, reduce serum lipids and promote good cholesterol levels. Spirulina may reduce risk of cardiovascular diseases, hypercholesterolemia and hyperlipidemia in obese patients.
3. It has anti-oxidant properties
Obesity is characterized with increased oxidative stress. Over expression of oxidative stress damages the cellular structures along with under-production of antioxidant mechanisms. This leads to development of complications in obesity.
In a research study conducted by Gargouri et al. it was observed that antioxidant properties of spirulina reduced oxidative stress, peroxidation of lipids and increased the activity of antioxidant enzymes in the liver.
An experimental study conducted by Estrada et al. in 2001 showed that extracts derived from Spirulina are potent scavengers of free radicals and inhibits peroxidation of lipids. The study demonstrated that an increase in phycocyanin content which is a fraction derived from spirulina showed an increase in the anti-oxidant activity.
Spirulina supplementation showed significant total anti-oxidant status in elderly individuals and was seen to increase superoxide dismutase activity which is an anti-oxidant enzyme.
The study was conducted by Park et al. and it concluded that spirulina has favorable anti-oxidant activity in healthy elderly male and female subjects and is a suitable food supplementation.
What does this mean?
Oxidative stress leads to increasing complication in obesity. Spirulina has shown potential increase the anti-oxidative mechanisms and reduce oxidative stress. This property can be beneficial in treating obesity.
4. It benefits in diabetes
Research studies suggest that spirulina supplementation prevents complications seen in diabetes and provides the same benefit as antidiabetic insulin.
An animal study published in the journal of nutrition research showed that the anti-oxidant properties of spirulina prevent complications like oxidative stress, hyperglycemia, liver damage and dysfunction.
Spirulina also resulted in significant reduction of blood glucose and an increase in the glycogen levels. It also reduces total serum cholesterol levels. It shows the same benefits as insulin as can be used as an alternative to anti-diabetic insulin drugs.
A clinical study performed by Lee et al. in 2008 to determine the effects of spirulina supplements on 37 diabetic patients suffering from type 2 diabetes mellitus for a period of 12 weeks.
The results of the study showed that spirulina significantly reduced levels of triglycerides, cholesterol and blood pressure. It was found to most effective in subjects with dyslipidemia.
Spirulina supplementation had a beneficial effect on blood lipid profiles, inflammatory profiles and anti-oxidant capacity in patients with type 2 diabetes suggesting its use as a dietary supplement in diabetes management.
What does this mean?
Spirulina supplementation in the diet has shown beneficial effects in preventing complications associated with diabetes. It can be used as a promising dietary supplement for diabetes management.
5. It reduces inflammation
Cellular inflammation is a common symptom of obesity leading to the development of cardiovascular and metabolic diseases. Inflammation contributes to pathogenesis of various cardiovascular diseases which can be prevented by the anti-inflammatory property of spirulina.
An animal study demonstrated that spirulina supplements enriched with silicon had protective effects against metabolic imbalance, inflammation, oxidative stress and vascular dysfunction which could prevent atherosclerosis.
In an animal study conducted by Muga et al. in 2014 it was observed that when spirulina alone or in combination with fish oil had the ability to reduce oxidative stress and inflammation in high cholesterol or hypercholestrolemia.
Spirulina reduces levels of proinflammatory cytokines that are known to increase inflammation.
What does this mean?
Spirulina supplements have shown anti-inflammatory effects in treatment of cardiovascular diseases like atherosclerosis. It may reduce inflammation caused by obesity inducing diets. It can be used as a dietary supplement by people suffering from obesity to prevent other diseases associated with it.
6. It prevents cancer
Spirulina is also considered as an anti-proliferative agent due to its anti-cancer effects.
In an experimental study conducted to determine the anti-cancer effect of spirulina on human pancreatic cell lines, spirulina was observed to comprise of certain tetrapyrrolic components and chlorophyllin which possess anti-proliferative activity.
They decrease the proliferation human pancreatic cell lines. The study concluded that tetrapyrolic components of spirulina reduced proliferation in pancreatic cancer and can be used as a chemotherapy agent in the form of a dietary supplement.
Another experimental study conducted by Wang et al. in 2016 showed that spirulina extracts contain small molecular peptides that exhibit anti-proliferative effects on cancer cell lines, and low toxicity and stimulatory activity on normal cells. This property of spirulina can be beneficial for treating cancer.
Spirulina has found to increase the efficiency of anti-obesity drugs like sibutramine which has mutagenic potential. An experimental study conducted by Araldi et al. showed that sibutramine when used in association with spirulina reduces the risk of developing cancer in obese patients consuming sibutramine drugs.
A similar study conducted by Araldi et al. in 2014 showed the effect of spirulina on decreasing the mutagenic potential of Cordiae calyculata, which is an anti -obesity drug. The study showed that spirulina can be used as an anti-obesity drug as it contains chemo-preventive substances that an prevent tumor associated with obesity.
What does this mean?
Spirulina extracts possess anti-proliferative activity that can play an essential chemopreventive role in treating cancer in human cell lines. Spirulina can be used as an effective drug against cancer associated with obesity due to its anti-oxidant and anti-genotoxic activity.
Dosage of Spirulina For Weight Loss
There is not recommended dosage for consumption of spirulina yet. It depends upon factors like age, health and several other conditions.
Doses of these supplements can be taken under doctor’s prescription. A standard dose of spirulina supplements is 500 mg per day. Researchers have not yet come up with a safe standard dose for children under the age of 18.
Spirulina supplements are free of contaminants and are possibly considered safe for consumption. Contaminated products are however not considered safe especially for children. One must buy spirulina supplements from reputable places where contamination in products is checked for before it is marketed.
Although no such adverse cases of spirulina have been observed yet, pregnant and breast feeding women must avoid its use. It may interact and decrease efficiency of medicines than decrease activity of the immune system. It is best to avoid its consumption if suffering from such medical conditions.
People suffering from Phenylketonuria must exercise caution when using spirulina supplements as spirulina contains phenylalanine chemical which can may the condition worse.
Spirulina may also slow blood clotting thus people on medications for anti-coagulant or anti-platelet drugs must avoid its use.
It is always recommended take the advice of a doctor before consuming these supplements due to the potential side effects and interaction of such dietary supplements with medications.
The therapeutic effects of spirulina may provide basis for developing drugs related to the treatment of obesity and its associated complications. It is important to buy spirulina from a trusted brand to ensure consumption of contamination free products.
Spirulina shows potential therapeutic properties which can be beneficial for treating obesity and other related diseases like heart diseases, diabetes, cancer and hypercholesterolemia.