Spirulina is a blue-green algae long valued by naturopaths for its healing properties.Active chemicals in this remarkable algae called zeaxanthinsare similar to the compound beta-carotene found in carrots and have been shown to promote eye health. It has also been linked to strengthening the immune system through increasing the white blood cell count and stimulating antibodiesand has been shown toenhance brain function and promoteliver health. In fact, a recent Chinese study found that supplementation with a combination of spirulina and Vitamin C reduced enzymatic activity linked to liver damage. This last study concluded that the benefits to the liver were due to its anti-oxidant properties. The study discussed below also used these properties, but to different effect.
Spirulina’s Cancer-Fighting Properties
Thisnewest discovery about Spirulina’s medicinal propertiesmay be the most exciting yet. In the March-April 2014 publication of the peer-reviewed Annals of Hepatology, a team of Czech researchers discovered spirulina to be highly effective in the treatment of pancreatic cancer. Pancreatic cancer isa highly aggressive and often very painful form of the disease which generally carries a poor prognosis and has a high chance of spreading to other parts of the body. This makes finding a treatment for this type of cancer extremely important and this particular study so intriguing in regards to future research and development.
The reason that spirulina is of interest to those engaged in cancer research is that it contains a high concentration of tetrapyrrolic compounds; these are chemicals which are similiar to bilirubin, an anti-oxidant long recognized for its anti-proliferative, cancer-fighting properties. Several compounds from the algae were used in a study of human pancreatic cancer cell lines as well as in mice with pancreatic cancer. Both were treated with a combination of several of the active tetrapyrrolic compounds and the results were studied against a control group which had received no treatment. Thestudy showed clearly that, in the groups which were treated, thespirulina”substantially decreased the proliferation of the experimental pancreatic cancer”. Researchers concluded that spirulina definitely has the potential toplay a “chemoprevenatitive role” in cancer treatment.
Considerations and Conclusion
There are points which need to be taken into consideration in regards to spirulina, however.Because it is an algae, this organism has a potential to pick up contaminants in the environment, contaminants which could then be passed on to the consumer. When buying spirulina, therefore, it is important to know where it has been harvested: it tends to be cleaner if it comes fromthe United States (especially Hawaii) and Europe than from Asia, with Chinese spiriulina generally containing the highest levels of contaminants.
Even so, this study is part of a growing body of clinical evidence to support the use of spirulina for a number of illnesses and conditions, and the research by the Czech scientists certainly opens up intriguing new possiblities in the area of cancer treatment research.
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