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Health Corner
By Julene Tripp Weaver


Macroalgea, or sea vegetables come from the deep sea, but there are also many micro algea which grow in fresh water. Microalgea are one cell organisms with structures similar to bacteria. As such they border the animal and plant kingdoms. They grow in fresh water lakes around the world and have been used as food primarily in times of war when other food supplies were difficult to come by.

Dr. Hills first introduced supernutrition through microalgae commercially in 1965. At this point in time the World Hunger Research project was established through the Microalgae International Union.

There are three types of this microalgea that are popular commercially: sprialina, chorella and the brand name "blue-green" algea. All three are harvested, processed, and sold to the public as choloraphyll rich, nucleic acid rich (RNA and DNA), and nutrient rich food supplements. Certainly they are rich in nutrients, vitamins and cholorophil, but are they a food supplement we need? As you know by now, I am a strong advocate of adding sea vegetables into the diet. Sea vegetables grow in deep ocean currents that is continually moving. Microalgae grows in stagnant water which can be contaminated. Steve Brill, east coast herbalist says, "Avoid all freshwater algae. Some contain substances that displace the neurotransmitters nerve cells use to communicate. Very small amounts disrupt the nervous system, causing convulsions and death-one reason you should never drink stagnant water." (1)

Microalgaes are added to animal feed for chickens, pigs, fish and cows. They were also investigated as a food to use for astronaughts. In Japan Chlorella is fed to oysters to help them produce pearls. There has been much research and experimentation on the microalgaes.

Spirulina maxima

This is a species that belongs to a group known as blue-green algea. There are approximately 30 species of Sprilina reported. It is a multi-celled spiral shaped plant that grows in a saline and alkaline medium where carbon dioxide is assimilated through bicarbonate and carbonate. It is 100 times larger than chlorella. It grows naturally in ponds and lakes in Ethiopia and Chad, where sun-dried Spirulina has been used as human food.(2) Present day natives of Chad in Africa use Spirulina as part of their diet. It has been found recorded that the ancient Mayans in Mexico used this algae in their daily diet, there is no current use. The way the people of Chad use the spirulina is the same way the ancient Mayans used it; in the form of cakes and added to soups. In comparison the taste of spirulina is said to be better than that of chorella.

Currently sprialina is processed by first homogenizing then pasteurizing. This is done because of the strong affinity it has for adhering bacteria that can be toxic. So, this purified micro algea may be the safest of the different kinds. If you want to try spiralina make sure it says 100% pure sprialina on the label, some companies are reported to have cut it with alfalfa to save costs.

Sprialina has a special form of bio-available protein that benefits those with problems resulting from excessive animal protein; those who are overweight, diabetic, hypoglycemic, arthritic, or suffering from similar degenerative conditions. Severe liver damage resulting from mal nutrition, alcoholism, or the consumpton of nutrient destroying foods or drugs can be treated effectively by this type of nutrition. Studies have shown spiralina helps lower cholesterol, build healthy lactobacillus in the intestines, reduce kidney poisoning from mercury and drug medications, and correct iron deficiencies.

Spirulina has become a superfood trend because it's so rich in folic acid, pantothenic acid, biotin, inositol, essential fatty acids, and essential minerals and vitamins including vitamin B12. However, a farm that sells it from Hawaii indicates that they grow their Spirulina in sanitary plastic lined pools and feed it vitamins and minerals. My concern here is that the vitamins that are fed to the Spiralina are probably synthetic. (Nutritional yeast is also treated with synthetic vitamins.) So, when I read the high vitamin and mineral content of Spirulina I wonder where all the nutrition is actually coming from.

Spirulina has been promoted for people trying to lose weight because it acts as a natural appetite suppressant. Spirulina is high in phenylalanine which suppresses the appetite center of the brain, thereby aiding in weight loss.

Blue green algea or Aphanizomenon flos-aquae

Blue green algea has been adapted as a trade name for Aphanizomenon flos-aquae that is harvested from Klamath lake by either Cell Tech or their competitor Rossha. Cell Tech is run by a multilevel marketing system (similar to Amway). A search of scientific literature of this type of blue green algae gives lots of information about possible health hazards. Basically this micro algae is a green pond scum that sewage engineers are constantly trying to control. It loves to grow in waters rich in nitrogen and phosphorus which is high in sewage water. Upper Klamath Lake has been reported to be a shallow polluted lake that lies along a migratory bird flyway so it has lots of feces in it year round providing the nitrogen and phosphorus the algae needs. The algae reportedly kills fish, livestock, wild animals, people's pets and it can poison people.

The blue-green algae that is being marketed may be of value to treat withdrawal from cocaine, amphetamines, and other neurostimulant addictions. This is probably because it acts as a neurostimulant itself. It is can be useful for individuals who have had excessive habits and need to temper their lifestyles. Blue green algae is known to produce toxic neurotoxins such as neosaxitoxin and anatoxin which are addictive. Also endotoxins are produced by this species of micro algae. Someone trying to get off cocaine who uses blue green algae may be substituting for their addiction.
Batches of Cell Tech blue green algae have been seized by the FDA for being toxic. Cell Tech does not pasteurize their algae and toxic samples have been infested with gram-negative rod bacteria. They do a freeze dry process that may not kill the harmful bacteria. Cell Tech tells the public they do their own testing, the testing they do is to inject mice and see if the mice die.

Chlorella vulgaris

Chlorella vulgaris is the most common of the chlorella's. It grows in freshwater ponds, lakes and swamps across the earth. It likes to grow in an acid medium. It is a round single cell with a nucleus; a microscope is needed to see an individual cell. Its cell walls are rigid with low digestibility. Inside the cell walls are all eight essential amino acids, vitamin B12, beta-carotine, calcium, iron and chlorophyll. Although hard to digest Steenblock, author of Chlorella: Natural Mineral Algae, claims chlorella's outer cell wall contributes needed fiber and that it binds to poisons in the body and carries them out in the stool.

It has nucleic acids that may enhance and stimulate the immune system according to Steenblock. There is a polypeptide found in chlorella's cytoplasm called chlorella growth factor. This growth factor encourages the liver and spleen to grow and regenerate.

Chlorella is over 60% protein. It has a little less protein than Spirulina which has between 60 - 68% protein.

Chlorella contains more chlorophyll than the other two kinds because it is a green algae, not a blue-green algae. It contains up to 7% chlorophyll, Sprilina contains 0.76%. Chlorophyll's chemical structure closely resembles hemin molecules, the only difference is the human's hemin molecule is built around an atom of iron, and the chlorophyll molecule is built around an atom of magnesium. High chlorophyll foods are good for anemia because of the similularity of the structure, they help build up the red blood cell count.

Like Spirulina, Chlorella has been used by people to reduce weight.

Chlorella has turned out to be expensive to process because it has to be centrifuged. Spirulina was able to be harvested more easily by filtration.

One of my concerns about the use of these products is that they are expensive sources of nutrition. Second is that there is a lot of media hype about them and although people have been using them through time it seems to me their benefits are overrated and their possible negative effects are overlooked. I know there are easier and less expensive ways to get the nutrition and chlorophyll these microalgeas might provide. Herbal infusions are cheaper and hold less risk. Experimenting is a great idea if you have the money and want to feel for yourself what the effects are.

Some companies that sell these products if you want to try them: Earthrise Farms, the only commercial producers of Spiruline in the United States, and Sun Chlorella Company of Japan.
(1) Brill, S, Pg. 82.
(2) (7/26/96)


Bewicke, D, Potter, BA, et al, Chlorella The Emerald Food, Berkeley, CA: Ronin Publishing, 1984.

Hills, C, Nakamura, H, Food From Sunlight Planetary Survival for Hungry People, Boulder Creek, CA: World Hunger Research Project, University of Trees Press, 1978.

McPartland J, "Why Blue-green Algae Makes Me Tired," Alternative Medicine Research Institute & Teacher's Academy (AMRITA), No. 3, April 1996.

McPartland J, "Does the miscommunication of information equal the communication of misinformation?" Alternative Medicine Research Institute & Teacher's Academy (AMRITA), No. 4, October 1996.

Thorson, M, "Super Blue-green Algae & Toxicity," (7/28/96) (7/26/96) (Blue Green Algea competetor web site - 9/20/99)