Article at a glance:
- Spirulina is one of the widely researched microalgae species because its bioactive compounds have demonstrated outstanding potential for overall health support.
- Animal and human studies revealed that spirulina’s antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and anti-cancer properties may tremendously benefit liver health.
- Clinical evidence also suggests spirulina supplementation may help manage liver diseases and their risk factors.
The liver is undoubtedly a busy organ in the human body. Healthy liver function is crucial in maintaining overall health, from filtering harmful toxins from the blood supply to releasing enzymes that help break down fats.
If you’re looking into dietary supplements, it is crucial to consider products to support your liver — like spirulina. With a long list of nutrients and antioxidants, scientific research evidence has revealed promising spirulina benefits for liver health.
Spirulina has been one of the most well-known natural supplements over the past decades due to its substantial nutritional profile.
It’s famous for having a rich protein content, typically over 60% of its weight, which is not something you’d always find in food products that don’t come from animals.
Spirulina products are made from blue-green algae or cyanobacteria species, also known as Arthrospira (spirulina) platensis. It can be a valuable source of protein in a plant-based diet.
It also contains essential nutrients for liver support, including vitamins and minerals with antioxidant activity and anti-inflammatory properties.
Nutrients in Spirulina for Liver Health
Is spirulina good for the liver?
Studies have revealed that spirulina contains vitamin C, provitamin A, vitamin E, and vitamin K. Minerals with antioxidant activity, such as zinc, copper, and selenium, are also present in blue-green algae.
On top of that, the microalgae spirulina also naturally contains healthy minerals like calcium, potassium, iron, magnesium, and manganese. Spirulina also has all essential amino acids, B vitamins, and carotenoids like beta-carotene, zeaxanthin, lutein, and astaxanthin.
Scientists have also observed spirulina’s antioxidant potential. Many attribute these findings to spirulina’s overall nutritional profile, especially phycocyanin, the most abundant pigment in the microalgae. Research also found an astounding fatty acid composition in spirulina. The algae superfood can source gamma linoleic acid (GLA), omega-3, and omega-6 fatty acids.
With this many essential nutrients in one source, it’s no wonder that spirulina has been widely studied for its potential to improve various aspects of human health.
Several of these studies revealed that spirulina may help improve liver health in more ways than one. More research is still needed to fully understand what spirulina can do for the liver. However, our current scientific evidence indicates many potential benefits of spirulina for liver support.
Potential Benefits of Spirulina for Liver Health
Need a hand in caring for your liver? Here’s how spirulina can help with that.
1. Detoxification Boost
Does spirulina clean the liver?
One very important function of the liver is to filter toxins and process them into waste products to be eliminated from the body. Yes, the liver is a natural detoxifier that helps cleanse the bloodstream.
The liver can significantly benefit from spirulina’s detoxifying effect. One advantage of the algae superfood is that the positive outcomes of supplementing spirulina for liver detox have been demonstrated in various research.
Preliminary evidence revealed the promising effects of spirulina for liver detox—the chelating (ability to handle different types of metal poisoning) properties of spirulina, including arsenic, cadmium, lead, and mercury toxicities in experimental models.
Some human studies also found spirulina helpful in protecting against the toxic effects of arsenic.
An earlier animal study also showed that spirulina supplementation and vitamin C can help attenuate cisplatin-induced liver injury in mice models. Cisplatin is a platinum-based type of chemotherapy.
2. Antioxidant Defense
How does spirulina help the liver?
Many of the essential nutrients and pigments naturally found in spirulina have exhibited powerful effects of spirulina against free radicals. When not countered with an ample antioxidant supply, these unstable molecules can lead to prolonged oxidative stress, damaging major organs like the liver.
Studies after studies have attributed spirulina’s antioxidant properties to its rich content of the pigment phycocyanin and carotenoids like beta-carotene.
A 2018 research also linked the algae superfood’s antioxidant activity to the C-phycocyanin and carotenoid composition in spirulina powder supplements from Spirulina platensis and Spirulina maxima.
Among the potent antioxidant agents found in spirulina, phycocyanin has been widely studied and has demonstrated free radical scavenging activity. Spirulina’s most abundant pigment also inhibits lipid peroxidation, which could explain the blue-green algae’s hepatoprotective properties.
3. Anti-Inflammatory Capacity
On top of spirulina’s antioxidant activity, the blue-green algae has also exhibited anti-inflammatory properties in some studies. This is one of the benefits of spirulina for the liver that you should take advantage of, considering that chronic inflammation is also widely associated with liver diseases and infections.
Many things, such as age, alcohol intake, poor diet, and lack of physical activity, can cause liver inflammation. Without healthier lifestyle choices, hepatic inflammation could lead to infections like chronic hepatitis and chronic liver disease, such as cirrhosis and nonalcoholic fatty liver disease. This is certainly one area where spirulina may be of great help to have a healthier liver.
While human clinical trials remain limited, there are several animal studies where spirulina supplementation showed positive effects against oxidative stress and inflammation in the liver caused by aging. Research also linked spirulina supplementation to reduced inflammation and improved liver health markers, particularly the plasma alanine aminotransferase (ALT).
You may also recognize ALT as the enzyme called serum glutamic pyruvic transaminase (SGPT), normally found in liver cells at low levels. However, above-normal ALT levels (>7 to 56 units per liter), which can be monitored through blood tests, may indicate liver damage or injury. The study noted significantly lower ALT levels in mice models supplemented with a higher dose of Spirulina platensis extract.
Supplementation of spirulina was also linked to reduced liver fibrosis and less accumulation of the free radical superoxide anion and nitric oxide. Some studies found the liver to be one of the organs where nitric oxide overproduction is likely to occur, which could lead to tissue damage.
4. Liver Cell and Tissue Regeneration
What is the culprit of liver damage that necessitates the regeneration of liver cells and tissues? Research suggests chronic inflammation is to blame. Meanwhile, chronic inflammation can also result from conditions like virus infection, metabolic dysfunction, and immune disorders.
When not managed early, chronic inflammation could lead to liver fibrosis that can further develop into cirrhosis and liver cancer. Anyone embarking on a healthier lifestyle may benefit from dietary support that could promote tissue regeneration, especially in the liver. As it happens, the bioactive components in spirulina have been observed for their activities in cell and tissue regeneration.
For one, Spirulina platensis is known to contain polysaccharides that may help regulate liver fat, reduce sterol regulatory element binding proteins in liver tissues, and improve mitochondrial damage in the liver. These activities suggest that spirulina may promote liver cell regeneration.
Earlier studies also indicate that the beta-carotene from spirulina may reduce cellular damage and may aid in the regeneration of damaged liver cells.
5. Management of Liver Disease and Liver Infection
Is spirulina good for fatty liver? Is spirulina good for cirrhosis?
Mounting evidence on the benefits of spirulina for the liver — from detoxification, antioxidant and anti-inflammatory boost to liver regeneration — supports the potential of incorporating spirulina for liver disease management.
More research and more extensive clinical trials are still needed, of course. However, many studies have found promising results in supplementing spirulina for fatty liver and other conditions.
A 2014 study also revealed promising results of taking spirulina for liver health in Cretan patients with nonalcoholic fatty liver disease. Participants who consumed 6 g spirulina daily for six months saw significant reductions in liver enzymes, triglycerides, low-density lipoprotein cholesterol (LDL-C), and total cholesterol. Meanwhile, their high-density lipoprotein cholesterol (HDL-C, a.k.a. “good cholesterol”) and hemoglobin significantly increased after the six-month spirulina intervention.
A more recent study further supported the possible benefits of spirulina for nonalcoholic fatty liver patients. Supplementation of 20 g of spirulina daily for eight weeks led to significant improvements in patients with nonalcoholic fatty liver disease. Notable changes in patients’ liver enzymes were recorded following spirulina consumption. Total antioxidant capacity and malondialdehyde levels (an oxidative stress marker) were also enhanced.
The microalgae spirulina also demonstrated the encouraging effects of spirulina against liver infections. One clinical trial suggests that spirulina may help attenuate liver damage, organ failure, and progression to cirrhosis in patients with the hepatitis C virus.
Are there benefits to taking spirulina for liver cancer? Although research is very limited, evidence from cellular and animal studies has demonstrated the anticancer properties of blue-green algae.
One research revealed spirulina may provide chemoprotective effects thanks to its antioxidant activity. Spirulina (along with garlic) helped reduce MDA activity and downregulated tumor necrosis factor (TNF-α) and interleukin-6 (IL-6) while increasing key cellular antioxidant enzymes superoxide dismutase (SOD) and catalase (CAT) in male Wistar rat models.
A cellular study also observed spirulina’s anticancer activity, particularly against primary liver cancer. The microalgae stimulated tumor-suppressing proteins and mitigated lipid peroxidation.
Other Spirulina Benefits for Liver Health
Because the liver is involved in several body functions, the healthy benefits of spirulina (backed by research, of course) on other aspects may also have favorable effects on the liver.
Blood Sugar Control
There’s a well-established connection between high blood sugar or diabetes and the increased risk of non-alcoholic fatty liver and cirrhosis.
It’s worth noting that the blood sugar-lowering effects of spirulina are well-documented in clinical trials with significant reductions in fasting blood glucose levels of type 2 diabetes patients.
Enhance Lipid Profile
The good news is that studies found that daily consumption of spirulina may deliver antihyperlipidemic effects by improving patients’ blood cholesterol and lipid profile.
Spirulina has also exhibited antihypertensive properties, lowering triglycerides, total cholesterol, and LDL-C.
Obesity is also a widely known risk factor for liver diseases, and it’s widely associated with elevated blood sugar, blood pressure, and cholesterol levels. So, body weight management is also important when taking care of the liver.
A 2020 scientific review of spirulina studies concluded that the blue-green algae may also promote weight loss.
The paper noted that spirulina may inhibit fat accumulation in the liver, reduce appetite, lower systolic and diastolic blood pressure, lower blood cholesterol, and enhance liver lipid profile due to its gamma-linolenic acid content.
How to Reap the Benefits of Spirulina for the Liver?
Is spirulina safe for the liver?
In clinical trials, spirulina has not been linked to increased liver enzymes. Reported liver injury from spirulina consumption is rare, although not entirely impossible. But, in general, spirulina supplementation is widely considered safe for the liver.
As always, the best approach is to consult your healthcare provider about incorporating spirulina into your diet. This is even more important for anyone with pre-existing health conditions or taking medications.
What’s the Right Spirulina Dosage Daily?
The usual recommendation for consuming spirulina as a dietary supplement is 1 to 5 g daily. However, a systematic review noted that spirulina studies have administered 1 to 19 g of spirulina daily in human randomized controlled trials.
The duration of spirulina interventions varied from 0.5 to 6 months, and the supplementation generally led to improvements in metabolic syndrome.
This suggests that spirulina is safe to consume at higher doses for a specific time. However, if it will be your first time taking spirulina, starting with a lower dose is best to minimize possible minor side effects.
Can You Take Spirulina Long-Term?
Spirulina is one of the algae supplements designated as Generally Recognized As Safe (GRAS) by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. That said, there’s not enough evidence yet to conclude whether taking long-term is okay.
Note, though, that the U.S. National Library of Medicine says spirulina consumption is “possibly safe” for 2 to 6 months, depending on the daily dose.
How to Incorporate Spirulina Into Your Routine
You’ve likely heard about spirulina having a prominent earthy and fishy taste. But don’t let that stop you from enjoying the health benefits of this algae superfood.
There are tons of spirulina products that can be easily consumed without worrying about their taste and smell. You can opt for spirulina tablets or capsules for a much easier way to consume nutrient-dense microalgae.
If you’re now used to its flavor, you can also try consuming spirulina powder for fatty liver and other health concerns. You can have fun with it by adding it to your morning smoothies, fruit juices, and even baked goods.
Buy From Trusted Brands and Stores
Spirulina is generally safe for human consumption, but buying spirulina products from reputable brands and health stores is extremely important.
As you know, spirulina is cultivated in bodies of water. Without proper cultivation and manufacturing practices, there’s a risk that the algae might get contaminated. And that would certainly defeat the purpose of reaping its health benefits.
Make sure only to buy spirulina-certified organic products and process them according to quality standards. Some telltale signs of trustworthy spirulina supplements are the markings of “USDA Organic” or “GMP” or Good Manufacturing Practice.
Frequently Asked Questions
Is It Good to Drink Spirulina at Night?
You can take spirulina supplements any time of the day. However, some prefer taking spirulina in the morning for breakfast because of its high protein content, giving you energy to power through the day.
Is It Safe to Take Spirulina on an Empty Stomach?
Studies have yet to conclude whether taking spirulina before or after meals is better, although it may be safe to consume on an empty stomach. Others also prefer taking the dietary supplement 10 to 15 minutes before meals for optimal nutritional absorption.
How Often Should You Take Spirulina?
Clinical trials where spirulina demonstrated incredible health benefits involved daily spirulina intake. Based on these results, daily spirulina supplement consumption appears advantageous.
Keep Your Liver Healthy With Help From a Wonderful Superfood
Knowing that the liver plays a very important role in various body functions is more reason to be mindful of how your lifestyle supports liver health. Along with maintaining a healthy diet and active lifestyle, adding natural supplements like spirulina can be a major health boost for your liver. Its cousin, chlorella, also offers health benefits to the liver!
Thanks to published research, we’re continuing to discover the impressive benefits of spirulina for a healthier liver. Don’t miss out on this opportunity, and consider spirulina supplements for liver support!