Article at a glance:
- Spirulina has demonstrated promising heart health benefits in several studies that may reduce the risks of cardiovascular disease.
- Spirulina supplementation has resulted in reduced bad cholesterol and lower blood pressure in several clinical trials.
- Evidence suggests that spirulina may also help blood vessels relax, further suggesting that it’s a good dietary supplement for heart support.
You may already know that spirulina is amazingly packed with essential nutrients to support and improve overall health. Like many others, it’s no wonder you’re also asking, “is spirulina good for the heart?”
Supplementing spirulina is a good way to consume a long list of essential nutrients. Some of these vitamins, minerals, carotenoids, and fatty acids have powerful antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties that could explain spirulina’s heart benefits.
Is Spirulina Good for Heart Health?
The heart is a central aspect of cardiovascular health because it pumps blood that carries oxygen throughout the body. With such an important role, it only makes sense for us to pay attention to the condition of the heart.
There are other factors to consider when lowering the risks of getting heart disease or managing an existing cardiovascular condition. These include blood pressure, cholesterol levels or lipid profile, and blood flow.
If we’re going to determine if spirulina is good for the heart, we should look into what existing research says about its effect on these health markers.
Some evidence from a mix of human, animal, and cellular studies has found several spirulina’s cardiovascular benefits. The potential positive effects of supplementing spirulina range from improving blood pressure and circulation to providing nutrients to protect the heart from oxidative stress. While larger studies and further research are still needed, promising evidence demonstrates that spirulina supports heart health.
9 Spirulina Benefits for the Heart
1. Rich Nutrition for the Heart
Spirulina’s densely packed nutritional profile is why it’s been widely researched and recognized as a superfood. The blue-green algae is a rich source of vegan protein, which covers more than 60% of its dry weight. At the same time, spirulina also contains substantial amounts of essential and non-essential amino acids.
Spirulina’s fatty acid content is impressive, too. Particularly in Spirulina platensis, the richest fatty acid found was gamma-linolenic acid. It’s an omega-6 fatty acid that exhibited antihypertensive effects of spirulina in various animal studies.
Analysis of spirulina’s nutritional component also revealed it has B vitamins, including folic acid (vitamin B9), that exhibited the potential to reduce risks of cardiovascular disease. Key minerals like magnesium and potassium are also naturally present in spirulina, which help regulate blood pressure.
Of course, eating a healthy, balanced diet is necessary to improve overall health. However, when ensuring you’re getting these essential nutrients becomes quite challenging, taking spirulina dietary supplements would be a great solution.
2. Potent Antioxidants
Why is the antioxidant property of spirulina important for heart health? Chronic increase in reactive oxygen species induces oxidative stress. When not countered by antioxidants, these highly unstable free radicals can cause severe damage to cells and DNA. This can lead to various metabolic disorders, chronic illnesses, and heart disease. Part of spirulina’s rich nutritional profile is having potent antioxidants that may increase our defense against free radical damage and oxidative stress.
Apart from vitamin E and minerals like zinc and manganese, the pigments available in spirulina also contribute so much to the blue-green algae’s antioxidant properties.
One animal study found that spirulina supplementation can inhibit lipid peroxidation in rats exposed to lead. The blue-green algae was also reported to have increased the subjects’ endogenous antioxidant level to normal. This was supported by another study, which found spirulina (combined with whey protein concentrate) effective in scavenging free radicals and chelating heavy metals in vitro.
Studies suggest that the strong antioxidant potential from Spirulina platensis extract could be explained by its abundant phycocyanin content, along with carotenoids like beta carotene, vitamins, and minerals.
The natural availability of phycocyanin in spirulina supplements makes it a robust source of added antioxidants to protect the heart and other organs from oxidative stress and free radical damage.
3. Anti-Inflammatory Effects
Like oxidative stress, chronic inflammation has been linked to metabolic disorders that could develop into cardiovascular disease. One of the common threats to heart health is the development of atherosclerosis. It’s a condition where fatty deposits from cholesterol, waste products, and other substances build up into plaques along the walls of arteries.
While inflammation is a normal body response when we get sick or injured, conditions like atherosclerosis can trigger chronic inflammation. This may wear out the blood vessels, increasing the risk of heart attack and cardiovascular disease. It’s important to include food and supplements rich in active ingredients with known anti-inflammatory activity.
In preliminary studies, key active components in spirulina, such as phycocyanin and beta carotene, have also exhibited great anti-inflammatory potential. These pigments were found to suppress the transcription of pro-inflammatory cytokines.
4. Better Blood Pressure Regulation
There’s a reason blood pressure is one of the key health markers for the cardiovascular system. It’s a method for quantifying the force the heart requires to circulate blood throughout the body.
We all know high blood pressure is not a sign of good health. Why is that the case? Here’s what the two numbers in your blood pressure readings mean:
- Systolic blood pressure (first number) shows how much pressure is applied in the arteries when the heart beats
- Diastolic blood pressure (second number) shows how much pressure is applied in the arteries in between heartbeats
High blood pressure indicates that your arteries get more pressure each time your heart pumps blood in every beat. This makes the arteries more susceptible to damage.
No evidence suggests taking spirulina can cause high blood pressure. Several randomized controlled trials revealed spirulina supplementation led to lower blood pressure. One systematic review noted that some of these studies were mostly done on hypertensive patients. However, spirulina did demonstrate an ability to significantly lower systolic and diastolic blood pressures.
The health benefits of lowering blood pressure following spirulina supplementation were observed in daily doses ranging from 1 g to 8 g. The reviewed clinical trials also ran from 2 to 12 weeks.
5. Cholesterol Under Control
Cholesterol is a fatty substance synthesized within the liver. It forms hormones, vitamins, and other chemicals important in various body functions. The problem occurs when cholesterol levels are elevated because of factors like unhealthy diet, smoking, lack of physical activity, and too much stress. This can develop into high cholesterol, which is one of the major risk factors for atherosclerosis.
Simply put, high cholesterol is a condition with too many lipids or fats that the body can process. The excess fats can build up along the arteries or form a clot, increasing the risks of heart attack or stroke.
Along with healthy lifestyle changes, your heart can get significant help from dietary supplements with known cholesterol-lowering potential. So, it’s worth noting that a few human studies found spirulina lowers cholesterol even in patients with high cholesterol.
A small clinical trial in 2014 supplemented 1 g spirulina daily to Cretan Greek patients with dyslipidemia for 12 weeks. A significant decrease in the treated participants’ total cholesterol, low-density lipoprotein or LDL, and triglycerides was recorded after the trial period. The same study noted that while the changes were insignificant, the mean high-density lipoprotein or HDL levels increased by 3.5% following spirulina supplementation.
While the increase in HDL may be smaller, it’s still one of the notable effects of spirulina supplementation exhibited in the study. You want HDL levels to be higher (above 40 mg/dL) because it transports excess cholesterol back to the liver to be processed and eliminated from the body.
6. Improve Lipid Profile
The lipid profile, taken through blood tests, measures different types of fats: total cholesterol, LDL or bad cholesterol, HDL or good cholesterol, and triglycerides. Much like LDL cholesterol, elevated levels of triglycerides are also linked to higher risks of heart disease because they can also become fatty deposits that build up in the arteries.
Multiple studies found spirulina supplementation to cause a significant reduction in triglycerides, along with other lipids, at various daily doses.
In one study with type 2 diabetes patients, a daily spirulina dose of 2 g resulted in lower triglycerides and LDL cholesterol. Another study with ischaemic heart disease patients supplemented with 2-4 g of spirulina reduced triglycerides, total cholesterol, and LDL. While these studies were conducted with relatively small sample sizes, most showed that spirulina’s effects on the participants’ lipid profiles had been promising.
7. Enhance Endothelial Function
The blood vessels, which include the arteries, veins, and capillaries, are lined with a single layer of endothelial cells or endothelium. These cells produce substances that signal the blood vessels to relax (also called vasodilation). This lets blood and other substances pass through without issue. That’s why endothelial cells are crucial in regulating blood flow and blood clotting.
However, endothelial cells can be susceptible to oxidative stress. High blood pressure, high cholesterol, and chronic diseases like diabetes can also lead to endothelial dysfunction, increasing the risk of heart disease. While it’s not clear yet if spirulina can directly unclog arteries and dissolve plaques, there’s some evidence that the blue-green algae may enhance endothelial function.
Sedentary animal subjects supplemented with Spirulina platensis in a 2019 study showed impressive vascular reactivity due to reduced lipid peroxidation and inhibited oxidation. It also observed an increased nitric oxide level, which helps blood vessels relax.
Another study that used in vivo and experimental model approaches found peptides from Spirulina platensis that may improve vasodilation, thereby improving endothelial function.
While further research and human studies are still needed, available literature provides possible explanations for how spirulina improves blood circulation.
A more recent animal study further supported these findings, noting that spirulina extract increased nitric oxide production in arteries of spontaneously hypertensive rats. The results also showed spirulina aqueous extract decreased oxidative stress-causing hydrogen peroxide and enhanced vasodilation in the subjects.
8. Promote Weight Management
Obesity is one of the most common risk factors for some metabolic syndrome that could develop into serious cardiovascular diseases. One common advice is to shed the extra pounds for a healthier heart. Managing body weight for overall health improvement can be a challenge to anyone. Turning to natural dietary supplements to reinforce healthy lifestyle changes makes sense.
Multiple studies on human participants showed that spirulina supplementation also led to reduced body weight and improved key health markers.
A 2017 study reported that supplementing spirulina at 1 g dose daily for 12 weeks resulted in slightly increased HDL cholesterol and reduced appetite, BMI, and body weight.
Another study found that taking 2 g Spirulina platensis daily significantly reduced body weight, waist size, body weight, and BMI. Researchers also noted lower triglycerides after 12 weeks of supplementation.
9. Support for a More Active Lifestyle
Does spirulina increase heart rate?
You can’t replace maintaining a healthy diet and a more active lifestyle when it comes to improving heart health. That could mean walking a few miles daily, starting strength training, or moving around more.
How can spirulina help in this case? Evidence suggests that spirulina may help improve endurance and exercise performance. A 2020 study found that spirulina supplementation at 6 g daily for 7 days significantly increased hemoglobin while lowering heart rate and oxygen uptake.
Another study observed similar effects to trained cyclists who underwent submaximal endurance tests after taking 6 g of spirulina for 21 days.
It should be noted that these studies were conducted with healthy and trained individuals. Nevertheless, the results support claims that spirulina may provide ergogenic effects to support a more active lifestyle. On the other hand, there doesn’t seem to be a prevalent report of spirulina supplementation causing an increased heart rate.
Frequently Asked Questions
Is Spirulina Safe for Heart Patients?
Spirulina is recognized as generally safe for human consumption. There’s very limited research on the safety of spirulina supplementation for heart patients taking maintenance medications.
Ask your doctor before taking it as a dietary supplement, especially if you manage a heart condition with medication and other treatments.
Does Spirulina Clean the Blood?
With its known detoxifying effect, spirulina may help cleanse the blood. One review noted that several clinical studies showed spirulina may protect humans from arsenic toxicity. In experimental models, the research added that spirulina can also mitigate heavy metal toxicities, including arsenic, cadmium, lead, and mercury.
How Much Spirulina to Take Daily for Heart Support?
Existing clinical trials reported improvements in the cholesterol levels of human subjects at a 1-8 g dosage daily. However, most spirulina products have a recommended daily dose of 3-5 g.
It’s still best to consult your healthcare provider to help you determine the best spirulina dose to take daily.
Should I Take Spirulina in the Morning or at Night?
Spirulina is good to take in the morning or a few hours before bedtime. However, if you’re trying to manage your weight to support heart health, there may be some benefits to incorporating it into your breakfast.
Research showed that a protein-rich breakfast may improve weight management strategies by curbing appetite.
Take Advantage of the Natural Spirulina Heart Benefits
There’s a good reason spirulina has been used as a healthy, natural food source for centuries. It’s packed with nutrients, including vitamins that we don’t often get from plant-based foods. Thankfully, studies published over the years have highlighted the great potential of spirulina to improve overall health.
So, is spirulina good for the heart? The available scientific literature suggests that the blue-green algae may provide powerful support for heart health in different ways as a dietary supplement. While more research is encouraged, spirulina has already demonstrated its potential health benefits to lower blood pressure and bad cholesterol. It is also a desirable supplement to simplify weight management.
Spirulina is the supplement you need to start and maintain a heart-healthy lifestyle!
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