Article at a glance:
- Evidence supporting spirulina’s antidiabetic benefits has been emerging over the past decades, albeit limited.
- Studies have found compelling results suggesting that spirulina lowers blood sugar in human and animal subjects.
- Other health markers linked to diabetes, such as lipid profile and body weight, were also improved in small spirulina clinical trials.
- These findings have led to a long-running question of whether spirulina can help manage diabetes and blood sugar levels.
In many cases, diabetes can be a lifelong condition. Studies have been dedicated to finding potential dietary supplements — including spirulina — to enhance the effects of existing treatments.
Keep reading to discover notable studies and clinical trials that found potential benefits in taking spirulina for diabetes. In this article, we’ll also explore other ways that spirulina may enhance health markers that are crucial to manage for diabetics.
What Is Diabetes?
The latest data from the World Health Organization indicates that over 400 million people worldwide suffer from diabetes. Also known as diabetes mellitus, it’s a chronic disease associated with high blood sugar levels. That explains why blood glucose is a key health marker that needs regular monitoring for diabetics.
There are three common types of diabetes. High blood sugar levels characterize both, although the primary causes differ.
Type 2 Diabetes
Type 2 diabetes is the most prevalent form, comprising more than 90% of all diabetes cases. It occurs when the body doesn’t have enough insulin, a hormone that regulates and transports glucose so it can be used for energy.
Since the body already produces glucose, blood sugar levels can easily rise based on our diet and other factors. Type 2 diabetes arises when the body fails to generate sufficient insulin for glucose metabolism in the bloodstream. It’s also fairly common for insulin resistance to cause type 2 diabetes. This condition occurs when cells in the body are not responding properly to insulin.
Type 1 Diabetes
Type 1 diabetes is much less prevalent and is categorized as an autoimmune disease. Patients get elevated blood glucose levels for unclear reasons because the immune system targets and damages the pancreas islets responsible for producing insulin. People living with type 1 diabetes depend on insulin shots daily to survive. While it’s commonly diagnosed in children, it can also develop at any age.
Diabetes mellitus is also one of the common conditions that can develop during pregnancy. Like type 1 and 2 diabetes mellitus, high blood sugar is the root cause of this and is commonly diagnosed during the first pregnancy. Pregnant women’s blood glucose levels may return to normal upon delivery, although the issue may persist in some cases of gestational diabetes even after giving birth.
What Superfood Lowers Blood Sugar?
Can spirulina lower blood sugar?
Along with doctor-prescribed medications, people with diabetes may benefit from nutrient-dense foods — commonly dubbed as superfoods — that could help lower blood sugar levels.
Plenty of superfoods are often recommended for diabetics to include in their diet. Some of the most common suggestions include leafy vegetables, non-starchy vegetables, whole grains, beans, berries, citrus fruits, and omega-3-rich foods. These are rich in vitamins and minerals like vitamin C, folate, potassium, fibers, and fatty acids that can help improve overall health. Chlorella is also a fantastic supplement for people with diabetes.
There’s no doubt that maintaining a healthy, balanced diet is one of the best practices to manage diabetes or lower the risks of getting diabetes. But several factors, such as budget and busy lifestyle, could make it an incredible challenge.
That’s where natural dietary supplements like spirulina may offer tremendous help. Studies that observed the blue-green algae’s effect on blood glucose have produced promising results. Although further research is still needed, many clinical trials have shown that spirulina lowers blood sugar.
Potential Health Benefits of Spirulina for Diabetes Management
Is spirulina good for diabetics?
While spirulina is not a replacement for approved medications for diabetes, multiple studies found that the blue-green algae has amazing potential to supplement conventional treatments.
A 2021 scientific review found that at least 8 clinical studies indicate spirulina may benefit diabetes patients. Results also suggest that taking spirulina for diabetes may help improve fasting blood sugar and lipid profiles.
However, spirulina’s effect on blood sugar may not be the only favorable result from taking the algae superfood. The rich nutritional profile of the blue-green algae may also provide healthy benefits for diabetics, prediabetic individuals, and those who want to stay on top of their health.
May Improve Antioxidant Consumption
The antioxidant properties of the blue-green algae are important to consider when discussing the benefits of spirulina for diabetes. There’s evidence that oxidative stress plays a role in the progression of chronic diseases, particularly diabetes. Damage to cells and tissue caused by oxidative stress has been linked to diabetes complications affecting the liver, heart, kidney, and eyes. Adding antioxidant-rich supplements to support diabetes treatment has also been explored in various studies.
It’s worth noting that spirulina contains many vitamins, minerals, pigments (including carotenoids), and other nutrients with antioxidant activity. For instance, spirulina’s most abundant pigment is phycocyanin, a potent antioxidant agent. The major pigment in spirulina has demonstrated an ability to scavenge free radicals that cause damage to cells and DNA. Phycocyanin has also been found to inhibit reactive oxygen species-induced lipid peroxidation. The antioxidant profile of spirulina also includes carotenoids like beta-carotene and zeaxanthin.
Spirulina is also a source of well-known antioxidants like vitamins C and E. A systematic review of randomized controlled trials found the latter to enhance antioxidant capacity in type 2 diabetes patients.
May Help With Weight Management
One of the many risk factors for prediabetes and diabetes is obesity. It has been linked to inflammation that could lead to insulin resistance and metabolic disorders that could develop into diabetes and cardiovascular disease.
Managing weight for someone with diabetes or working to avoid developing this chronic disease is an important lifestyle choice. On the bright side, being overweight or obese is one of the modifiable risk factors of diabetes mellitus.
The good news is there’s some evidence that spirulina supplementation may also help with weight loss or weight management. A scientific review of spirulina studies on weight loss and blood lipids found that the supplement may reduce body weight and bad cholesterol. Reducing weight and keeping the extra weight off culminate in various lifestyle changes. Eating a balanced diet and incorporating more physical activities can make a huge difference.
However, adding spirulina supplements into your routine may help achieve your goal. For one, the high protein content of spirulina would be a great addition to your breakfast.
May Promote Wound Healing
Diabetic sores and ulcers are common challenges faced by diabetes patients. While the evidence is limited, results from animal studies suggest that spirulina supplementation may aid in wound healing in diabetic rats and skin repair in animal models.
There is also existing literature that supplementation via topical application of Spirulina platensis may promote wound healing.
Can Spirulina Help Manage Glucose Levels?
Whether you’re living with diabetes or prediabetes, managing your blood sugar level becomes an important part of your routine.
While existing studies linking spirulina and lower blood sugar only offer preliminary evidence, they still suggest that supplementing spirulina manages blood sugar.
Does Spirulina Help With Blood Sugar?
Medications and other treatments are currently available to help manage diabetes. An earlier study indicates that combining 800 mg of spirulina and Metformin daily may provide better results. After two months of spirulina supplementation with the patients’ stable Metformin dose, benefits observed included reduced body weight, total cholesterol, and triglycerides.
Another study also provided further evidence that spirulina can control blood sugar. Type 2 diabetes patients supplemented with 2 g spirulina per day for two months had a significant decrease in fasting and postprandial blood sugar levels, reduced hemoglobin A1c (HbA1c), and a significant reduction in triglycerides, total cholesterol levels, and low-density lipoprotein cholesterol.
Another favorable result was a “marginal increase” in high-density lipoprotein or good cholesterol.
Is Spirulina Good for Diabetes Type 2?
Although clinical trials of treating diabetes with spirulina are still limited, many current human studies were conducted in type 2 diabetes patients. There have been several encouraging results in some of these studies. Some of them also indicate that there may be more benefits other than spirulina’s effect on blood sugar.
Is Spirulina Good for Insulin Resistance?
A 2008 study with 60 diabetic subjects found that supplementing 2g spirulina daily may be more effective in improving insulin sensitivity than consuming just 1g spirulina. This suggests that spirulina supplementation may improve the insulin’s binding mechanism to cells, which could facilitate improvements in blood glucose levels. The same study also exhibited spirulina’s potential to lower lipid levels, including total cholesterol, triglycerides, LDL cholesterol, and very low-density lipoprotein cholesterol.
Is Spirulina Good for Diabetes Type 1?
Due to the autoimmune nature of type 1 diabetes, patients with this condition can benefit from supplements that may lower blood sugar. Aside from the clinical trials cited above, some animal studies also offer more evidence of spirulina’s potential antidiabetic effects.
Does Spirulina Lower Blood Sugar?
In one study, phycocyanin extracted from Spirulina platensis showed potential in lowering body weight, fasting blood sugar, and cholesterol levels in KKAy mice models.
Another animal study demonstrated the protective effects of spirulina for type 1 diabetes. Supplementing spirulina extract diminished cytotoxicity caused by pro-inflammatory cytokines in diabetic mice subjects, suggesting it may protect pancreatic β-cells. The study also observed lower glucose levels and increased insulin upon supplementing spirulina extract to the subjects.
Research also suggests a link between having type 1 or type 2 diabetes and an increase in malondialdehyde (MDA), a highly reactive radical and a toxic oxidative stress marker.
However, a human clinical trial showed that supplementing spirulina for eight weeks may lower MDA levels and improve lipid profiles in type 2 diabetes patients.
Frequently Asked Questions
How Much Spirulina Should a Diabetic Take?
Limited clinical trials on diabetic patients administered different doses of spirulina ranging from 800 mg to as much as 8 g per day. Some of these studies found beneficial effects from spirulina supplementation with as low a dosage as 2 g daily.
However, larger clinical trials are still needed for a recognized standard spirulina dosage for diabetes patients. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has categorized spirulina as Generally Recognized as Safe (GRAS) for human consumption.
The U.S. National Institutes of Health (NIH) also notes that good-quality spirulina products may be safe for most people if used in 10 g daily doses for up to six months or up to 19 g daily for 2 months.
Those doses likely apply to healthy adults, though. Diabetic patients interested in incorporating spirulina supplements into their routine must consult their doctor to determine the right dosage.
Does Spirulina Raise Blood Sugar Levels?
Present scientific reports have only noted results showing spirulina lowers blood sugar.
Can Pregnant Women Take Spirulina for Gestational Diabetes?
Spirulina is known to be generally safe for most adults. While its safety for pregnant women and infants is still subject to research, it hasn’t been ruled out as a supplement for expecting mothers. It’s best to talk to your healthcare provider before taking spirulina for gestational diabetes and its other health benefits.
Who Should Not Take Spirulina Supplement?
There’s not much research on spirulina’s potential drug interactions. However, because spirulina has demonstrated immunomodulatory properties, patients taking medications for autoimmune diseases are generally warned of possible interactions.
Is It Worth Taking Spirulina for Diabetes?
Does spirulina help with blood sugar management? The evidence we currently have, both from human and animal studies, generally suggests spirulina may provide amazing benefits for diabetics. While spirulina is not a replacement for approved therapies for diabetics, available research shows it could be an excellent support for established medical treatments.
The effect of spirulina in improving the body’s antioxidant supply, managing body weight, and improving lipid profiles are excellent benefits that will help even non-diabetic individuals. Taking spirulina for diabetes or for lowering the risks of diabetes can be worth it.
Aside from consulting your doctor about spirulina supplements, you must also ensure you buy high-quality products. Go for spirulina tablets or powders that contain pure and organic spirulina. Look for certifications like the Good Manufacturing Practices to ensure that the spirulina product was processed with utmost production and quality control.