Spirulina is a blue-green alga that has been around for about three and a half billion years. It is a simple-cell type of algae that grows in warm, fresh water. It has the ability to synthesize high-quality food more efficiently than any other algae. Spirulina can thrive in very warm waters — sometimes surviving temperatures of 60 degrees Celsius (140 degrees F)! Because it can adapt well to heat, spirulina is good at retaining its nutritional value when processed under high heat and/or stored on the shelf for a long period of time. And, despite the fact that it is an alga, spirulina is one of the cleanest and most sterile foods found in nature; it has very little in common with the algae that grow in stagnant waters here in North America.
For the clinical trial, researchers divided 30 rats into five groups: one acted as control; another group had diabetes; a third group had diabetes for which a popular anti-diabetic medication was given (rosiglitazone); a fourth group had diabetes and was administered spirulina; and a fifth group with diabetes was given both rosiglitazone and spirulina.
After 21 days, the research team collected blood samples to measure serum glucose, triglyceride, HDL, LDL, and insulin concentrations. They also examined the integrity of the bone surface of the rats by using electronic microscopy.
The researchers found that there was a significant decrease in total bone mineral density in the diabetic group administered the anti-diabetic drug. However, they also found that the number and depth of pits on the surface of the bone in the rosiglitazone-treated rats improved clearly with the addition of spirulina to their diet. The researchers speculated that the intactness and integrity of the bone surface as well as the bone strength improved due to the high content of calcium and phosphorous found in spirulina.
When it came to the issue of diabetes, the researchers found that the chromium and gamma-linoleic acid in spirulina helped to decrease fasting serum glucose, HDL, LDL, and triglyceride levels in insulin-resistant rats.
Where can you find spirulina if you want to add a little to your diet? You’ll probably have to check your local health food shop. Spirulina comes in both capsule and powdered form. It’s also added to many food bars as a supplement. These products are usually advertised as “green bars,” so check the label. Most likely spirulina will be one of the main ingredients. You can also mix spirulina in powdered form with juice. Try a tablespoon full of spirulina with guava, pear, apple or orange juice. If you’d like to make a spirulina shake, just add bananas or berries for thickness. Do not stop taking any diabetes or osteoporosis-related medication without consulting your doctor.