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UC Davis study shows spirulina boosts immune system

(SACRAMENTO, Calif.) Adding spirulina to cultured immune system cells significantly increases the production of infection fighting cytokines, say immunologists at UC Davis School of Medicine and Medical Center. Their finding is published in the Fall issue of the Journal of Medicinal Foods.

Spirulina is a blue-green algae that is rich in antioxidants, vitamins, minerals and other nutrients. Used as a food supplement for more than 20 years, spirulina grows naturally in lakes with extremely high pH levels, but it is also harvested from large-scale commercial ponds, where purity is monitored before being dried and distributed in tablet and powdered form.

A number of animal studies have shown spirulina to be an effective immunomodulator (an agent that can effect the behavior of immune cells.) In rats spirulina inhibited allergic reactions by suppressing the release of histamine in a dose-dependent fashion. In cats, spirulina enhanced the ability of macrophages to engulf bacteria, and in chickens spirulina increased antibody responses and the activity of natural killer cells, which destroy infected and cancerous cells in the body.

While extensive human studies have not been done, several reports also suggest spirulina has therapeutic effects on hyperlipidemia and obesity. In one study, spirulina decreased total serum cholesterol and low-density lipoprotein cholesterol, while increasing high-density lipoprotein. A 1986 study of obese patients showed a significant reduction of body weight after including spirulina in the diet for four weeks. In the UC Davis study, researchers evaluated the secretion of the cytokines interferon-g , interleukin-4 , and interleukin-1b in the lab to get a better understanding of spirulinas potential regulatory effect on the immune system.

"We found that nutrient-rich spirulina is a potent inducer of interferon-g (13.6-fold increase) and a moderate stimulator of both interleukin-4 and interleukin-1b (3.3-fold increase),
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Contact: Carole Gan
cfgan@ucdavis.edu
916-734-9047
University of California, Davis - Health System
30-Nov-2000


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