FACT AND FANCY ABOUT BLUE GREEN ALGAE CLAIMS

by Teresa Pangan

Numerous health claims for blue green algae include that it: changes a person's attitude to a better state of being; gives person more energy; reduces and alleviates stress, anxiety and depression; relieves symptoms of fatigue, hyperglycemia, some allergies, and digestion problems.

The touted algae comes from a lake in Oregon that is rich in essential minerals, enzymes, natural sprouts and neuropeptides. The amino acids in the blue green algae, supposedly making it a superior protein, are the basis of many of the above claims.

Are The Claims True?

There are no published blue green algae studies in established research journals which support these claims. In addition, the few studies done with blue green algae involve rats, not humans. Cell Tech, The major producer of the algae, claims to have done research, but no studies have been cited in their literature.

Chemical analysis for nutrient composition reveals that blue green algae contains a low amount of protein which is equivalent to about a half a slice of whole wheat bread. In addition the protein is poorly digested, and compared to animal protein, has an unbalanced amino acid pattern. The superior protein claims are false.

Are There Health Risks in Consuming Blue Green Algae?

Commonly reported side effects from consuming blue green algae include: diarrhea, nausea, weakness, numbness and tingling. These side effects are partly because the algae is a known irritant to the gastrointestinal tract.

Sales people often tell customers that the side effects are due to "cleansing" by the body, an idea based on a naturopathic myth that diseases are the result of autointoxication. The body is supposedly expelling poisons that would have produced disease if they had not detoxified themselves.

The concept of detoxification has no medical basis or validity and can contribute to a person ignoring symptoms which may indicate a need for medical attention.

Another point to consider is that the lake which is the source of blue green algae is heavily populated by migrating birds. This means the supplement form of blue green algae is heavily contaminated with insect parts, bird feathers and bird droppings.

If you or someone you know experiences adverse reactions from blue-green algae, you can make a report to the Federal Drug Administration (FDA), fax number 1-800-FDA-0178.

Bottom Line

Considering the lack of studies backing any of the blue green algae claims and the commonly experienced side effects, blue green algae is best left on the shelf.

References:

National Council Against Health Fraud. (1996). Blue Green Algae. Information for Prudent Consumers

Barrett, SB, Herbert, JD. The Vitamin Pushers: How the "health food" industry is selling America a bill of goods. Prometheus Books, 1994.

National Council Against Health Fraud Newsletter, (1996). Growing concerns over blue green algae. 19 (2), 6.

5/28/98

Teresa Pangan is a registered dietitian with a consulting business called Nutrition Visions. She conducts wellness and nutrition programs and writes for various publications. She is also finishing her doctorate in nutrition at Texas Woman's University.

 

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