Spirulina: what effects on hypertension?

Spirulina has been the subject of numerous studies on its nutritional benefits. This cyanobacteria, often confused with a micro-algae, has impressive nutritional values allowing it to be a support for certain populations (vegetarians, pregnant and breastfeeding women...). However, according to recent studies, it seems that a new role is added to Spirulina, that of contributing to lowering hypertension. Indeed, Spirulina includes very specific components such as the SP6 peptide (small protein) which could be a treatment for hypertension. Moreover, Spirulina would have quite impressive effects on the reduction of blood cholesterol levels, which would limit the risks of aggravation of hypertension. Moreover, Spirulina is composed of many antioxidant molecules, which can improve blood circulation. This article summarizes all the knowledge on the direct and indirect beneficial effects of Spirulina on hypertension.

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Anti-hypertensive effects under study

It appears that spirulina has a blood pressure regulating role. Recent studies seem to show that the peptide SP6, found in part in spirulina, induced a vasodilator action (dilation of blood vessels). This action has potentially a hypotensive effect in people with high blood pressure. Thus, a new study was conducted in rats and focused on baroreceptors and their baroreflexes. These control blood pressure so that the body can cope with changes in blood pressure without fainting. These baroreceptors are sensitive to the stretching of blood vessels and tell the brain that the heart rate is increasing or decreasing, thus ensuring a constant blood pressure.

Thus, the SP6 peptide is able to sense blood pressure and control the baroreceptor reflex, a real breakthrough in the theory of mechano-transduction (detection of blood pressure changes). In this way, it optimizes blood vessel dilation, allowing blood to flow more quickly and easily, thereby regulating blood pressure. These findings in rats are promising, so much research is underway to conclude a possible therapeutic improvement in hypertension in humans. Nevertheless, at this time, it is not accepted that these studies be extrapolated to humans.

Interesting indirect effects

Lower cholesterol and triglycerides

Spirulina has been the subject of several studies on high blood pressure and high cholesterol levels, particularly LDL-cholesterol (Low Density Lipoprotein), the risk of cardiovascular complications is greater. In this context, spirulina has been the subject of several studies. A study conducted in Crete with 52 people with metabolic disorders (overweight, obesity, hypertension ...) would have shown powerful effects of spirulina on blood lipid levels, and this, despite a very low dose administered (1 g). This 12-week study resulted in a 16.3% decrease in triglycerides, 8.9% decrease in total cholesterol, and 10.1% decrease in LDL.

In this way, 10 clinical trials were carried out, including more than 700 people, in order to evaluate the effects of spirulina intake on different parameters important for cardiovascular function. This resulted in a review of the literature concerning this set of clinical trials. The latter concluded that the observed benefits occurred when spirulina courses lasted long enough, in this case 12 weeks. In addition, it was clearly admitted that this spirulina cure allowed a decrease in total cholesterol and LDL cholesterol levels. It is also said that this decrease is not to be overlooked since it would be comparable to the effects of anti-cholesterol drugs, which would be a very favorable avenue for research.

Nevertheless, it is important to take this information with a grain of salt because no food can replace medication at this time. Indeed, if this were the case, spirulina would already be admitted as a treatment for hypertension, which is not the case at present. It is therefore essential to ask your doctor about a possible supplementation with spirulina in a therapeutic perspective.

On oxidative stress

Oxidative stress is an imbalance between pro-oxidant and antioxidant molecules in favor of the former. Spirulina is a cyanobacterium composed of many antioxidant molecules such as phycocyanin, copper, or even vitamins A, C and E. These molecules work together and allow spirulina to form an overall antioxidant action very beneficial to the body. In addition, spirulina contains iron which is crucial for oxygen transport in the body. Oxidative stress induces damage to blood vessel walls, which can disrupt blood flow. In this context, spirulina helps combat this phenomenon by supporting antioxidant intakes with the aim of blocking oxidation of blood vessel walls.

An interest in case of diabetes

Spirulina has benefits in case of diabetes. Indeed, a study has shown that spirulina has beneficial effects since it would reduce insulin resistance via its antioxidant components. Indeed, oxidative stress can also act on diabetes by promoting insulin resistance. In this way, we notice that the possibility of suffering from diabetes complications is increased. Thus, it is essential to fight against this oxidative stress so that the glycemia decreases thanks to the reduction of the insulin resistance. Thus, spirulina can accompany the intake of antioxidants in order to improve sensitivity to insulin, and also prevent complications of diabetes related to resistance to this hormone.

No worsening of hypertension at usual doses

Spirulina plays precisely the opposite role. In fact, this cyanobacteria is rich in nutrients that regulate blood pressure, and therefore does not cause hypertension. Numerous studies are underway to validate the blood pressure regulating effects of spirulina, as well as its potential role in reducing hypertension.

Nevertheless, it is recommended to pay attention to the origin of spirulina because it can be contaminated by the environment in which it is grown. Indeed, spirulina draws its elements from the environment in which it is grown. Therefore, if spirulina is produced in a contaminated or polluted environment, it may contain heavy metals that the latter is able to absorb in large quantities. It is these heavy metals that would be responsible for a potential increase in blood pressure (lead, mercury, arsenic). Thus, it is preferable to move towards a spirulina French or organic (outside the European continent), in order to limit the possibilities of falling on a spirulina of poor quality.

In addition, adverse effects were reportedly noted in cases of overdose. Symptoms experienced included intestinal disturbances, headaches, muscle pain and skin rashes. In this way, spirulina is not recommended for people suffering from hemochromatosis (excess iron in the blood), renal failure and phenylketonuria (inability to process phenylalanine). Indeed, spirulina is rich in iron and phenylalanine, which is an amino acid (structural unit of a protein).

Thus, spirulina does not cause hypertension when the doses are respected and when its origin is controlled.

No contraindications with anti-hypertensive drugs

The spirulina does not appear to interfere with antihypertensive treatments. Indeed, a study was conducted to evaluate the effects in patients with hypertension of consuming a dressing containing 2 g of spirulina platensis powder for 8 weeks versus a placebo dressing. The results showed that the dressing containing the spirulina significantly decreased systolic blood pressure, diastolic blood pressure, as well as serum triglycerides, total cholesterol, and low-density lipoprotein (LDL). In contrast, the placebo dressing showed no significant change. In this way, the study concluded that spirulina dressing, as a functional food, could be used as an accompaniment to antihypertensive medications in patients with hypertension. Indeed, it is important to remember that spirulina can in no way replace antihypertensive medications.

Organic Spirulina (powder) rich in antioxidants

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