Those who want to use spirulina for weight loss typically consume around 500 milligrams per day, generally before meals. People have their choice between different forms of the supplement, taking it alone or mixed in foods, but all forms are rich in nutrients, especially protein, that reportedly curb appetite and boost metabolism. Researchers have yet to prove that it is an effective weight loss tool or to standardize dosing, and it can interact with certain medical conditions and prescriptions, so anyone who wants to take it should get advice from a medical professional first.
About the Supplement
Spirulina is a type of consumable microalgae or cyanobacteria. Bluish green in color, it usually grows where it is warm, but people successfully cultivate it in labs around the world, making it available in a variety of climates. Most of what people eat is of the Arthrospira platensis and Arthrospira maxima families. Although it didn’t really come onto the market as a dietary supplement until the 1970s, people have consumed it for hundreds of years, usually harvesting it and drying it into cakes. The Aztecs, a large empire of Mesoamerican people who lived around what is now Mexico City, reportedly harvested it as a food source as early as the 15th century.
To make spirulina easier to consume, manufacturers put it into several forms, including the pill form that is common with many other vitamins and supplements. The flake version is good for sprinkling onto foods, such as salads, and some individuals prefer the powder type because it is easily mixed into juices and other drinks such as smoothies. These latter kinds also are good options for people who have trouble swallowing tablets, but they don’t provide the convenience of being premeasured. A person can pick whichever one works best given his dietary habits.
The dose most companies promote for an adult is 500 milligrams per day, which works out to about four to six tablets, but some sources bump the dose up to as much as eight pills. The amount to take isn’t standardized, however, in part because research is still ongoing regarding the benefits and drawbacks the algae has. In some regions, its status as a supplement means that major food regulatory agencies don’t monitor or control it, such as is the case with in the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Most medical professionals recommend getting consultation first before adding it to the diet of anyone under age 18.
When to Take It
The ideal time to take a spirulina for weight loss generally is before a meal, with most recommendations hitting a window of 15 minutes to an hour before eating. The idea is that consuming the supplement during this period will suppress appetite, making it a little physically easier to keep portions under control. Many people take it during a meal however, adding it to their main dishes or drinks. In some cases, such as if a person is simply trying to get a nutrient boost rather than to limit how much he ingests, it’s typically better to take the algae after eating. Some people have reported some nausea if they try to use it following regular eating.
Why It Might Work
This supplement is a rich source of multiple nutrients, including riboflavin, thiamine folic acid, Vitamins A, C, D and E, zinc, iron, calcium, potassium and amino acids such as gama linolenic acid. All these substances play a part in maintaining good physical function and carrying out metabolic processes, so they are critical to being able to perform exercise and burn a maximum amount of calories. The real claim to fame for spirulina for weight loss, however, is that it is around 60% protein, which can make the number on the scale go down for multiple reasons.
Protein slows down how fast food moves through the digestive system and stabilizes blood sugar levels, which, for most people, means feeling full longer, as well as not reaching for additional snacks or eating huge amounts at subsequent meals. It also requires more energy to break down and use compared to fats and carbohydrates. Additionally, the body uses protein to build muscle tissue, which ends up using more calories to sustain over time and revving up metabolism — put another way, the leaner someone is, the more energy they usually burn. Spirulina is one option people have to get some of the dietary protein necessary to get these benefits.
No research studies have shown that using spirulina for weight loss is effective. It isn’t clear whether it is the algae or other lifestyle choices that frequently accompany supplement use, such as eating low-calorie foods and exercising, that result in slimming down. The University of Maryland Medical Center asserts that a person would need to consume quite a bit of the algae for it to do much good, and that someone can get similar amounts of protein in smaller servings of other foods, such as meat or nuts. The general consensus from medical professionals is that, although adding it to a diet probably won’t hurt, it’s an expensive route to go, as it’s about 30 times pricier per gram than the majority of other protein options.
This substance has the potential to stimulate the immune system. For many people, this is an excellent benefit, but individuals who have particular autoimmune conditions, such as arthritis and multiple sclerosis, generally should not take spirulina for weight loss, because it can aggravate these diseases. It also can interact with a number of medications prescribed for immune system suppression, such as mycophenolate, mexotrexate and cyclosporine. People with phenylketonuria, a condition that makes it hard for someone to handle phenylalanine, an amino acid the algae and other foods contain, also should avoid this product. The supplement contains high levels of Vitamin K, so it isn’t good for people who are on anticoagulant medication.
Sometimes, spirulina contains contaminants called microcystins, which, if consumed, can cause digestive issues and, potentially, cancer. Another worry is that metals occasionally find their way into the algae cultures, with mercury being of particularly high concern. Choosing a reputable manufacturer or vendor can improve the quality of the supplement and reduce the risk of these issues.