Algae are simple plants which grow in water. Some are cultivated and used as concentrated sources of nutrients and chlorophyll. Many are rich in protein, beta-carotene and GLA. Some algae may contain vitamin B12 analogues, but these do not have true vitamin activity. Varieties of algae which are commonly available as food supplements include Spirulina, Chlorella, Blue-Green Algae and Pacific Algae. Spirulina is also promoted as a mild appetite suppressant.
Although sold for their nutrient-dense properties, the quantity of algae which an individual would need to consume daily to obtain significant amounts of nutrients from these sources would be a relatively expensive way of obtaining these nutrients. It is hard to tell whether the health benefits claimed for these products by some of their users would also have occurred with ordinary dietary supplements andor by dietary improvement alone. Health benefits claimed by users include intestinal cleansing effects, greater overall energy and well-being, and increased mental acuity.
Quality control may be a problem for some algae grown outdoors in open lakes, since there are a number of potential sources of contamination. Users have occasionally reported problems like hair loss after beginning to consume some of these products. Deep-sea algae products (sometimes sold as ‘Phyto-Plankton’) are thought to be a less likely candidate for contamination, and, being very rich in beta-carotene, are often used as an economical form of beta-carotene supplement.
Information compiled by Linda Lazarides
Naturopathic Nutritionist, Author, Educator