Spirulina is blue-green algae also also known as cyanobacteria. It is native to Africa, Asia and Central America and has been studied for its medicinal qualities since the 1600s. It is currently used to enhance immunity against infections such as HIV, allergies, cancer and cardiovascular diseases.
Although some earlier research studies found positive results in diabetics using the supplement, it has not been approved by the US Food and Drug Administration for this purpose.
A combination of spirulina and another herbal extract decreased blood glucose, total cholesterol and tryglicerides and improved HDL cholesterol in diabetic animals, according to a study published by ZX Huang from School of Pharmaceutical Sciences, Guangzhou, China in 2005.
However, the Indian study, conducted by a team from the MS University of Baroda, revealed that over a two-month period, type 2 diabetes mellitus sufferers developed improved blood sugar and lipid profiles after taking the dietary supplement.
A study group of 25 patients were randomly assigned 2g of spirulina each day over the period of the research. The control and study groups each had similar medical and nutritional profiles.
The research found that those taking the spirulina supplements showed lower fasting blood glucose concentrations and reduced glycosylated hemoglobin (HbA1c) levels than those on a placebo.
Spirulina supplements also lowered serum triglyceride concentrations, total cholesterol and low-density lipoprotein cholesterol while increasing the level of high-density lipoprotein cholesterol.
Moreover, researchers noticed “a significant reduction in the atherogenic indices. The level of apolipoprotein B registered a significant fall together with a significant increment in the level of apolipoprotein A1” leading to a favourable increase in the A1:B ratio.
“These findings suggest the beneficial effect of spirulina supplementation in controlling blood glucose levels and improving the lipid profile of subjects with type 2 diabetes mellitus,” said Panam Parikh, of MS University’s Department of Foods and Nutrition.