Is Spirulina a Miracle Cure-all?

[Health ★★★★]


(P1) Arguably the “superfood” of the moment, spirulina is associated with a number of health claims, from curing allergies and candida to detoxifying the body and aiding in weight loss. Does this blue-green alga deliver, or is it all health hype?

(P2) As it turns out, these claims are backed by little science and likely surfaced due to spirulina’s impressive nutrient profile. One ounce or approximately 4 tablespoons of dried spirulina contains 81 calories, 16 grams of protein, 60 percent of the daily value of riboflavin, 44 percent of the daily value of iron and thiamin, 14 percent of the daily value of magnesium, and 11 percent of the daily value of potassium.

(P3) The Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database lists all health claims associated with spirulina as having insufficient evidence to rate and warns that women who are pregnant or breastfeeding should avoid it. There also is some evidence that spirulina could interact with anticoagulant, antiplatelet, and immunosuppressant drugs. Due to its high protein content, people with phenylketonuria, or PKU, should not consume spirulina.

(P4) After the Natural Medicines monograph was updated in 2015, a double-blind, placebo-controlled, randomized trial of 40 individuals with hypertension was published in 2016. It found that consuming 2 grams of spirulina for three months led to improved BMI, body weight, and blood pressure in this small sample. While spirulina is very protein-dense and these results seem promising, there is not enough information at this time to recommend it as a supplement for specific health conditions.

(P5) Due to its growing popularity, spirulina is cultivated in ponds and mass-produced all over the world, including Hawaii and China. Spirulina’s distinctive and strong seaweed flavor leads many people to consume it via capsule, while others mix the powder form into water, juice, or smoothies. Contamination by toxins and heavy metals is a serious concern, so it is important to choose a spirulina supplement with reliable third-party testing and quality assurance.

WORDS: 316


VOCABULARY: candida, hype, anticoagulant, antiplatelet, immunosuppressant, monograph, assurance


If you found the passage difficult to read or had problems understanding specific words or idiomatic expressions, please discuss them with your tutor. The following discussion questions should be answered in your own words and with your own arguments.

  1. Briefly, summarize the content of the article in your own words.
  2. Do you take vitamins and supplements every day? Why or why not?
  3. In your opinion, do you think spirulina is safe and effective? Why or why not?
  4. In your opinion do you think the supplement industry should be regulated more? Why or why not?


  1. Spirula is said to be a healing agent for ____________ and _____________.
  2. The nutrients that are contained in this alleged superfood is probably more of a reason than science that people claim it works. (T or F)
  3. It’s highly suggested that woman should not take spirula if they are ______________ or ____________.
  4. Spirula is packed with protein and studies have shown it could help with weight loss. (T or F)
  5. This supplement that is produced in masses has a strong taste of ____________.


What do the following expressions or phrases mean?

  • health claims (P1)
  • could interact with (P3)
  • in this small sample (P4)
  • to consume it via capsule (P5)

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Image source: by THINKSTOCK.COM/KESU01

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