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The Disadvantages of Spirulina

By Helen Nnama

Spirulina, a type of blue-green algae, contains proteins, vitamins and minerals. It also contains rich amounts of carotenoids, a type of antioxidant that protects cells from the damage brought about by free radicals and other nutrients such as B vitamins, vitamin E, zinc, copper, manganese, iron, selenium and linoleic acid, an essential fatty acid not synthesized within the human body. As mentioned by the University of Maryland Medical Center, a number of laboratory studies suggest that taking spirulina may help improve your immune system. However, spirulina usage may cause potential side effects and disadvantages.

Heavy Metals

According to the Medline Plus, some spirulina preparations may contain heavy metals such as lead, cadmium, arsenic and mercury. According to a study published in the May 2007 issue of the "International Journal of Physical Sciences," the term”heavy metal” describes any metallic element characterized by its high density and toxicity even at very low concentrations. Heavy metals naturally occur on the earth’s surface and they serve as persistent contaminants not eliminated or destroyed by biodegradation or decomposition. Heavy metals may accidentally enter your body through the air, food and water and accumulate over time, resulting in the development of gastrointestinal problems such as diarrhea and vomiting, tremors, paralysis and even convulsions. To prevent the accidental ingestion of heavy metals from spirulina, patients should only buy quality spirulina products. Furthermore, spirulina must only be taken under the supervision of an experienced, qualified health care provider.


Phenylketonuria describes a medical condition characterized by the deficiency in the enzyme that metabolizes phenylalanine, a type of amino acid. Phenylketonuria may result in the development of mental retardation, multi-organ damage and potential compromise in pregnancy of phenylketonuric mothers. As mentioned by the University of Maryland Medical center, if you have problems with their phenylalanine metabolism, you must avoid taking foods containing this amino acid. Spirulina contains rich amounts of amino acids, including phenylalanine; therefore, it should be avoided by patients with phenylketonuria.

Worsening of Autoimmune Disease

Autoimmune disease refers to the over-activity of the immune system resulting in the destruction of normal tissues within the body. If you have an autoimmune disease, such as rheumatoid arthritis and multiple sclerosis, avoid taking spirulina, since it can further stimulate the immune system and make the condition much worse, according to the University of Maryland Medical Center.

Drug Interaction

Spirulina may negatively interactive with your medications taken to suppress the immune-system, such as seen with cancer patients. Medline Plus reports that this can lead to the decreased effectiveness of the said medications. Therefore, patients who are taking immunosuppressants should never take spirulina supplements.

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