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Spirulina & B Vitamin Deficiencies

By Kathryn Gilhuly

Spirulina, a type of seaweed, may help you meet your need for vitamin B or treat mild deficiencies. The B vitamins help your body metabolize fats and proteins and convert carbohydrates to sugar to supply your body with needed energy. They also support your liver and central nervous system function; help your body produce sex and stress hormones; and strengthen your hair, eyes and skin. Although spirulina itself is generally safe, some brands may contain added toxins.

Spirulina and Vitamin B Deficiencies

Spirulina contains six B vitamins – thiamine, riboflavin, niacin, pantothenic acid, pyridoxine and folate. Most people get enough of these vitamins from their diets. Women who take birth control pills might suffer from a deficiency of vitamin B-6, or pyridoxine. Persons who abuse alcohol might develop deficiencies in several B vitamins.

Vitamins B-1 and B-2

One tablespoon of dried spirulina provides 0.17 mg of vitamin B-1, or thiamine. Other dietary sources of B-1 include beans, cereal grains, nuts and meats. A healthy diet includes 1 to 1.5 mg of vitamin B-1 daily. If you are mildly deficient in vitamin B-1, recommended amounts range from 5 to 30 mg a day. Severe deficiencies might require supplements of up to 300 mg. To meet your needs for B-1 through spirulina supplements alone, you would need to take about 5 tablespoons for basic needs and more than 100 cups to treat a severe deficiency. The dose to treat a vitamin B-2, or riboflavin, deficiency ranges from 5 to 30 mg a day. A tablespoon of dried spirulina contains 0.26 mg of B-2 and 1 cup contains about 4 mg.

Vitamins B-3 and B-5

The recommended daily allowance for niacin, or vitamin B-3, ranges from 14 to 16 mg a day. Persons with mild deficiencies may need to take 50 to 100 mg a day. Those with pellagra, a severe niacin deficiency, may require daily supplements of up to 500 mg. A tablespoon of dried spirulina provides just under 1 mg of niacin, and a cup supplies 14 mg. If you’re deficient in vitamin B-5, or pantothenic acid, you may benefit from taking supplements of up to 10 mg a day. If you’re not deficient, the RDA for B-5 ranges from 5 to 7 mg. One tablespoon of dried spirulina provides about 0.24 mg of B-5, and 1 cup of spirulina supplies about 4 mg of pantothenic acid.

Vitamins B-6 and Folate

Spirulina contains a small amount of vitamin B-6, but not enough to meet your needs. The dose of B-6 required for a deficiency ranges from 2.5 to 30 mg. A cup of dried spirulina contains 0.4 mg of vitamin B-6. Spirulina provides higher amounts of folate, with 7 mg in 1 tablespoon and 105 mg in 1 cup. The RDA for folate, also known as folic acid, is 400 mcg. Other dietary sources of folate include leafy green vegetables, dried beans and citric fruits. If you want to supplement your diet with spirulina, ask your doctor or pharmacist to recommend a brand uncontaminated by heavy metals. In addition to vitamin B-3, spirulina supplies protein, vitamin E, manganese, iron, selenium and beta-carotene, as well as antioxidants and essential fatty acid.

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