Studies give cause for hope that edible algae could significantly boost reproductive function in men. Image courtesy Algas

Agricultural and environmental economist, Dr. Jules Siedenburg, writes in about his research of algae and its potential to help poor communities in the global South meet their food needs. While he primarily focuses on algae as a food, he wanted to report what researchers have learned about edible algae (notably spirulina) and its linkages to fertility.

To date, most research on the significance of edible algae to fertility has involved animal studies. Firm conclusions therefore cannot be drawn about the applicability of this work to humans. These early studies nonetheless flag linkages that could equally apply to humans.

The available science reveals substantive and sometimes dramatic improvements in male reproductive function due to spirulina. The following examples show this effect consistently in a range of different contexts, as reported in peer-reviewed academic papers by researchers from institutions including the University of Cairo, the University of Tasmania and Mexico’s National Polytechnic Institute.

One group of studies involved different animals of importance to agriculture. Two studies found enhanced male reproductive function for boar when spirulina was incorporated into their feed, while a third found this same effect for bulls. Similarly, studies on fish found higher fertility and larger gonad size among farmed red swordtail, gourami and yellow-tailed cichlid when their diet included spirulina.

A second set of studies involved laboratory rodents, and found that spirulina protected their sperm and reproductive organs from various pathogens. Several studies showed this for key industrial toxins, such as mercury, arsenic, and the carcinogen benzo-alpha pyrene. Other studies showed spirulina minimizing the adverse effects of chemotherapy on testicular function of both rats and mice, while yet another study showed spirulina protecting the reproductive function of male mice from gamma radiation.

Several recent reviews of the early research on spirulina are also pertinent. One covered studies on the potential of spirulina to enhance the health, growth rates and quality characteristics of different agricultural animals. Another covered experiments on the capacity of spirulina to help laboratory animals cope with diverse pollutants and industrial toxins. A third covered research on the capacity of spirulina to help protect humans from different types of pathogens, including microbes, heavy metals, and cancer. All three review papers were highly positive regarding the impacts of spirulina, while also noting that further research is needed.

Dr. Siedenburg is not claiming that eating algae can address humanity’s fertility concerns. The available scientific evidence is limited, and more research is needed to clarify these linkages. The provisional take home message from the early research is nonetheless clear: various studies give cause for hope that edible algae could significantly boost reproductive function in men, notably where it is threatened by industrial toxins.

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