Spirulina contains promising ingredients for food and pharmaceutical applications according to a new cancer study reported in Food and Function.

Spirulina contains promising ingredients for food and pharmaceutical applications according to a new cancer study reported in Food and Function.

Alex Strauss writes in Surviving Mesothelioma about a new study on spirulina’s effects on five major types of cancer. Spirulina — a cyanobacterium, or blue-green algae, that is cultivated as a dietary supplement and as a whole food — is rich in plant proteins and contains other vitamins and minerals.

To test whether spirulina has the potential to help in the treatment of cancers, Doctors Zhujun Wang and Xuewu Zhang of the South China University of Technology in Guangzhou isolated and tested compounds found in spirulina — starting by extracting the whole proteins through hydrolysis.

The proteins were then broken down into individual polypeptides, the building blocks of proteins, and each polypeptide was tested on five types of cancer cells, including liver, colon, gastric, breast and lung. The scientists isolated 15 polypeptides in spirulina that had “anti-proliferative” activities on cancer cells. This means that the compounds slowed down the cells’ ability to divide and spread.

The Chinese study does not make dietary recommendations for people with any other type of cancer. However, the study does suggest that compounds found in spirulina may prove to be valuable additions to both food and medicine.

“These polypeptides exhibited anti-proliferation activities on cancer cells, and low toxicity or stimulatory activity on normal cells, suggesting that they are promising ingredients in food and pharmaceutical applications,” states the report in a recent issue of Food and Function.

Patients are advised not to make changes to their diets without first talking with their oncologist.

Source: Wang, Z and Zhang, X, “Inhibitory effects of small molecular peptides from spirulina (arthrospira) platensis on cancer cell growth”, November 19, 2015, Epub ahead of print