"Many of the elderly in the United States—and quite a few of the not-so-elderly— experience terrible pain in their joints. Their fingers may become twisted and swollen, and they may be unable to button a coat without large doses of anti-inflammatory drugs…Many come to feel crippled and useless. By the age of 35, 35% of Americans have diagnosable arthritis in their knees. At least 85% of those over the age of 70 have it, and many have it severely."
- J. Robbins, Diet for A New America, 1987
Prokaryotes, organisms without a nuclear membrane (e.g., blue-green algae), display a more diverse array of antioxidant pigments and a broader selection of carotenoids than terrestrial plants and most green algae. Scientists at the University of Wisconsin, Department of Food Microbiology, report that because of the remark-able health benefits of algal and microbial carotenes, there will likely be a substantial increase in the world-wide demand for a full range of these important antioxidants. 252 Carotenoids represent one of the most widely distributed and structurally diverse classes of natural pigments, with important functions in photosynthesis, nutrition, and protection against photo-oxidative damage.
Rats and chickens fed a natural algal form of beta-carotene showed at least a tenfold higher accumulation of overall beta-carotene in their livers than those control animals fed equivalent amounts of synthetic all-trans beta-carotene supplement. The higher accumulation of the natural algal carotenoids, over the synthetic isolated beta-carotene, likely indicates a greater therapeutic value, according to the researchers. 253
Researchers have reported that natural algal beta-carotene is superior to a synthetic beta-carotene supplement in terms of raising lipophilic antioxidants (protecting PUFAs) in human serum. 254 Also, natural algal extracts of 9-cis beta-carotene are shown to have a higher antioxidant potency compared to synthetic all-trans beta-carotene with in vitro experiments. 255
Boost the human body’s Antioxidant Defenses
Pigments, phytochemicals, vitamins, and trace elements from algae and higher plants can help boost the human body’s antioxidant defenses. 256, 257 Aph. flos-aquae has an unusually wide variety of antioxidants, such as tocopherols, beta-carotene, flavonoids, superoxide dismutase, glutathione, taurine, tryptophan, phenolic acid, and vitamins C, E, B5, and B2. Antioxidants are biomolecules that protect organisms from the damaging effects of reactive oxygen species (free radicals) that are constantly formed in biological systems.
Blue-green algae contain a wide range of antioxidants in the form of specific trace minerals, amino acids, vitamins, and especially pigments – an impressive variety of carotenes along with potent green and blue pigments. Depending on the source of blue-green algae, the amount of phycocyanin can range up to 15% of its dry weight.
Replicated studies with a range of experimental animal models have established the potent antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects of phycocyanin. In rodents, experimentally-induced colitis as well as edemas of the paw and ear all responded positively to C-phycocyanin. 260-264
Gitte Jensen, an immunologist from McGill University, and her team at the Royal Victoria Hospital in Montreal report that Aph. flos-aquae algae may help to inhibit and to reverse inflammatory conditions. The researchers observed that small dilutions of Aph. flos-aquae algae tend to dampen the release of reactive oxygen species from certain phagocytic cells in human blood. 267
Scientists at the University of Padova, Italy, found that diatoms, golden brown unicellular algae, produce anti-inflammatory chemicals that are the main active ingredients in mud-pack treatments. In European health spas the use of mud-packs for the treatment of rheumatic and osteoarthritic patients has a long and relatively successful history. The maturation of thermal mud is dependent upon the full colonization of the mud by ther-mophilic microorganisms, with diatoms producing anti-inflammatory sulfoglycolipids (SGL), similar to those in blue-green algae. A typical cycle of treatments requires 12 packs of thermal mud.
“On this basis we calculated the amount of SGL taken up by each patient in a cycle of treatments, and found a figure not far from the recommended dose of non-steroid anti-inflammatory drugs utilized for the same pathology. However, unlike pharmaceutical preparations, the amount of SGL taken up by the patients after the mud-packs does not exert any adverse gastrointestinal effect on these patients,” reported the scientists. 268 Additionally, the anti-inflammatory action of SGL is consistent with the decrease of serum interleukin-1 observed in arthrosic patients treated with mud-packs. 269
Overall, evidence suggests that microalgae demonstrates at least four antioxidant properties:
Scavenging of reactive oxygen species (free radicals).
Regeneration of endogenous antioxidants, such as SOD and glutathione reductase.