On his first day of life, an infant was hospitalized with seizures. Researchers concluded that his mother’s daily spirulina use starting in the fourth month of pregnancy was likely to blame. I’ve talked previously about the liver and nerve toxins present in many spirulina supplements, but the supplement companies swear up and down that spirulina doesn’t produce those toxins, and they may be right (See my video Infant Seizures Linked to Mother's Spirulina Use).
But if spirulina doesn’t produce toxins, how is it that toxins are found in spirulina supplements on store shelves? It appears to be contamination of spirulina with toxin-producing blue-green algae.
For example, if we look at the new U.S. Pharmacopeia safety evaluation of spirulina, researchers conclude that “the available evidence does not indicate a serious risk to health or other public health concern when spirulina is properly identified, formulated, and used.” Ah, but that’s the catch. Spirulina is often grown and collected in open lakes and we have no idea what other algae are going to crop up.
The researchers reported a range of adverse reactions of people taking spirulina products, but they attribute these issues to non-spirulina algae toxin contaminants within spirulina supplements. So unless there’s third-party testing of each batch (which no company could presumably afford to do), I continue to encourage people to avoid spirulina (and blue-green algae) products.
If one still wants something green to sprinkle on their popcorn, I’d recommend chlorella instead (Is Chlorella Good for You?).
I’ve previously addressed green powders in:
Pregnancy is a very vulnerable time and requires an even higher level of dietary vigilance:
- The Wrong Way to Detox
- Diet Soda and Preterm Birth
- Preventing Childhood Allergies
- American Vegans Placing Babies at Risk
- Meat Fumes: Dietary Secondhand Smoke
- Pregnant Vegans at Risk for Iodine Deficiency
- Chamomile Tea May Not Be Safe During Pregnancy
- Dangerous Advice from Health Food Store Employees
- Hair Testing for Mercury Before Considering Pregnancy
Some supplements may be risky for everyone though. See, for example Safety of Noni and Mangosteen Juice.
-Michael Greger, M.D.
Image credit: SurFeRGirl30 / Flickr