African women who are infected with the HIV virus seem to become more healthy if they take 5 g Spirulina every day, nutritionists from Giessen in Germany announced in Nutrients. Despite this, Spirulina has no effect on the presence of HIV in the body.
Spirulina is a first-generation superfood. The inhabitants of Africa have been scooping these green-blue cyanobacteria out of crater lakes for centuries, drying it and feeding the pellets to their animals. Sometimes they eat it themselves too – and not without reason. During the Second World War researchers discovered that spirulina contains extraordinarily high amounts of reasonable quality protein, as well as a range of minerals and vitamins.
Spirulina makes HIV-positive people healthier
The researchers wondered whether spirulina might be of benefit to Africans who are infected with the HIV virus [see right]. Low nutritional status speeds up the course of HIV infection, so including this superfood in the diet could have the opposite effect – and thus slow down the development of the virus.
The researchers gave 28 HIV-positive women in Cameroon 5 g spirulina every day for 12 weeks. The researchers administered the powder in capsules. A control group of 30 infected women took a placebo.
The women were not given any antiretroviral therapy.
Spirulina had no effect on the virus count in the women’s body. One of the effects of HIV is that it destroys T-CD4+ immune cells, destroying the body’s resistance to infections. Spirulina supplementation did not inhibit the decimation of this cell type.
Spirulina did however boost the total level of antioxidants in the blood [TAOS]. This may explain why the women who took spirulina had fewer problems with “concomitant events: opportunistic infections, diarrhea, headache, fatigue, respiratory disease or gastrointestinal symptoms.” This effect was not statistically significant however.
“The use of Spirulina for antiretroviral activity should be looked at carefully, since we did not generate data supporting such an effect in the present study”, the researchers write. “However, Spirulina can be recommended as a food supplement capable of reinforcing the body’s antioxidative status.”
The effect of Arthrospira platensis capsules on CD4 T-cells and antioxidative capacity in a randomized pilot study of adult women infected with human immunodeficiency virus not under HAART in Yaoundé, Cameroon.
Dietary supplements are often used to improve the nutritional status of people living with HIV/AIDS (PLHIV). Arthrospira platensis (Asp), also known as Spirulina, is a cyanobacterium rich in proteins and micronutrients. Cell and animal trials described immune-modulating, antiretroviral and antioxidant activities. This pilot study describes the effects of the supplementation of 5 g/day of Asp on a pre-highly-active antiretroviral therapy (pre-HAART), HIV-infected, adult female population. It was conducted as a three-month randomized controlled trial (RCT) that compared a cup supplementation of five grams/day of Asp with a placebo of equal protein content and energy. The study included 73 HIV-infected women. The immediate outcome variables were CD4 T-cells, viral load and immune activation by CD8 T-cells expressing CD38. The antioxidant status was assessed by way of the total antioxidant capacity of the serum (TAOS). The renal function was documented by way of creatinine, urea and the calculated glomerular filtration rate. Statistical analyses were carried out with non-parametric tests, and the effect size of each interaction was calculated. No differences in the immunological and virological markers between the Asp and the placebo group could be observed. In the placebo group, 21 of 30 patients (70%) developed concomitant events, while in the Asp group, only 12 of 28 patients (43%) did. Both groups registered a significant weight increase; 0.5 kg (p < 0.05) in the Asp group and 0.65 kg (p < 0.05) in the placebo group. The antioxidant capacity increase of 56 (1-98) µM for Asp was significantly different from the decrease observed in the placebo group (p < 0.001). A slight increase in the creatinine level of 0.1 g/dL (p < 0.001) was observed in the Asp group, and no effect was observed in the urea levels. The improvement of the antioxidant capacity under Asp, shown for the first time on PLHIV, could become a focus for future research on the nutritional and health effects of Spirulina. The observed slight, but significant increase of serum creatinine needs further evaluation, especially with varying doses of Asp.
PMID: 25057105 [PubMed - in process] PMCID: PMC4113773