Aphanizomenon flos-aquae (AFA) is one of most ancient super foods on earth and has been consumed as a dietary supplement for decades. Throughout the years AFA has been thoroughly researched to better understand and document the profound benefits on physical and mental health. There are thousands of personal testimonies of the benefits experienced when consuming AFA and there are also multiple scientific research articles to further confirm these positive results.
AFA studies have been conducted using various forms of the algae, including capsules and extracts and have had participants ranging from animals to children to adults. The variety included in the study design, format and participants helps to cover a larger spectrum and reveals the full range of AFA’s benefits. The benefits documented in this research range from improved immunity, to stem cell proliferation, to antioxidant properties and much more. Research shows (and personal testimonies confirm) that Aphanizomenon flos-aquae is a highly effective superfood that supplies a rich source of micronutrients, chlorophyll, vitamins, essential fatty acids and proteins providing important components of a healthy diet.
Aphanizomenon flos-aquae: Components and Benefits
Chlorophyll is a natural phytochemical that gives plants its green pigment. Research has demonstrated that chlorophyll can prevent and reduce the damage from carcinogenic substances, including damage to DNA. It has also been shown to have antioxidant effect against damage induced by carcinogens and therapeutic effects when used in combating certain cancers.
• Jubert C, Mata J, Bench G, et al. Effects of chlorophyll and chlorophyllin on low-dose aflatoxin B1 pharmacokinetics in human volunteers. Cancer Prev Res [Serial online]. 2009; 2: 1015-1022. http://cancerprevres.aacrjournals.org/content/2/12/1015.full.pdf
Phycocyanin is a blue pigment found in blue green algae that works in conjunction with chlorophyll. It occurs naturally in cyanobacteria or blue-green algae such as Aphanizomenon flos-aquae. Research has demonstrated that phycocyanin has antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties.
• Ou Y, Zheng S, Lin L, Jiang Q, and Yang X. Protective effect of C-phycocyanin against carbon tetrachloride-induced hepatocyte damage in vitro and in vivo. Chem. Biol. Interact. [Serial online]. 2010; 185(2): 94-100. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20227401
• Benedetti S, et al. Antioxidant properties of a novel phycocyanin extract from the blue-green alga Aphanizomenon flos-aquae. Life Sci. [Serial online]. 2004; 75(19): 2353-2362. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15350832
ß-Carotene is a red-orange-yellow fat-soluble pigment that is a part of the carotenoid family. It’s most important function is acting as a pro-vitamin to vitamin A, meaning that it gets converted to vitamin A in the body. It is also converted to retinol, a form of vitamin A, which is essential to vision. Beta-carotene is also known to have antioxidant properties.
Vitamin A is a fat soluble vitamin that is essential for good health, vision and strong immunity, gene expression, reproduction, cell growth & differentiation, and GI health.
• Grune T, et al. ß-carotene is an important vitamin A source for humans. J. Nutr. [Serial online]. 2010; 140: 2268S-2285S. http://jn.nutrition.org/content/140/12/2268S.full.pdf
• Kim Y, Seo JH, and Kim H. ß-carotene and lutein inhibit hydrogen peroxide-induced activation of NF-KB and IL-8 expression in gastric epithelial AGS cells. J Nutr Sci Vitaminol [Serial online]. 2011; 57: 216-223. http://www.jstage.jst.go.jp/article/jnsv/57/3/216/_pdf
• Mayo-Wilson E, et al. Vitamin A supplements for preventing mortality, illness, and blindness in children aged under 5: systematic review and meta-analysis. BMJ [Serial online]. 2011; 343: d5094. http://www.bmj.com/content/343/bmj.d5094
Canthaxanthin is a carotenoid pigment found in nature. It is used to reduce sensitivity to sunlight in those who have the genetic disorder or for those who take medication that increases sensitivity. It cannot be converted to vitamin A but it is still being researched and is thought to have many of the same properties as other carotenoids.
• Chew BP and Park JS. Carotenoid action on the immune response. J. Nutr. [Serial online]. 2004; 134(1): 2575-2615. http://jn.nutrition.org/content/134/1/257S.long#abstract-1
• Chew BP, Park JS, Wong MW, and Wong TS. A comparison of the anticancer activities of dietary beta-carotene, canthaxanthin and astaxanthin in mice in vivo. Anticancer Res. [Serial online]. 1999; 19(3A): 1849-1853. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/10470126?dopt=Abstract
Fatty Acid (n-3)
The omega-3 fatty acid (FA) is a healthy and essential type of fat. Currently most people are not consuming enough of this type of FA. Omega-3 is an essential nutrient for the brain and nervous system, studies suggest Omega-3’s benefit mood and depression, helps regulate blood triglyceride levels, lowers the risk of cardiovascular disease, , aids in joint pain, reduces inflammation and is essential for cognitive health. It also is very important for prenatal health due to its important role in visual and neurological development in infants. Consuming adequate amounts of omega-3 is also important for maintaining the balance between omega-3 and omega-6 FA. Too much omega-6 can be harmful to the body, and omega-3 is known to counteract the negative side effects that can result from excess omega-6.
• Simopoulos AP. Omega-3 fatty acids in inflammation and autoimmune diseases. J Am Coll Nutr [Serial online]. 2002; 21(6): 495-505. http://www.jacn.org/content/21/6/495.long
• Jicha GA and Markesbery WR. Omega-3 fatty acids: potential role in the management of early Alzheimer’s disease. Clin Interv Aging [Serial online]. 2010; 5: 45-61. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2854051/?tool=pubmed – __sec8
Amino acids are the building blocks of proteins. There are twenty different amino acids that arrange in different patterns to form various proteins. Proteins are essential to the body and they are crucial to all cell function. They have many roles including, acting as an enzyme, cell signaling, structure, hormones, transport, storage and antibodies.
PEA is a derivative of the amino acid phenylalanine. Studies suggest that PEA regulates neurons and transmits signals between neurons in the central nervous system. It is currently being marketed as a supplement to help people enhance mood, focus and reduce stress.
• Zhou G, Shoji H, Yamada S, and Matsuishi T. Decreased ß-phenylethylamine in CSF in Parkinson’s disease. J Neurol Neurosurg Psychiatry [Serial online]. 1997; 63: 754-758. http://jnnp.bmj.com/content/63/6/754.full.pdf+html
• Gillis, Michelle. Phenylethylamine: More than just a pea-sized neurochemical. BioConcepts Nutritional News. http://www.neuroconcepts.memberlodge.org/resources/Documents/Phenylethylamine-More Than Just A Pea-Sized Neurochemical.pdf
Vitamin B12 is a nutrient that plays a key role in the function of the brain and nervous system and blood formation. It is involved in cell metabolism, and helps synthesize DNA and fatty acids, aids in energy production and prevents different types of anemia. Homocysteine, an amino acid, is associated with heart disease when elevated in the blood.; A group of B vitamins (including B12) has been shown to lower homocysteine levels, therefore lowering the risk of heart disease.
• Smith AD, et al. Homocysteine-lowering by B vitamins slows the rate of accelerated brain atrophy in mild cognitive impairment: A randomized controlled trial. PLoS One [Serial online]. 2010; 5(9): e12244. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2935890/?tool=pubmed – s4
• Satyanarayana A, et al. Status of B-vitamins and homocysteine in diabetic retinopathy: Association with vitamin B12 deficiency and hyperhomocysteinemia. PLoS One [Serial online]. 2011; 6(11): e26747. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3206053/?tool=pubmed
Vitamin K is a fat soluble vitamin produced by the natural bacterial flora in our intestines. However the production that occurs in the human body is not enough to sustain us, so vitamin K must also be consumed in the diet. Vitamin K is most known for its important role in blood coagulation. It has recently been found that vitamin K plays a role in bone metabolism and in a chemical reaction that aids calcium movement and absorption.
• Vermeer C. Vitamin K: the effect on healthy beyond coagulation: An overview. Food Nutr. Res. [Serial online]. 2012; 56: 10.3402/fnr.v56i0.5329. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3321262/?tool=pubmed
• Je SH, et al. Vitamin K supplement along with vitamin D and calcium reduced serum concentration of undercarboxylated osteocalcin while increasing bone mineral density in Korean postmenopausal women over sixty years old. J Korean Med Sci [Serial online]. 2011; 26: 1093-1096. http://www.jkms.org/Synapse/Data/PDFData/0063JKMS/jkms-26-1093.pdf
Nucleic acids are essential to life and include Deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) and Ribonucleic acid (RNA). Their main functions are encoding, transmitting and expressing genetic information. DNA is the genetic makeup of all living things, and makes up our genes that determine each living organisms unique characteristics. There are several types of RNA and they work on converting the genetic information into proteins.
A variety of trace minerals are found in Aphanizomenon flos-aquae. All of the minerals offer a variety of benefits that are essential to good health.
Calcium is the most abundant mineral in the body, which is essential to bone structure and function; most of the calcium in our bodies is used for bone health. A small percentage of calcium is also used in the body for vasodilatation (widening of blood vessels) and vasoconstriction (narrowing of blood vessels), which helps blood vessels move blood throughout the body. It is also important to intercellular signaling, muscle function, nerves carrying messages, and releasing hormones and enzymes.
• Van Mierlo LAJ, et al. Blood pressure response to calcium supplementation: a meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials. J Human Hypertension [Serial online]. 2006; 20: 571-580. http://www.nature.com/jhh/journal/v20/n8/pdf/1002038a.pdf
• Hofmeyr GJ, Lawrie TA, Atallah AN, and Duley L. Calcium supplementation during pregnancy for preventing hypertensive disorders and related problems. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews [Serial online], 2010, Issue 8. Art. No.: CD001058. DOI: 10.1002/14651858.CD001059.pub3. http://apps.who.int/rhl/reviews/CD001059.pdf
Chloride is an essential electrolyte (often attached to sodium to make salt) that maintains the acid/base balance, aids in the transmission of nerves impulses and regulates fluid movement in and out of cells. http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/002417.htm
Chromium is a mineral that is needed in trace amounts. It is known to enhance the action of insulin, which is a hormone involved in metabolism and glucose uptake in cells. Chromium supplements are currently being researched for its ability to treat diabetes, lower blood lipid levels, promote weight loss and improve body composition.
• Sharma S, et al. Beneficial effect of chromium supplementation on glucose, HbA1C and lipid variables in individuals with newly onset type-2 diabetes. J Trace Elem Med Biol [Serial online]. 2011; 25(3): 149-153. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21570271
Copper is an important trace mineral that has been found to aid in energy production, to be essential to several enzymes, iron metabolism, important to several reactions in the central nervous system, and has antioxidant functions.
• Schlief ML, Craig A M, and Gitlin JD. NMDA receptor activation mediates copper homeostasis in hippocampal neurons. J. Neurosci. [Serial online]. 2005; 25(1): 239-246. http://www.jneurosci.org/content/25/1/239.full.pdf
Iron is an essential element in both the earth’s crust and the human body. It is an integral component of many proteins and enzymes that are necessary for good health. It is a component of the proteins that are involved in oxygen transport and is most abundant in hemoglobin, the protein in red blood cells, which carries oxygen in the blood. Iron deficiency is one of the most common nutrient deficiencies and can eventually lead to iron deficiency anemia. Deficiency can cause weakness, fatigue, poor pregnancy outcomes, impaired cognitive development/intellectual performance and impaired host-defense. Iron is an essential ingredient in fetal development and deficiencies create a broad spectrum of developmental problems.
• Fretham SJB, et al. The role of iron in learning and memory. Adv. Nutr. [Serial online]. 2011; 2(2): 112-121. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3065765/?tool=pubmed – __secid3304770
Magnesium is one of the most abundant minerals in the body and is needed for more than 300 biochemical reactions in the body. Some of its functions are to maintain normal muscle and nerve function, support a healthy immune system, regulate blood sugar levels, and promotes normal blood pressure just to name a few.
• Kass L, Weekes J, and Carpenter L. Effect of magnesium supplementation on blood pressure: a meta-analysis. EJCN [Serial online]. 2012; 66: 411-418. http://www.nature.com/ejcn/journal/v66/n4/full/ejcn20124a.html
• Chiuve SE, Korngold EC, Januzzi JL, Gantzer ML, and Albert CM. Plasma and dietary magnesium and risk of sudden cardiac death in women. Am J Clin Nutr [Serial online]. 2011; 93(2): 253-260. http://www.ajcn.org/content/93/2/253.full.pdf+html?sid=3b5ba77e-aa4b-45d5-bd1a-c3a14fd631e2
Manganese is a nutritionally essential mineral that has several functions including acting as an antioxidant enzyme (manganese superoxide dismutase), activating enzymes in metabolism, is a cofactor of enzymes that are needed for bone health, and activating enzymes for wound healing.
• Holley AK, Bakthavatchalu V, Velez-Roman JM, and St. Clair DK. Manganese superoxide dismutase: Guardian of the powerhouse. Int J Mol Sci [Serial online]. 2011; 12(10): 7114-7162. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3211030/?tool=pubmed
Phosphorus is an essential mineral component of bone (calcium phosphate salt – hydroxyapatite), cell membranes (phospholipids), and nucleic acids (contain phosphate group). Phosphorylation, the transfer of phosphate groups, is needed to activate many compounds including enzymes, hormones and cell-signaling molecules. Energy production and storage is also dependant on phosphorylated compounds (i.e. ATP).
Potassium is a very important mineral that has a role in the proper function of all cells, tissues and organs in the body. It is important to heart function, muscle contraction which is important for digestive and muscular function, and neuron function. It is also an electrolyte, and aids in fluid balance, filtration and excretion of toxins in the body.
• He FJ, Markandu ND, Coltart R, Barron J, and MacGregor GA. Effect of short-term supplementation of potassium chloride and potassium citrate on blood pressure in hypertensives. Hypertension [Serial online]. 2005; 45: 571-574. http://hyper.ahajournals.org/content/45/4/571.full.pdf
Sodium is an important electrolyte that is the primary nutrient that affects fluid balance among cells, especially extracellular fluid. This gives it a key role in blood pressure and blood volume. Sodium’s role as an electrolyte is also important for maintaining fluid balance during exercise. It also works with potassium in controlling membrane potential, which is important for nerve impulse transmission, muscle contraction and cardiac function. Sodium also aids in the absorption of nutrients in the small intestines.
• Sharp RL. Role of sodium in fluid homeostasis with exercise. J Am Coll Nutr [Serial online]. 2006; 25(3): 231S-239S. http://www.jacn.org/content/25/suppl_3/231S.long
Zinc is a nutrient that aids the immune system and is needed to make proteins and DNA. It is important to the structure of proteins and cell membranes as well as increasing the speed of enzymatic reactions. Zinc is also needed for proper growth and development, wound healing and proper taste and smell.
• Klaus-Helge and Rink L. Zinc: altered immune function. J. Nutr. [Serial online]. 2003; 133: 1452S-1456S. http://jn.nutrition.org/content/133/5/1452S.full.pdf
• Hambidge M. Human zinc deficiency. J. Nutr. [Serial online]. 2000; 130(5): 1344S-1349S. http://jn.nutrition.org/content/130/5/1344S.full.pdf
• Frederickson CJ, Won Suh S, Silva D, Frederickson CJ, and Thompson RB. Importance of zinc in the central nervous system: The zinc-containing neuron. J. Nutr. [Serial online]. 2000; 130(5): 1471S-1483S. http://jn.nutrition.org/content/130/5/1471S.full.pdf