Is Blue-Green Algae Good for You?

Is Blue-Green Algae Good for You?
5 (100%) 6 votes

The potential neurotoxicity of blue-green algae supplements remains a concern.

Discuss
Republish

What about blue-green algae supplements?

Historically, the concern has been about a neurotoxin called BMAA. Should we continue to avoid blue-green algae? Yes.

Previously, the only two places you could find that neurotoxin was in the brains of Alzheimer’s patients, and on your health food store shelf, in the form of blue-green algae supplements.

But now, it’s been found a third place—in the brains of those dying from Lou Gehrig’s disease. I’d continue to stay away from the stuff. 

To see any graphs, charts, graphics, images, and quotes to which Dr. Greger may be referring, watch the above video. This is just an approximation of the audio contributed by veganmontreal.

Please consider volunteering to help out on the site.

Image thanks to Ohio Sea Grant via Flickr

What about blue-green algae supplements?

Historically, the concern has been about a neurotoxin called BMAA. Should we continue to avoid blue-green algae? Yes.

Previously, the only two places you could find that neurotoxin was in the brains of Alzheimer’s patients, and on your health food store shelf, in the form of blue-green algae supplements.

But now, it’s been found a third place—in the brains of those dying from Lou Gehrig’s disease. I’d continue to stay away from the stuff. 

To see any graphs, charts, graphics, images, and quotes to which Dr. Greger may be referring, watch the above video. This is just an approximation of the audio contributed by veganmontreal.

Please consider volunteering to help out on the site.

Image thanks to Ohio Sea Grant via Flickr

Doctor's Note

For more on blue-green algae, check out these videos:
Diet and Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS)
Infant Seizures Linked to Mother’s Spirulina Use

Also, check out my other videos on blue-green algae. And note that chlorella is not in the same category as blue-green algae. 

If you haven’t yet, you can subscribe to my videos for free by clicking here.

32 responses to “Is Blue-Green Algae Good for You?

Comment Etiquette

On NutritionFacts.org, you'll find a vibrant community of nutrition enthusiasts, health professionals, and many knowledgeable users seeking to discover the healthiest diet to eat for themselves and their families. As always, our goal is to foster conversations that are insightful, engaging, and most of all, helpful – from the nutrition beginners to the experts in our community.

To do this we need your help, so here are some basic guidelines to get you started.

The Short List

To help maintain and foster a welcoming atmosphere in our comments, please refrain from rude comments, name-calling, and responding to posts that break the rules (see our full Community Guidelines for more details). We will remove any posts in violation of our rules when we see it, which will, unfortunately, include any nicer comments that may have been made in response.

Be respectful and help out our staff and volunteer health supporters by actively not replying to comments that are breaking the rules. Instead, please flag or report them by submitting a ticket to our help desk. NutritionFacts.org is made up of an incredible staff and many dedicated volunteers that work hard to ensure that the comments section runs smoothly and we spend a great deal of time reading comments from our community members.

Have a correction or suggestion for video or blog? Please contact us to let us know. Submitting a correction this way will result in a quicker fix than commenting on a thread with a suggestion or correction.

View the Full Community Guidelines

    1. If one is worried that the blue-green algae is the cause of their ALS, where would you get a reliable, quality L-serine or should it be phosphatidylserine that would remove/replace/push out the BMAA from the infected cells?

    2. Hi
      I been taking Chlorella for a long time know and thought by adding 4 mg a day of Astaxanthin.
      Is this ok and healthy to do
      Just a little concerned of taking to much
      Kind Regards

  1. I was wondering if you know anything about Carageenen from seaweed, so far I’ve read that it isn’t good to consume, however some vitamin supplements have it, is this such a small amount I shouldn’t worry? Sorry I wasn’t sure where to post this.

    1. As a precautionary measure I would recommend those with inflammatory intestinal disorders try to stay away from it. Still unclear whether it should be avoided otherwise. I’ll keep an eye out for new research–thanks for your question!

  2. Sorry – that was strange.  I work with the wild blue green algae from Upper Klamath Lake. While there has been a lot of negative press our algae is safe. I have been eating it 25 years.
    1. We are PROVEN to be BMAA free (is 3rd party)
    2. We are not farmed, and we are organic, removing herbicide/pesticide issues
    3. We are NSF certified, proving we are clear of all contaminants including microcystin

  3. so you say that we should all take 250 mg of algae based DHA everyday but stay away from spirulina, chlorella and blue green. what gives?

  4. I have researched regarding the blue-green algae Aphanizomenon Flos-Aquae (AFA), since I found it in the book “Healing with Whole Foods” (Paul Pitchford) and found out that there are certain studies with specific extracts that haven been proven to be toxin-free. So, since there are a huge number of benefits from using AFA (among other types of seaweed), WOULD YOU CONSIDER POSITIVE TO INCLUDE IT IN OUR PLANT-BASED DIET? (most like likely in form of extract) Thank you.

    1. Yes, please answer this question, Dr Greger. I stopped taking mine after reading your opinion of Spirulina, but my arthritis is getting worse since I stopped taking it.

      1. Take about 20 tablets of chlorella from Pukka (they are crasy about quality, use only organic cultivated under sun and check regularly) and after using it for about a month switch to wheat grass (also Pukka as their wheat grass powder is 30 x stronger than regular). Use chlorella alternativly with either wheat greas, Clean greens or other powders by Pukka: http://www.fullhealthsecrets.com

  5. How do you feel about green powders such as amazing grass supplements and garden of life green blend powders? These contain blue green algae, but many other things as well.

  6. Hello there! My vegan daughter’s favoured soya milk is calcium fortified with lithothamnium calcareum seaweed/algae. Is this a good and safe seaweed for us to be consuming?

    Many thanks.

  7. Not just supplements. Bioaccumulations of BMAA have been found in seafood (especially shellfish) consumed by clusters of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS, Lou Gehrig’s disease) patients. Recent reviews:

    The emerging science of BMAA: do cyanobacteria contribute to neurodegenerative disease? (2012)
    Presence of the neurotoxin BMAA in aquatic ecosystems: What do we really know? (2014)
    β-N-methylamino-L-alanine (BMAA) produced by cyanobacteria as a possible cause of neurodegenerative deseases (2014)

    1. This is totally off topic but… Somewhere in your 658 comments, you talk about the studies showing pescatarians have a slight advantage over vegans in mortality studies and why you think that is. Which mortality studies? Mind citing one or two? I’d like to have a read.

      1. Those 2 comments are most likely referring to the early results through 2009 from Adventist Health Study 2, which is the first prospective study with enough vegans to provide any sort of statistically significant results for mortality. As of that report, vegans had an adjusted mortality rate 15% below that of omnivores, though still not quite achieving statistical significance. Pescetarians had a mortality rate 19% below that of omnivores, and because this is a larger cohort, had already achieved statistical significance. While pescetarians may appear to have a lower risk, the difference with vegans is nowhere near statistical significance (the two RR confidence intervals are 0.69-0.94 and 0.73-1.01), so there’s a very good possibility this distinction would arise by chance from sampling even if the two groups had identical risks.

        Curiously, vegan men had a statistically significant 28% lower mortality risk than omnivore men, and nearly identical to pescetarian men. Its the vegan women who don’t seem to be benefiting much, with a negligible 3% lower risk than omnivores, whereas the pescetarian women had a non-significant 12% lower risk. It should be noted that the comparison omnivores in AHS-2 are much healthier than the general population, as Adventists have low rates of smoking, alcohol use, and are more socially engaged.

        These results don’t say much at present about distinctions between vegan and pescetarian health risks, but I do think vegans should pay attention, in order to avoid complacency in our dietary and supplement strategies. Followup is continuing, and if AHS-1 (1/3rd as large, with few vegans) is a guide, AHS-2 may continue through 2016, with results published through the next decade.

          1. Another report covered cancer incidence in the early years of AHS-2. Pescetarians lower trending adjusted hazard ratio of 0.88 (0.77–1.01) compared to omnivores, while vegans barely achieved statistical significance with 0.84 (0.72–0.99) – if the 95% confidence interval doesn’t include the reference group HR of 1.00, then its “significant”. As either confidence interval encompases the HR of the other group, there’s no significant difference between pescetarians and vegans in these results.

  8. Hi – I note that there is a discrepancy between the video and the transcript when it comes to chlorella – the former does not mention it, the transcript does. Do you / studies consider chlorella safe or not?

  9. What are the common terms/labels that are considered blue-green algae? I understand that Spirulina is one of the blue-green algae, what are the others. Would appreciate if you could list down the all terms/text/labels that we see on the bottles/ingredients that is considered blue-green algae. Thanks.

    1. Some of his videos contradict themselves and I wish he’d elaborate as opposed to ignoring previous statements, it’s frustrating. I don’t know if this is the case here as I haven’t seen the other videos. Love Dr. Greger, but that is one thing I don’t like about some of his videos.

  10. Here is another ALS cluster study, http://jamanetwork.com/journals/jamaneurology/article-abstract/581136, but these were Ashkenazi Jewish. This one here show a higher risk of ALS if Ashkenazi Jewish and family history of ALS. It says “Among relatives of Ashkenazi schizophrenic probands the rate of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis was 3/1,000, compared to expected population rates of approximately 2/100,000.” Someone said the one rate would have been an annual rate and the 2/100,000 is a lifetime rate, so I don’t think this is 150 times the risk, but more like 4 times the risk. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/7810588

    1. Environmental Health Perspectives. Search>The emerging science of BMAA: Do cyanobacteria contribute… http://ehp.nih.gov/120-a110. This give the complete history of research. Note: Please read all especially the last paragraph. The very best, Kris and Gloria

  11. After reading about BMAA I became concerned about the algae based Omega supplement I use from Nordic naturals. I contacted Nordic Naturals and they promptly replied as follows:

    “Algae Omega is not tested for BMAA, as it is made from Schizochytrium sp. which does not produce BMAA.”

  12. These studies show anti-inflammatory effect of spirulina and are more recent then the 2010 video.

    Nutrients. 2016 Jun 21;8(6). pii: E381. doi: 10.3390/nu8060381.
    Anti-Inflammatory Effects of Spirulina platensis Extract via the Modulation of Histone Deacetylases.
    Pham TX1, Park YK2, Lee JY3.

    Biochim Biophys Acta. 2013 Apr; 1830(4): 2981–2988.
    Published online 2013 Jan 26. doi: 10.1016/j.bbagen.2013.01.018
    PMCID: PMC3594481
    NIHMSID: NIHMS439583
    PMID: 23357040
    Edible blue-green algae reduce the production of pro-inflammatory cytokines by inhibiting NF-κB pathway in macrophages and splenocytes
    Chai Siah Ku,1 Tho X. Pham,1 Youngki Park,1 Bohkyung Kim,1 Min Shin,2 Insoo Kang,2 and Jiyoung Lee1

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Pin It on Pinterest

Share This