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Supplementing spirulina for metabolic maladies

This meta-analysis synthesizes the latest evidence concerning spirulina's ability to make a dent in the metabolic syndrome.

Study under review: The effects of spirulina on glycemic control and serum lipoproteins in patients with metabolic syndrome and related disorders: A systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials.

Introduction

Metabolic syndrome[1] is a cluster of conditions that appear to revolve around insulin resistance. This cluster of conditions, depicted in Figure 1, includes impaired glucose tolerance (post-meal blood sugar), elevated triglycerides, and aberrant cholesterol. Metabolic syndrome is a risk factor for type 2 diabetes[2] (T2DM), cardiovascular disease[3] (CVD), and other chronic diseases, including non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD). As of 2012, the prevalence of metabolic syndrome in the U.S. was about 35% in adults[4] and about 5-7% in young adults[5]. As such, treatments that can address metabolic syndrome are needed.


Lifestyle and pharmaceutical interventions are the leading approaches to addressing and managing metabolic syndrome. In terms of lifestyle modification[6], exercise, caloric restriction, and weight loss are all efficacious in the management of the syndrome. Pharmaceutical interventions involve targeting metabolic syndrome components. These include, for example, the use of glucose-lowering agents like metformin and/or lipid lowering agents such as statins, fenofibrates, or thiazolidinediones.

In addition to lifestyle and pharmaceutical interventions, there have been efforts to discover and implement nutraceutical interventions like fish oil, vitamin D, and omega-3 fatty acids. Spirulina, a species of cyanobacterium[7] (blue-green algae), has been used as a food supplement due to its high nutrient content, as it contains calcium, magnesium, vitamin E, and vitamin B6. Recently, however, some evidence has suggested that spirulina might exert beneficial effects on metabolic syndrome. For example, a study[8] found that among people with type 2 diabetes, spirulina led to improvements in serum triglycerides, independent of changes in bodyweight. The present study is a systematic review and meta-analysis of RCTs regarding the effect of spirulina on glucose and lipid metabolism among participants with metabolic syndrome.

Metabolic syndrome is a cluster of conditions that likely reflect insulin resistance, such as elevated blood glucose and blood lipids. Spirulina is a blue-green algae that displays some glucose-lowering and lipid-lowering effects. The present study is a systematic review and meta-analysis on the effect of spirulina on glucose and lipid metabolism among people with metabolic syndrome.

Who and what was studied?

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What were the findings?

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What does this study really tell us?

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The big picture

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