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Health & Nutrition

Spirulina shown to provide benefits to HIV patients

August 18, 2014

Spirulina tablets

Spirulina tablets

Research recently published in Nutrients by the National Center for Biotechnology Information has demonstrated Arthrospira platensis (Spirulina) to benefit HIV-infected adult women.

According to the study “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,” it is estimated that about 34 million people worldwide are living with HIV, of whom, 23.5 million are living in Sub-Saharan Africa.

The life expectancy of people living with HIV (PLHIV) has greatly improved due to the availability of highly-active antiretroviral therapy (HAART). However, only 36% of people in need of treatment in Sub-Saharan Africa have access to it.

Dietary supplements are often used to improve the nutritional status of people living with HIV/AIDS (PLHIV). This pilot study describes the effects of the supplementation of 5 g/day of Spirulina on a pre-HAART, HIV-infected, adult female population. It was conducted as a three-month randomized controlled trial that compared the supplementation of Spirulina with a placebo of equal protein content and energy.

The study included 73 HIV-infected women, and was carried out in Cameroon, a country with an HIV prevalence of 4.3%, considered as one of the highest in Western and Central Africa. The majority of PLHIV are found in the two major cities of the country, which make up about 20% of the total population. In Yaoundé, 8.8% of women and 3.9% of men are HIV infected. Access to care has considerably increased since 2007 and reached 41% countrywide in 2010.

The current trend for HIV and other chronic
diseases is personalized nutrition.

One major problem related to HIV-infection, especially in Sub-Saharan Africa, is malnutrition. HIV and undernutrition negatively affect each other in a vicious circle. In particular, the deficiency of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants plays a critical role in the progress of HIV.

The implementation of dietary support programs has been successful in strengthening medical care and its health outcomes. The current trend for HIV and other chronic diseases is personalized nutrition. Sustainable nutrition is based on knowledge and on the implementation of local products to cover daily dietary needs. Besides the nutritional aspect, aliments containing bioactive agents offer a great opportunity to have an impact on the betterment of health. In particular, the rich therapeutic plant diversity in Africa could enhance the health of people in need.

Spirulina contains a rich diversity of bioactive molecules displaying a potential to improve the health of people. Cyanobacteria are already available and considered as a safe dietary supplement. Cell culture and animal studies with Spirulina have described antioxidant and antiretroviral activity, as well as an enhancement of immune defense. Since the algae have been proposed to have antiretroviral activity, more research is required in order to clarify their effect and implementation.

The present study examined the effects of daily intake of Spirulina, focusing on the antiretroviral effect, immune function, antioxidative potential and renal function. The product under investigation was 100% Arthrospira platensis powder provided by EARTHRISE® Nutritionals (Irvine, CA 92612, USA). The placebo contained the same amount of protein and energy using pea protein isolate Pisane F9 mixed with Dextrans.

Nutritional composition of the intervention and placebo products.

Nutritional composition of the intervention and placebo products.

Compliance was assessed in a monthly meeting between the patients and the physician in charge. The discussion was based on documentation filled by the patients showing the number of pills and concomitant events for each day, described as: anorexia, fatigue, nausea/vomiting, dry or productive cough, abdominal pain, diarrhea and constipation.

Conclusions from the study show that Spirulina consumption in the form of 10 capsules of dry powder, up to five grams a day, showed a non-significant clinical effect and no immunological activity for pre-HAART HIV-infected women over three months. However, the intervention seemed to reduce the incidence of concomitant events, as well as opportunistic infections and showed a positive effect on weight stabilization.

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