Research Article

Cellular & Molecular Immunology (2011) 8, 248–254; doi:10.1038/cmi.2010.76; published online 31 January 2011

The effects of Spirulina on anemia and immune function in senior citizens

Carlo Selmi1,2, Patrick SC Leung1, Laura Fischer3, Bruce German3, Chen-Yen Yang1, Thomas P Kenny1, Gerry R Cysewski4 and M Eric Gershwin1

  1. 1Division of Rheumatology, Allergy and Clinical Immunology, University of California at Davis, Davis, CA, USA
  2. 2Department of Medicine, IRCCS Istituto Clinico Humanitas, Rozzano, Milan, Italy
  3. 3Department of Food Science and Technology, University of California at Davis, Davis, CA, USA
  4. 4Cyanotech, Kailua-Kona, HI, USA

Correspondence: Dr ME Gershwin, Division of Rheumatology, Allergy and Clinical Immunology, University of California at Davis, GBSF suite 6510, 451 Health Sciences Dr., Davis, CA 95616, USA. E-mail: megershwin@ucdavis.edu

Received 8 December 2010; Accepted 9 December 2010; Published online 31 January 2011.

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Abstract

Anemia and immunological dysfunction (i.e. immunosenescence) are commonly found in older subjects and nutritional approaches are sought to counteract these phenomena. Spirulina is a filamentous and multicellular bule-green alga capable of reducing inflammation and also manifesting antioxidant effects. We hypothesized that Spirulina may ameliorate anemia and immunosenescence in senior citizens with a history of anemia. We enrolled 40 volunteers of both sexes with an age of 50 years or older who had no history of major chronic diseases. Participants took a Spirulina supplementation for 12 weeks and were administered comprehensive dietary questionnaires to determine their nutritional regimen during the study. Complete cell count (CCC) and indoleamine 2,3-dioxygenase (IDO) enzyme activity, as a sign of immune function, were determined at baseline and weeks 6 and 12 of supplementation. Thirty study participants completed the entire study and the data obtained were analyzed. Over the 12-week study period, there was a steady increase in average values of mean corpuscular hemoglobin in subjects of both sexes. In addition, mean corpuscular volume and mean corpuscular hemoglobin concentration also increased in male participants. Older women appeared to benefit more rapidly from Spirulina supplements. Similarly, the majority of subjects manifested increased IDO activity and white blood cell count at 6 and 12 weeks of Spirulina supplementation. Spirulina may ameliorate anemia and immunosenescence in older subjects. We encourage large human studies to determine whether this safe supplement could prove beneficial in randomized clinical trials.

Keywords:

functional food; immunosenescence; red blood cell; IDO