Spirulina extract may reverse pain sensitivity

By Stephen Daniells

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Inflammation

C-phycocyanin, a compound found in blue green algae like spirulina, may reduce inflammation and have pain killing effects, suggests a new study.

Increasing doses of C-phycocyanin reduced levels of inflammatory markers in rats administered carrageenan, which is known to induce an inflammatory response, according to Taiwanese findings published in Anesthesia & Analgesia​.

If the study can be repeated in humans it offers promise for preventing chronic inflammation, brought about by an over-expression or lack of control of the normal protective mechanism. Chronic inflammation has been linked to range of conditions linked to heart disease, osteoporosis, cognitive decline and Alzheimer's, type-2 diabetes, and arthritis.

“The present study is the first to evaluate whether C-PC may also exert antihyperalgesic activity and further investigate the possible anti-inflammatory mechanisms involved in a rat model of carrageenan-evoked thermal hyperalgesia,” ​wrote the researchers, led by Tz-Chong Chou from Taiwan’s National Defense Medical Center.

The study was welcomed by Bob Capelli, VP sales & marketing for Hawaii-based Cyanotech Corporation. The company does not produce a phycocyanin ingredient, but Hawaiian spirulina does contain about 17 per cent phycocyanin, thereby providing a “healthy serving of phycocyanin”​, said Capelli.

Speaking to NutraIngredients.com, Capelli said that the study demonstrated another potential benefit for spirulina.

“Spirulina has long been associated with immune building and anti-viral properties, eye and brain health and cardiovascular health, but we now see that spirulina also has anti-inflammatory properties through this research on one of the principal constituents in spirulina, phycocyanin,”​ he said. “This study also isolates the mechanism of action for phycocyanin as an anti-inflammatory.”

Study details

Chou and co-workers used male Sprague-Dawley rats divided into two groups, one of which was used as the control, and the other administered carrageenan to induce inflammation. The carrageenan rats were further divided into three groups and given one of three doses of C-phycocyanin (0, 30, or 50 mg/kg of body weight).

Both doses of C-phycocyanin were found to “significantly attenuate carrageenan-induced”​ inflammation, said the researchers. Markers of inflammation, including inducible nitric oxide synthase (iNOS), cyclooxygeanase-2 (COX-2), and the formation of nitrate, tumour necrosis factor-alpha (TNF-alpha) and prostaglandin E2, were also measured.

According to the Taiwanese team’s findings, induction of both iNOS and COX-2 was suppressed by the compound, and this was accompanied by an inhibition of the nitrate, PGE, and TNF-alpha formation.

In this study, we first demonstrate that C-PC attenuates carrageenan-evoked thermal hyperalgesia,”​ wrote the researchers. “Furthermore, we propose that the antihyperalgesic mechanisms of C-PC may be associated with the inhibition of NO and PGE, over-production through suppressing iNOS and COX-2 induction.”

Source: Anesthesia & Analgesia​ 2009, Volume 108, Pages 1303-1310“Antiinflammatory and Antihyperalgesic Activity of C-Phycocyanin”​Authors: C-M. Shih, S.-N. Cheng, C.-S. Wong, Y.-L. Kuo, T.-C. Chou

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