Study warns against sale of ‘toxic’ algae supplements

By Nathan Gray

- Last updated on GMT

Study warns against sale of ‘toxic’ algae supplements
The sale of algae supplements containing A. flos-aquae is ‘highly questionable’ warn researchers, as they identify toxins in every commercially available product in Germany.

Researchers have warned against the sale of organic algae supplements containing the algae strain Aphanizomenon flos-aquae​ after a samples of every commercially available supplement available in the country were found to contain potentially dangerous toxins.

Led by Professor Daniel Dietrich from the University of Konstanz, Germany, the research team assessed levels of toxins and the potential cytotoxicity of 18 commercially available algal supplements, finding that those containing the algae strain Aph. flos-aquae​ contained questionable levels of microcystin (MC) – a cyanotoxin that can be harmful to humans, plants, and animals.

“The analysis for the presence of cyanobacterial toxins (MCs, nodularins, saxitoxins, anatoxin-a and cylindrospermopsin) encompassed only algae dietary supplements marketed in Germany and thus only the three main types of algae generally used for the production of dietary supplements, i.e. ​Aph. flos-aquae, ​Spirulina and ​Chlorella,”​ said the researchers, writing in Toxicology and Applied Pharmacology​.

“Analyses demonstrated the absence of nodularins, saxitoxins, anatoxin-a and cylindrospermopsin in these products, whereas all ​Aph. flos-aquae based products and mixtures thereof were positive for MC contamination,” ​confirmed Dietrich and his team.

Considerable contamination

The researchers said their analysis ‘clearly demonstrated’ that a high proportion of the algae dietary supplements available on the German market “is contaminated with considerable, but varying amounts of MCs.”

“Moreover, cytotoxicity analyses suggest that additional components are present that have the potential to induce fulminant adverse effects in consumers,”

“In light of the findings, the distribution and commercial sale of Aph. flos-aquae products, whether pure or mixed formulations, for human consumption appear highly questionable,”​ Dietrich and his colleagues warned.

As a result the researchers argue that only the prohibition of these products for sale on the national and international markets – in combination with strict monitoring by health authorities – will protect consumers from serious acute as well as chronic adverse health effects.

Source: Toxicology and Applied Pharmacology
Volume 265, Issue 2​, Pages 263–271, doi: 10.1016/j.taap.2012.10.005
“Toxin content and cytotoxicity of algal dietary supplements”
Authors: A.H. Heussner, L. Mazija, J. Fastner, D.R. Dietrich

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