Spirulina’s anti-fatigue benefits supported by RCT

By Stephen Daniells contact

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Spirulina, a blue-green alga or cyanobacterium, may reduce physical and mental fatigue after exercise, report scientists from Ohio State University.

Data from a pilot study indicated that the potential benefits were observed both in the short term (four hours after the first supplementation) and in the long term (after eight weeks).

Professor Robert DiSilvestro from Ohio State’s Department of Human Sciences and corresponding author on the study, told us: “The biggest value of this study is that practical benefits were observed in what could be considered models for common situations for a healthy person. Most previous human studies on spirulina examined either people with health problems or used extreme stress such as very heavy exertion.”​ 

The study was supported financially by spirulina player Cyanotech.

Study details

The OSU scientists recruited 17 healthy men to participate in their randomized, double blinded, placebo controlled study. The men were randomly assigned to receive either placebo or three grams per day of spirulina for eight weeks, and the researchers administered aerobic exercise tests and mathematical-based mental fatigue tests, and also asked the subjects to rate their own daily fatigue.

Results showed that performance improvements on the mental fatigue test were measurable four hours after the first supplementation with Spirulina, and continued for eight weeks, compared to placebo.

“For the UKT mental fatigue test, fairly large effects were achieved with spirulina intake,” ​wrote the researchers in the International Journal of Food Sciences and Nutrition​.

“It is noteworthy that an effect could be seen after just a single intake of spirulina as well as with sustained intake. This effect did not appear to derive from adaptation to the test since mean values for the placebo group actually regressed. To our knowledge, these results provide the first published demonstration of a spirulina effect on acute mental fatigue.”

For exercise output, the researchers observed that the spirulina group showed an increase after one week, but this was no longer detectable after eight weeks. It is not known why this would be the case, but the small size of the study may have accounted for the lack of statistical significance.  

Self-reported physical and mental fatigue was also improved after four hours in the spirulina group, and still evident after eight weeks.

“To our knowledge, these results provide the first published demonstration of a spirulina effect on self-perceived general fatigue,” ​they wrote.

“[T]hese findings show novel anti-fatigue effects for both short term and long term spirulina intake.”

Source: International Journal of Food Sciences and Nutrition
Volume 67, Issue 2, doi: 10.3109/09637486.2016.1144719
“A randomized, double blind, placebo controlled study of spirulina supplementation on indices of mental and physical fatigue in men”
Authors: M. Johnson, L. Hassinger, J. Davis, S.T. Devor, R.A. DiSilvestro

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