Spirulina Special Report: Should we give it to the children of the Fukushima accident? [Part 2]
This is the second part of a special series of posts on spirulina. See the first post here. The full set of references will be saved to the last post which will be available within a week.
I was able to find only a few studies quoted which gave good indication Spirulina might be of use to children in Japan. One of these was done in 1993 and is titled “Spirulina – natural sorbent of radionucleides” This study is very important because it involves treatment of children in Belarus, who suffered from the effects of the Chernobyl disaster. The children were given 5 grams a day of spirulina and in 20 days radiation levels in their urine decreased 50%. Specifically, “Use of spirulina decreases radioaction dose load received from food contaminated with radionuclides, Cesium-137 and Strontium-90.”
On the surface this is an amazing result and looks like Spirulina has real potential in treating radiation-induced sickness. However I have many questions about this study:
1) Was there any other metric of health recorded in addition to radiation levels?
2) What happened to these children a month later, or a year later?
3) Did the radiation levels return to normal after stopping spirulina?
4) Were any other medicines or placebos given to the children? In particular, were other less expensive nutritional sources tested in parallel?
I searched for the full papers on PubMed, a site that indexes more than 23 million citations from biomedical literature, but could not find any of them. I also had someone help me search for the full paper on several other databases, including LexusNexus Academic and MedScape, but no luck there. I am not saying this paper doesn’t exist, but until I see details I cannot say on how strong evidence this paper gives for Spirulina’s efficacy. Dr. Belay, the CTO of Earthrise (a major producer of spiralina), told me in an email communication that only the abstract of this study was published.
There is another study from 1994 which is also of interest: “Means to normalize the levels of immunoglobulin E, using the food supplement Spirulina.” This study involved 35 preschool children living in highly radioactive areas who were given 5 grams of Spirulina day for 6 weeks. At the end of this period, Immunoglobulin E was found to be reduced, which is a marker for high allergy sensitivity. This study also shows great promise that Spirulina may be appropriate in treating certain types of problems caused by long-term exposure to radiation.
I was able to find a rough translation of the patent description for this, and it gave the detail that the children’s immunoglobulin E level range was 15 mkg/l – 6663 mkg/l before treatment, and 12 mkg/l – 5416 mkg/l after. There is also a few examples quoted, such as Child A who went from 5183 mkg/l to 767 mkg/l and one who went from 73 mkg/l to 177 mkg/l. You may have noticed that the latter set of figures actually shows a major increase of IgE level, which is counter to the desired effect. Of course any study has a statistical variation where some patients react positively and some negatively, but its surprising out of the few actual data points given one of them had a negative effect. If I was to administer this supplement to patients I would like to know more information about how many of those tested had a negative effect. The patent description also reports P < 0.005, which is a measure that the change observed is likely not from random chance.
I found it odd that the overall average (or median) of IgE before and after treatment was given. Without this, there is no indication how great the effect was, and we cannot infer it from the ranges given. Also, there was apparently no placebo group, and the untreated group was only 15 people, less than half the size of the treated group (35). I have seen tests where the untreated group is proportionally larger and wonder how this effects the overall results.
A final study of interest is “from Chairman of Byelorussian Committee “Children of Chernobyl” May 31, 1991″. In this study, Spirulina was given to 49 children in Beryozova aged 3 to 7 years old for 45 days. Beneficial hormones and T-cell suppressors rose, and in 83% of the children radioactivity of their urine decreased.
As with the first study I mentioned, these other two studies leave a lot of questions. I wasn’t able to find the full text of these either using various online sources. The CTO of Earthrise, who provided me the rough translation of the 1994 study, said that he could not find the 1991 study (“Childen of Chernobyl”) anywhere, but is appeared to be letter or report based on the 1993 study (the first one referenced in this article).
Several of these appear to be in Russian, but if I am ever able to find them and translate them into English, I’ll write another post.
(To be continued in a followup post)
Posted on December 2, 2013, in ingredient science and tagged algae, スピルリナ, blue-green algae, child, cyanobacterium, 福島, donate, fukushima, fukushima disaster, Health, Japan, nutrition, nutritional supplement, protein, radio-protective, Spirulina, supplement, tsunami, 日本. Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.