While a number of studies have shown that spirulina can enhance immune-system factors, this study is among the first to examine whether it can improve immune-cell responses in older people.
“Immune-system cells become less able to fight disease due to typical aging processes, and anemia becomes more common,” said Patrick Leung, associate professor of rheumatology/allergy/clinical immunology and principal investigator of the study. Anemia is diagnosed when a person has lower than normal levels of red blood cells, which reduces the amount of oxygen delivered throughout the body.
“We want to find out if spirulina can slow the rate of cell aging and reduce the risk of anemia at the same time,” Leung said.
Spirulina are blue-green algae rich in antioxidants, vitamins, minerals and other nutrients. Used as a food supplement for decades, spirulina grows naturally in lakes with extremely high pH levels, but it also is harvested from large-scale commercial ponds, where purity is monitored before the algae is dried and distributed in tablet and powdered form.
“Spirulina supplements are readily available and a lot of claims are made about their health benefits,” said Leung. “We are particularly interested in the possible effects of spirulina on cell aging.”
To enroll in the study, participants must be at least 50 years of age and have a current anemia diagnosis. The process involves a screening interview and travel to a lab located on the UC Davis campus for three visits. Participants will be provided spirulina pills to take daily over the course of 12 weeks. Blood samples collected at the beginning of the study and again at six and 12 weeks will be evaluated for red blood cell status and changes in other indicators of immune-system aging.
Contact Leung at (530) 754-4943 or (530) 752-2884 for details about qualifying for the study.