Spirulina, chlorella, AFA (Alphanizemenon Flos-Aquae) and MPP (Marine Phyto-Plankton) are all single cell organisms that have similar nutritional profiles with key differences. They all boast a similar abundance of vitamins, minerals, enzymes, 60% or greater protein, all essential amino acids, essential fatty acids, RNA and DNA, and antioxidant pigments (namely chlorophyll). They also have reported immune boosting properties being anti-bacterial/fungal/viral in nature. In addition they are said to improve mental capacity, are cancer fighting, detoxifying, anti-inflammatory, blood building and are 90-100% able to be assimilated by the body.

Chlorella and Spirulina are cultivated in fresh water ponds and lakes. AFA is a wild harvested, cold water micro-algae from Klamath Lake in Oregon. Marine phytoplankton (MPP) is a sea/salt water based micro-algae.

Spirulina, AFA and some chlorella strains have the blue pigment phycocyanin, which is an antioxidant, is blood building along with chlorophyll, and is a stem cell enhancing substance. With the green chlorophyll pigment these algae are often termed blue-green algae. Chlorella strains are mostly green algae with chlorophyll predominating with no blue pigment. They all have a variety of red/yellow antioxidant pigments which are in the cancer fighting group of carotenoids.

Whilst they are all protein rich, Spirulina is the richest with 65-71% protein and is reported to enhance the reproduction of lactobacillus bacteria in the gut. Slightly lower in overall nutrients than the others, spirulina is also considered the easiest to digest with chlorella being the most difficult. Chlorella unlike the others, has a hardy cellulose call wall (versus a soft, easily digested call wall), so supplements need to be cell-wall broken for effectiveness. Some people also lack the right enzymes to metabolise chlorella.

Unique to AFA is the substance PEA (phenyl-ethyl-amine) or the ‘love chemical’ which improves dopamine levels. Also present in cacao, PEA aids concentration, improves attitude and well being. Dopamine deficiency is associated with Parkinson’s disease and depression.

Each of these amazing micro-algae contain essential fatty acids (EFAs), however the salient types differ in each. Spirulina contains a lot of gamma-linolenic acid (GLA) which is an omega 6 EFA that is second only to the amount of GLA found in mother’s milk. GLA is anti-inflammatory and good for allergies. AFA primarily contains alpha-linolenic acid (ALA) and to a lesser extent the omega 6 oils (LA) linoleic acid and GLA. MPP contains ALA, eicosa-pentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosa-hexaenoic acid (DHA). Chlorella is rich in ALA with the presence of other EFA’s unclear with variable reports of the presence of LA and EPA.

The essential omega 3 EFAs, EPA and DHA, are otherwise only found in seafood. Plants contain ALA which in an ideal human body, get converted to EPA and DHA. This requires the presence of B vitamins, magnesium and good body chemistry. Consuming MPP is a good insurance policy for vegans and vegetarians and those not eating a lot of seafood, to ensure sufficient DHA is supplied for brain, eye and reproductive health. Coconut oil can also assist with the conversion of ALA to DHA, so it’s a great idea to include coconut oil with plant based ALA such as that in flax and chia, and algae based ALA in microalgae.

Chlorella has the richest source of chlorophyll. Chlorophyll is similar to haemoglobin in our blood, with chlorophyll being based on magnesium and haemoglobin on iron. Chlorella is considered the best microalgae for detoxifying the body of heavy metals and offering protection against radiation.

Supplementing with micro-algae appears very attractive based on their attributes and it’s clear they each have their own unique selling points, namely:

Spirulina for allergies, digestibility, the highest protein, and increased reproduction of probiotics in the gut. Children minimally or not breastfed can benefit from the GLA in spirulina not supplied by breast milk. Recommended brand is InLiven Fermented Probiotic Superfood which contains spirulina and probiotics.

AFA for PEA which will improve mood and for extra nutrients generally. AFA is also a truly wild food. Recommended brand is E3Live or Ancient Sun Crystal Manna.

MPP for additional nutrition, especially minerals, DHA and EPA. Recommended brands are Ocean’s Alive, UMAC Core or Longevity MPP.

Chlorella for heavy metal detoxification and radiation protection. Look for products that are ‘cell wall broken’ and cold processed.

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  1. Elizabeth Bolton says:


    Enjoyed the article. What research do you have available that documents humic acid content in AFA?

    • Kristine says:

      Hi Elizabeth, I don’t have any research regarding humic acid and AFA, however I am aware that it is important (along with fulvic acid) for plant growth in soil/algae growth in water, and is delivered via organic fertilisers such as manures and peat. Given the high assimilation of minerals and anti viral propertied claimed by AFA, the humic/fulvic acid content would be significant. I will see what I can find out further from my contacts that distribute AFA here in Australia.

      • Kristine says:

        Hi Elizabeth, further to me previous comments I have heard back from E3Live Australia and they say “there are trace amounts of humic (<0.5 mcg) per 1 gram of AFA – in the frozen liquid version, this humic is more 'bio-available' due to some of the 1,000 different digestive and systemic enzymes present in the frozen algae acting as a 'metabolic pathway driver' for the humic to do it's work in transporting nutrients into the mitochondria of the cells."

  2. Carmelo says:

    Hi Christine,

    Thank you for a great website and important information about smoothies. I have been having smoothies for nearly 4years now and they are so fantastic. But I had to stop because I developed Calcium Oxalate kidney stones. I am told that most greens have high content of Oxalate and that the smoothies (Spirulina, Kale, etc)contributed to the formation of the stones. I have researched for quiet awhile on how to stop the stones from forming but no answers. I am desperate to start my smoothies again. Do you know how I can have my smoothies without risking the chance of forming Oxalate kidney stones again?
    Thank you in advance, Christine.

    • Kristine says:

      Hi Carmelo,

      This topic is fraught with controversy and uncertainty unfortunately. I have been researching this topic for a new book and thus far these are my findings

      “Oxalates are present in many foods including leafy greens such as spinach, chard and parsley as well as in some berries, nuts, oats, buckwheat, soy products, quinoa, chocolate and wheat. Oxalic acid can bind with calcium, magnesium, sodium, potassium or iron to form the oxalate form of the mineral. The consumption of raw leafy greens, some sources would have you believe is detrimental to your health due to the risk of kidney stones. It is calcium oxalate that is found in 80% of kidney stones, with the reduced consumption of water and calcium, and high consumption of animal protein, corn-starch and high fructose corn syrup also relevant to their formation. Warmer climates are also report increased incidence (perhaps via dehydration?) and there is no definitive evidence that reducing dietary oxalic acid alters the risk of developing stones. Furthermore cooking only reduces the oxalic acid content by a small amount so there is no need to resort to cooking greens if eating them a lot, and let’s not forget the prevalence of oxalic acids in any everyday foods and not just greens. The epidemiology of calcium oxalates stone suggest middle aged men are at greater risk”

      To be safe use the following low/no oxalate greens – lettuce, celery, cabbage, bok choy, mint, basil, cilantro.

      Hope this helps!

      Cheers Kristine :)

      • Kevin Parker says:

        Hi Kristine,
        I’ve seen people online who claim their cancer was cured after taking MPP. Do you know of any such cases? I have a friend with cancer who questions whether it’s true that these algae will help. Also, would taking Chlorella help remove Heavy Medals that are already present in the body of an autistic child? Or can it prevent Heavy Medals from attaching to the child’s body? Do you know of cases that chlorella has helped autistic children. The talk of Heavy Medals being in vaccinations and it causing autism is so vigorously debated that it’s hard to know who’s telling the truth, or if anyone really knows.

        • Kristine says:

          Hi Kevin, I have not heard of MPP curing cancer, nor the role of chlorella and heavy metals in autism, but both are certainly interesting topics. With regard to autism, from the reading I have done, there is a strong connection to poor gut health. GAPS by Natasha Campbell McBride is fascinating reading – she reversed her child’s autism with diet including removing sugar and grains, using bone broths and cultured foods.

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