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