ZIGGY (the emperor parrot) & GEORGE (his companion human)

CHLORELLA, SPIRULINA, ETC.

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GREENS....

GREEN IS GOOD!
EAT YOUR VEGGIES, AND...
 
Ziggy and Buddy both will take beakfuls of powdered greens out of a spoon, Buddy more so. However, it would be more readily consumed with oatmeal or other favorite foods. (Hint: the green powders don't always disperse well, but if you have a friendly Bamix in your kitchen, it will make them behave, such as by mixing with an egg for an omelet.)
 
My earliest memories of health food fanatics from the 1950s was of them constantly harping about the benefits of yogurt, wheat germ oil, and various green powders and juices. Anecdotal testimony within the "alternate" community hypes the use of spirulina, chlorella and cilantro for so-called "detoxification." Strangely enough, science has actually begun to validate some of that. If, by "detoxification" they mean removing heavy metals, then there actually is evidence that some of the greens that the "health" food people advocate eating can facilitate the removal of heavy metals from the body. The problem there is that, if these substances chelate and help eliminate such metal ions in the body, logic would dictate that they would probably also do the same thing to metal ions that we need in the body, so I wouldn't go out and start eating these algae morning, noon, and night and think that they're going to cure all diseases known to man.

Among the most distinct, annoying, and idiotic fringe groups within the "alternative" community are the detox/purging fanatics, individuals obsessed with "cleansing" their bowels and their livers, totally oblivious to elementary biochemical physiology. The mania about "toxins" was understandable long ago, when we worried about actual threats to our health and that of our ecosystems, threats such as DDT, But now we have pseudoscience being taught by, for instance, Hollywood actresses such as Suzanne Somers, who merrily leads people onto the evil-toxins-as-the-cause-of-all-of-mankind's-ills bandwagon. The problem here is that of the boy who cried wolf: when you start trying to get people alarmed about non-existent problems, then, when we try to alarm them about real problems, they don't pay attention. Ms. Somers obviously didn't have to do any acting in Three's Company. 

The obsession with greens is understandable, though, and has a touch of validity: your mother was right when she told you to eat your greens, and there's a germ of truth to what the "health" crowd has to say. Don't pay any attention to their ridiculous claims, however; visit PubMed if you want to find out the truth.
 
Cilantro (coriandrum sativum) is often recommended by "herbalists" to remove mercury from the body (although the "patients" they treat are often affected by imaginary mercury), and its usage is often thought of as quackery. However, it has been found to be useful in the remediation of mercury contaminated water (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15721537). In mice, "administration of C. sativum significantly protects against lead-induced oxidative stress" (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19902160). There is little evidence to back its use in animals that have already been poisoned, however, but it is unlikely to cause any harm.
 
There is LIMITED evidence to show that those substances, at least in the case of spirulina and chlorella, taken over a long term, can, in some circumstances, reduce levels of some heavy metals from body tissue. One basis for the "alternate" hype on the use of these algae is that they are actually used to remediate environmental heavy metal pollution, such as mercury contamination of a water supply. The obvious problem is that, in consuming such a substance, you are consuming something that is known to concentrate heavy metals from its environment, so you must be EXTREMELY careful of your source: in other words, if you buy cheap chlorella or spirulina or other such product, you may be making your own problem--if you actually have a problem--worse. The other problem is this: if those greens remove certain heavy metals, it is equally likely that they would remove some substances that you WANT in the body, so you may be jumping from the frying pan into the fire. It would make sense to do it for a while, then stop for a couple of days, then start again.
 
Spirulina + whey protein concentrate:
"The in vitro study showed that WPC [whey protein concentrate] and Spirulina showed antioxidant, radical scavenging, and metal-chelating activities in dose-dependent manner."
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20708378
 
Spirulina on copper toxicity
"A significant positive correlation was obtained for the relationship between supplementation of dietary Spirulina and copper defecation"
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19957889
 
Spirulina + zinc to treat arsenic poisoning;
Amazingly, "Spirulina extract plus zinc removed 47.1% arsenic from scalp hair." http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16615668
 
Spirulina on lead toxicity:
It had "significant (P < 0.001) antioxidant activity thereby protecting the animals from lead induced toxicity."
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11349530
see also http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18976856: "S. platensis supplementation may be useful in adjuvant treatment of leukemia and anemia caused by lead and cadmium toxication."
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20353607: "Spirulina maxima has protective effects on lead acetate-induced damage, and that the effects are associated with the antioxidant effect of Spirulina"
 
Spirulina on mercury
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17215067
"results from the present study suggest that S. fusiformis can significantly modify the renal damages against mercuric chloride induced toxicity"
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15511004
"oral administration of Spirulina can modulate mercury induced testicular toxicity"
 
 
Chlorella to reduce toxicity of lead:
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18684395
 
 
In birds, as far as safety is concerned, I see no reason to be concerned with moderate use. A 1996 experiment on pheasants demonstrated increased tolerance to stress (a 52% reduction in mortality): http://agris.fao.org/agris-search/search/display.do?f=1996/CZ/CZ96008.xml;CZ9600607.
 
Chlorella and spirulina are being used as food additives these days for chickens; they increase the egg content of lutein for one thing. "Algae meal [chlorella] at the concentrations tested can be a useful substitute for soyabean meal in diets for laying hens."--from a study done in 1980: http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/00071668008416631#.UdZwDPmThyI
 
There have been far too many studies in poultry (and numerous other animals) to cite, and part of the rationale that commercial parrot food makers include something like spirulina in some diets is the fact that it is so well researched. AviTech, for instance, makes a "Super Green Food Mix" with both spirulina and chlorella. Harrison's and Vita Prima also make a number of formulations containing spirulina. There might be idiosynchratic reactions to it, as there might be to anything, and it is within the realm of possibility that a particular species might have an unusual sensitivity to it, but I see none at the moment among companion birds, at least none that are verified by science. There have been cases of toxicity from Klamath blue-green algae in humans a number of years ago, not from that algae itself, but from another species that contaminated it.
 
I would not go crazy with spirulina or chlorella though: balance is the key. High levels of dietary carotenoids can change your skin color, and one carotenoid, canthaxanthin, has been sold specifically for that purpose--to create an artificial "suntan."
 

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All content on this site, including pictures, is copyrighted, 2006 through 2016, by George A. Butel.  All rights are reserved; text may be quoted freely with attribution, but critical commentary must give me the opportunity to reply.

Visit our hints for cancer patients Google page, which tells you some of the things I learned during cancer treatment, including a few things that "they" forget to tell you, such as having to be a little bit "anal" about trying to prevent opportunistic infections. I never had any during my treatment, so I think my obsession paid off.


LEGAL STUFF

This site has tips and observations about dealing with parrots, and a few of my own views about human and parrot health concerns. I have a degree in biochemistry, so I am qualified to make some statements about foods, medicines and supplements, but I am neither a veterinarian nor a physician, and I do not practice human or veterinary medicine. You should certainly double-check any ideas you might get from me, or anything that you might construe as advice, by consulting with an appropriate legally licensed professional.  All content on this site 2006 through 2014 by George A. Butel.  If you see any typos or any information that you feel is inaccurate or ambiguous, please contact me by clicking here.
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