Discover how microalgae can benefit the health of your canine companion.
For the past several decades, people have been enthralled by the “green foods” revolution, which includes nutrients such as barley grass, microalgae (e.g. Chlorella, Spirulina and Aphanizomenon flos-aquae), wheat grass juice and sprouts. In this article, we’ll look specifically at Aphanizomenon flos-aquae (AFA) microalgae, and the role it can play in the health of your canine companion.
A short history of microalgae
Microalgae have been part of the human diet for thousands of years. The two most popular blue-green algae are Aphanizomenon flos-aquae (AFA) and Spirulina. Both are considered superfoods, with similarities and several important differences. AFA, the focus of this article, has been used in veterinary practices since 1995.
AFA is the “greenest” superfood known, because it contains so much chlorophyll (green photosynthesizing pigment). AFA provides critical balancing nutrients in a very bio-available form easily assimilated by the body.1 A ten-gram portion of AFA algae, for instance, contains 300mg of chlorophyll, whereas a ten-gram portion of Spirulina has only 115mg.
The source for AFA algae is Klamath Lake, the largest freshwater lake in the Oregon watershed, exceeding 3,800 miles (see below). Most estimates indicate that the spring waters flowing into Klamath Lake come from Crater Lake, after a journey of approximately 15 miles through mineral-rich underground aquifers.
Generally, wild algae are found in bodies of water that are stagnant or deteriorating, but Klamath Lake is an exception, and supports not only a tremendous biomass of AFA but also fish, waterfowl and predatory bird species. Klamath Lake is rather pristine, devoid of industrial activities and surrounded by national parks.
Nutrient information for AFA
AFA contains a wealth of minerals that help support your dog’s health, including boron, calcium, chloride, chromium, cobalt, copper, fluoride, germanium, iodine, iron, magnesium, manganese, molybdenum, nickel, phosphorus, potassium, selenium, silicon, sodium, tin, titanium, vanadium and zinc.2
The green pigment found in plants, chlorophyll is responsible for the transformation of light energy into chemical energy. Chlorophyll acts as a powerful oxygenator and can stimulate the production of hemoglobin in your dog’s body, helping to improve blood flow.
Chlorophyll also improves cardiac efficiency. Chlorophyllin, a water-soluble form of chlorophyll, protects against certain forms of liver cancer at a concentration similar to what is found in green leafy foods. It also stimulates the regeneration of damaged liver cells, and increases circulation to all organs by dilating blood vessels.
Chlorophyll helps balance the pH of the blood by increasing alkalinity and reducing acidity. Even slight shifts toward acidity can cause the formation of free radicals and oxidative damage, which promotes risk of disease. Chlorophyll may also protect against environmental toxins.
Amino acids and proteins
AFA algae have 20 amino acids that are easily absorbed by your dog’s body, and help support the health of his cells. A specific protein from AFA, called cyanovirin-N (CV-N), has been shown to protect against certain infections.
Phycocyanin serves as a protein storage unit and antioxidant, protecting your pet’s cells from certain wavelengths.3 This pigment may reduce or prevent inflammation in animals, as well as some forms of colitis and asthma. It also helps promote the healthy functioning of your pet’s liver, aids in the digestion of amino acids, and has been shown to inhibit the formation of cancer.
Beta-carotene and other carotenoids
AFA is an exceptional source of highly bio-available carotenoids, and activates enzymes that produce vitamins E and K. Beta-carotene protects against infection, and is a powerful antioxidant against skin disorders, night blindness, environmental pollutants, allergies and immune system dysfunction.
Research confirms that carotenoids reduce the incidence of lung, stomach, colon, bladder, uterus, ovarian and skin cancers. AFA algae contains both forms of beta-carotene — the CIS form, found in fruits and vegetables, and the TRANS form, found in synthetic supplements and root vegetables. When both forms are eaten simultaneously, the rate of absorption can be over ten times that of the TRANS form alone.
Carotenoids are also helpful in preventing cardiovascular diseases. A 13-year study showed that men with the highest blood levels of carotenoids had 36% fewer heart attacks and deaths than those with the lowest levels of carotenoids. AFA also contains lutein and lycopene, two carotenoids known to protect against certain forms of cancer.
Polyunsaturated fatty acids, especially Omega 3
Lipids provide the most concentrated source of energy, and serve to nourish the nerves and blood vessels and lubricate your dog’s skin and tissues.
Microalgae are primary sources of DHA and EPA – essential fatty acids (EFAs). Nearly 50% of the lipid content in dried AFA is composed of Omega 3 essential fatty acids, which are beneficial to the immune, cardiovascular and nervous systems. They can alleviate depression, may help in neuropathic conditions associated with diabetes, and prevent platelet aggregation. Omega 3s inhibit many forms of cancer, namely breast, prostate, pancreatic and colon.
What’s the research say?
Since the mid-1990s, studies have provided a significant amount of data supporting and explaining the benefits of AFA. For example, a comprehensive retrospective study of more than 200 cases strongly suggested that AFA acts on the immune and nervous systems and prevents the process of inflammation.4 Take a look at what else has been discovered about this “super” microalgae:
- Natural Killer (NK) cells are a crucial component of the immune system. They identify the site of an infection or cancerous cell growth and trigger apoptosis, or programmed cell death. In one study, AFA was found to be many times more potent than arabinoxylan, which is extracted from rice and is one of the most potent NK cell activators known.
Stem cell activity
- A new theory proposed by Drapeau et al suggests that bone marrow stem cells leave the bone marrow and travel throughout the body, providing for healing and regeneration of damaged organs throughout the lifespan. 5 If true, there is no need to harvest, grow and reinject stem cells. Regeneration could take place simply by stimulating the release and subsequent migration of stem cells from the bone marrow into tissues. AFA is the only natural compound known to stimulate this.6,7
- AFA may be useful for treating Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease, diabetes, multiple sclerosis, cardiac arrest recovery, and regeneration.
- AFA contains 4% RNA and DNA, which are needed to make new cells and repair damaged ones. These decrease with age, resulting in a weakened immune system.
- A substance is “chemoprotective” when it protects against the toxic effects of chemicals or compounds in our food or environment. Various species of microalgae have been demonstrated to absorb heavy metals. Scientific studies have shown that cyanophyta, for instance, offers significant protection against heavy metal toxicity in the kidneys.
- A sugar present on the cell membrane of microalgae has also been confirmed to bind and eliminate pesticides in the intestine.
Supplements that can benefit health beyond the role of basic nutrition are becoming increasingly popular. In a recent study at Yale New Haven Hospital, however, 257 brands of multivitamin supplement pills were evaluated and 80% found to be inadequate, incomplete or imbalanced. However, the wild blue-green algae was found to be in perfect harmony with biochemistry for maximum utilization.8
AFA is routinely used for a number of conditions, including allergy, immune imbalance, chronic inflammation, and as a general wellness strategy. It is remarkably useful, particularly when combined with other gut and liver repairing nutrients, probiotics, and immune modulators. There are a number of high-quality products available, including The Edge, a 100% organic, wild-crafted, raw AFA capsule. Talk to your vet about adding an AFA supplement to your own dog’s diet.
1Gilroy DJ, Kauffman KW, Hall RA, Huang X, Chu FS. “Assessing potential health risks from microcystin toxins in blue-green algae dietary supplements”. Environ Health Perspect. 2000 May;108(5):435-9.
2Drapeau, Christian. Primordial Food: Aphanizomenon flos-aquae: A Wild Blue-Green Alga with Unique Health Properties. One World Press (January 1, 2003) ASIN: B000M0IK6O.
3Benedetti S, Benvenuti F, Pagliarani S, Francogli S, Scoglio S, Canestrari F. “Antioxidant properties of a novel phycocyanin extract from the blue-green alga Aphanizomenon flos-aquae”. Life Sci. 2004 Sep 24;75(19):2353-62.
4Krylov VS, et al. Retrospective epidemiological study using medical records to determine which diseases are improved by AFA, 2002.
5Drapeau, C. The Stem Cell Theory of Renewal: Demystifying the Most Dramatic Scientific Breakthrough of Our Time, First Edition. Sutton Hart, (March 30, 2009) ISBN-10: 0981502792 ISBN-13: 978-0981502793.
6Gitte S Jensen, Aaron N Hart, Lue A M Zaske, Christian Drapeau, Niraj Gupta, David J Schaeffer, J Alex Cruickshank. “Mobilization of human CD34+ CD133+ and CD34+ CD133 stem cells in vivo by consumption of an extract from Aphanizomenon flos-aquae — related to modulation of CXCR4 expression by an L-selectin ligand?” Cardiovasc Revasc Med 8(3):189-202 (2007) PMID 17765649.
7Shytle DR, Tan J, Ehrhart J, Smith AJ, Sanberg CD, Sanberg PR, Anderson J, Bickford PC. “Effects of blue-green algae extracts on the proliferation of human adult stem cells in vitro: a preliminary study”. Med Sci Monit. 2010 Jan;16(1):BR1-5.
8Philippe Potin, James Craigie. “Algae as nutritional and functional food sources: revisiting our understanding”. J Appl Phycol December 2016, researchgate.net/publication/316428443.