Contaminants in Spirulina and Chlorella Supplements, plus others:
In one of my recent Causes or Cures podcast, I had the pleasure of interviewing Dr. Piotr Rzymski, a researcher with the Department of Environmental Medicine at Poznan University of Medical Sciences on popular, commercial microalgal supplements, particularly Spirulina and Chlorella. While he studies supplement ingredients in general, and has over 140 publications, he most recently did a study on potential contaminants in Spirulina and Chlorella supplements. His paper, “Essential and toxic elements in commercial microalgal supplements,” was published in the Journal of Applied Phycology. In the podcast, he covers heavy metal contaminants, some which are known neurotoxins, and explains how they get into the supplements in the first place. He also talks about contaminants in Spirulina and Chlorella that are teratogenic, meaning they cause harm to developing fetuses. That was very interesting to me, because I work with a lot of pregnant women who use my ZENBands for hypnobirthing or Hypnobabies, and many of them take supplements. I often wonder if they really looked into who made the supplements, where they were sourced and if they can trust the company selling them. I also want to know how often a mother’s supplements are considered as the source of a health issue that arises in a baby? It’s not commonly discussed.
This is the first of several podcasts I plan on doing on commercial supplements. Often times people conflate “wellness” with “supplements” as if they are natural, safe and the opposite of all those Big Pharma drugs with their plethora of side effects. Unfortunately, that just isn’t true. Supplements are a lucrative business, despite not having to undergo any degree of testing to prove that they work for a specific ailment or show that they do, in fact, contain the ingredients listed. They don’t have to undergo any testing for contaminants. This means that anyone, with an idea and bit of cash, can create a supplement, put it in decent packaging, claim it works for a particular health problem and sell it. With the right amount of bells-and-whistles marketing, a supplement can make an Average Jane or Joe a big profit. Because of this, I always warn people that not everyone selling them supplements is putting health first. They are putting profit first, just like the drug companies they abhor. Stay tuned for a future blog and video on Instagram describing my experience with being asked to review supplements and the advice I give folks who ask me what supplement(s) they should take.
Spirulina and Chlorella, both microalgal supplements, are often called “Superfoods,” a description you know I poke fun at if you read or listened to my short comedy book, Yours in Wellness, Krystal Heeling: Letters from the Wellness Industry. Superfoods is just so…privileged. And relative. In many parts of the world superfood is just having food. Good ol’ food, nothing fancy, and enough of it to feed you and your family. But superfoods is one of those marketing buzzwords that make wellness consumers get excited and spend money. After all, as I describe in Letter 1 of my book, Wellness is a luxury brand. However, the prospect of contaminants in Spirulina and Chlorella supplements will hopefully make the consumers of such commercial supplements question their status as Superfoods. I mean, how super are Spirulina and Chlorella if they contain neurotoxins? Of course, not all Spirulina or Chlorella supplements contain toxins, and Dr. Rzymski talks about that in the podcast.
I have a separate “letter” in my book, Yours in Wellness, Krystal Heeling, dedicated to ingredients in supplements. While it’s satire, it shows how anyone can make a supplement and sell it. There is no regulation and no rules, which reminds me of the Wild West. It’s why I call the world of supplements “Wild Wellness,” because anything goes, at the expense of the consumer. How can we make this better? How can we make it easier for consumers to know which supplement to trust and which one to take for what? Dr. Rzymski addresses that in the podcast .
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