The Secret Superfood

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THE SECRET SUPERFOOD

Post-war scientists called blue-green algae a natural miracle that would feed the world. Now, half a century later, we're finally waking up to the vitamin-packed micro-organisms which detoxify our bodies and can even ease cancer and AIDS.

It had to happen sometime -- the BGs are back in fashion. No, I don't mean the toothy '70s pop trio with the hairy chests. I'm talking about blue-green algae, the miracle micro-organisms which are finally getting the headlines they deserve, being credited with everything from cutting obesity to delaying the ageing process.

Grown in cultures in hot countries, these non-flowering water plants are relatives of other algae, like ordinary seaweeds and plankton. But the blue-green variety are special -- they contain more nutrients, weight for weight, than any other food on Earth.

They are 60% protein and contain a wide range of B vitamins, including B12 and folic acid -- vital to pregnant mums -- as well as high levels of beta carotene and vitamin E, both known to protect against cancer. They also provide a dazzling spectrum of minerals, including iron, magnesium and zinc.

Trials show these microalgae will enhance your immune functions, clean contaminants from your system, even help prevent bowel and other cancers.

The Russians have used one of the BGs, spirulina, to treat patients exposed to radiation in the Chernobyl disaster. It is also used in France to increase backward children's intelligence. The Americans use another type, chlorella, to treat brain tumours while the Japanese have had success in healing wounds -- particularly gangrenous feet -- with the BGs.

DNA extracted from BGs has proved helpful to AIDS sufferers. At the other end of the scale, my own experience showed it to be beneficial when mixed with honey as a dressing applied to warts -- some literally disappeared in two or three days, as did brown ageing marks on the back of the hands.

Hidden powers

Amazingly, these recently-discovered powers could have been common knowledge for decades, but for a quirk of history. During the late 1940s there had been talk of new foods produced from bacteria and algae, which because of their galloping rate of growth and nutritious nature, promised to feed the world.

After World War II the Americans, in partnership with the defeated and hungry Japanese, developed strains of chlorella, a tiny, single celled green leaf the size of a red blood corpuscle, which multiplies by four every 24 hours.

But they ran into a seemingly insurmountable problem: chlorella was found to have a tough cell wall, so that only around 40% could be absorbed.

Talk of feeding the world went quiet. Microalgae took a back seat and instead resources were concentrated on developing hardy, genetically-strengthened cereals which by the 1960s had mined countries traditionally short of food, such as India, into exporters.

Thirty years later, however, the discovery of sophisticated milling techniques means we can now absorb all the riches the BGs have to offer.

Types of blue-green algae

There are around 1,500 species of BG, of which only six have been researched. Spirulina and Aphanizomenon Flos Aquae (AFA), together with the aforementioned Chlorella, are the most widely used.

New Generation Spirulina has been genetically bred from wild African stock and contains the highest content of gamma-linolenic acid -- the same lipid found in Evening Primrose, which helps cancer, diabetes and ageing.

The AFA from Klamath Lake in South Oregon, USA, have the finest range of minerals and trace elements. Proponents of AFA point out that vitamins are useless in the absence of minerals, as many physiological processes depend on trace elements for their operation.

I decided to try out the BGs over a period of months to see if the claims really were too good to be true. The results were greater energy, increased brain efficiency and less sleep. Bowel activity was also enhanced.

But I can confirm experts' warnings about taking too much too soon -- the severe detoxifying effects were unpleasant, particularly in the initial few months. I found myself getting irritable and sometimes feeling `hyper'.

Too many BGs lead to the PCs

Then there was the question of taking BGs with too much alcohol. The resulting feelings of euphoria and invulnerability, coupled with a sensation of having somewhat hollow legs, led to a night in the cells after a contretemps with three policemen over a faulty bicycle light...but that's another story. Luckily, BGs act fast on hangovers, too.

I had another scare involving BGs when I unwittingly took too many AFA at a health show. Though everything was fine for the rest of the day, my first meal the next morning brought on horrendous liver pains. The doctors believed I had an ulcer, which I've never showed signs of before in half a century. My own view is that I was having a massive detox which my liver couldn't cope with. Again, a warning not to go over the top.

Despite these caveats, the experiment convinced me that BGs can be of enormous benefit, particularly for vegans or vegetarians. Or for those who don't take too much trouble over what they eat -in fact, anyone who might suffer from a vitamin or mineral deficiency.

Your daily dose

Average daily servings are roughly three grams, with variation according to personal needs. They are obtainable as granules which can be mixed with milk, fruit or vegetable juices, or are excellent added to soups and casseroles. They can also, more conveniently, be taken as tablets.

A litre bottle containing a liquid extract of a chlorella cell's DNA/RNA costs around £70 in Japan -- but it's already that country's most popular food supplement.

It should be remembered that these supplements are part of, not a substitute for, good nutrition -- in fact they have the effect of making one want to eat, almost crave, good nutritious food in preference to junk. The BGs have a very low vitamin C content, and this craving is often for fruit or freshly extracted juices. In fact they go very well with a juice fast.

David Bellamy considers chlorella pyrenoidosa one of the seven wonders of the world, claiming it could solve more than 80% of all water pollution problems. Other famous people, such as the actors Sadie Frost, Sean Pertwee and Louise Lombard, swear by BGs as supplements.

My own personal favourite, an entirely unscientific judgment based on the pure cerebral and physical buzz, was Sun Chlorella, with the New Generation Spirulina a very close second.

An interesting cocktail would undoubtedly be a mixture of all three of the main BGs -- chlorella, spirulina and and aphanizomenon flos aquae. But don't get carried away -- and do take care!

Suppliers

CHLORELLA:

- Sun Chlorella, Rothwell Associates, 21-27 Seagrave Road, London SW6. Tel 071 385 6569

- Chlorella Health, Russell Chambers, The Piazza, Covent Garden, London WC2E 8AA. Tel 071 240 4775

- Emerald Life, 7a Iliffe Yard, Crampton Street, SE17 3QA. Tel 071 252 5479.

- All Seasons Healthcare, 19-21 Victoria Road North, Southsea P05 1PL. Tel 0705 755660

- Larkhall Green farm, 225 Putney Bridge Road, London, SW15 2PY. Tel 081 874 1130

NEW GENERATION SPIRULINA:

- Xynergy Health Products, Ash House, Stedham, Midhurst, W Sussex, GU29 0PT. Tel 0730 813642

APHANIZOMENON FLOS AQUAE:

- Hunter Ridgeley Blue Greens, 26 Churchfields, South Woodford, London E18 2QZ. Tel 081 504 7889

- Klamath Lake Alga Sunstream, 7 Aylwin Estate, Grange Walk, London SE1 3DU. Tel 071 935 3521.

Publications

Klamath Lake Alga by Andrew Paterson and Alan Purnell, Chroma, 32 Archer House, Phillipp St, London N1 5NY (Send cheque or postal order for £1.00 to Chroma plus a 23 x 16cm (9 x 6 1/2 in) SAE.

Market Link Publishing.

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By David Marsh

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