Cyclooxygenase-2 (COX-2) has an important role in catalyzing the conversion of arachidonic acid to prostaglandins and other eicosanoids.37 The overexpression of COX-2 is associated with high levels of prostaglandin E2 (PGE2) that are observed in various malignancies of the colon, breast, lung, prostrate, skin, cervix, pancreas, and bladder.38 Excess prostaglandin levels cause inflammation, influence cell proliferation, and the mediation of immune suppression.39,40 Many investigations have confirmed that nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs and selective COX-2 inhibitors can induce apoptosis in colon cancer cell lines and transformed fibroblasts.41,42 Phycocyanin, present in Spirulina, has been claimed to have a selectively inhibitory effect on COX-2.28 Restated, phycocyanin is a natural COX-2 inhibitor, which controls inflammation that is caused by the presence of the enzyme COX-2. Studies have been conducted to examine the involvement of phycocyanin in inducing apoptosis in tumor cells and the mechanisms of the apoptotic process. Pardhasaradhi et al. (2003)43 reveals that phycocyanin activated the caspase that is involved in the apoptotic death process. Phycocyanin induced the generation of ROS by the tumor cells, subsequently inducing apoptosis. In addition, phycocyanin down-regulates Bcl-2, which is known to participate importantly in the apoptotic death processes.43 The high phycocyanin content in Spirulina has specific anti-inflammatory properties. The amount of caroten-oids in Spirulina (including j-carotene, lycopene, and lutein), is almost 10 times more than that in carrots, causing it to have good antioxidant properties. As they quench ROS, antioxidants have the intrinsic anti-inflammatory characteristics.
Phycocyanin, a photoharvesting pigment, belongs to the class of phycobillipro-teins that are found in blue-green algae. All phycobiliproteins are water-soluble and therefore, unlike carotenoids, cannot exist within a membrane. Rather, phycobili-proteins cluster and adhere to the membrane, forming phycobilisomes. Phycocyanin normally represents up to 20% of the dry weight of a blue-green algae harvest. Bhat and Madyastha11,13 examined C-phycocyanin, which is responsible for the deep bluish color of Spirulina, and found that it was able to not only scavenge free radicals, but also exhibited significant hepatoprotective effects.44 As stated above,25,26 phycocyanin can inhibit inflammation in mouse ears.26 An in vivo study has verified that the blue-green algae can reduce the level of arachidonic acid in plasma because it contains considerable amounts of omega-3-a-linolenic acid.45
Numerous natural products have an immunoenhancing effect.46 Experimental works have shown that Spirulina products positively affect innate immune functions and
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