Foods provide nutrients such as vitamins, minerals, proteins, carbohydrates, and fats and a host of other nonessential nutrients that may confer health benefits. Research into the mechanisms of action of foods and their components have led to a virtual cottage industry of nutraceuticals that, in some cases, have been suggested to boost the immune system, enhance cognitive function, and perhaps even have the potential to slow the aging process. On the basis of these findings, some manufacturers have even begun the creation of functional foods by fortifying, bioengineering, or otherwise modifying foods so that they contain higher than normal concentrations of these components. Others market the extracts of certain foods such as garlic, parsley, and cranberries in the form of pills, capsules, tablets, or liquids. In addition, individual phytochemicals are available in health food stores and even in mainstream supermarkets. Indeed, many food extracts and plant components are sold as dietary supplements, and the market has exploded, fueled in part by claims that select botanicals can do everything from curing colds to facilitating weight loss. This change in market is reflected by the incredible consumer interest in dietary supplements. Unfortunately, all too often the use of dietary supplements comes without the rigorous scientific data required for health claims and there is very little systematic research on not only many nutraceuticals but also the interactions of these materials between prescription or even over-the-counter drugs. One indication of this complexity is that isolated plant ingredients or even the isolation of a bioactive constituent often have different effects than the whole plant extract. One major exception to these myriad problems is the use of Spirulina. Spirulina, essentially an extraordinarily simple extract of blue-green algae, has been extensively studied and is now in widespread usage throughout the world as a food product and as a dietary supplement. Despite this wealth of data in individual experimental papers, there has not hitherto been an attempt to combine this body of knowledge into a monograph that is useful for scientists, physicians, workers in the food industry, and, of course, consumers. This volume, which is edited by a professor of immunology and an expert in nutrition and immunology, as well as a basic scientist with extensive background in Spirulina, aims to fill this gap. We are particularly appreciative of our contributors who worked arduously to meet deadlines and to set their pen to paper on an important subject in a readable fashion. We are especially grateful to Kathy Wisdom, our editorial assistant, who has followed, tracked, and made the writing process ever so much easier. We are also grateful to our editors at CRC Press for their encouragement and advice.
M. Eric Gershwin Amha Belay
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