Spirulina may be an effective support for Leptin Resistance
(Science Alert – biological body-function terms here so bear with …)
Let me first introduce you to Bilirubin – google it and you’ll read that it’s a waste product formed by the breakdown of aging red blood cells in the body. Bilirubin travels to the liver which converts it to a non-toxic water-soluble (conjugated) state, then sends it off to be excreted. (Fun Fact - bilirubin is browny-yellow in colour, and it’s this pigment that makes poo brown).
As it turns out, there’s science out now that shows bilirubin to be a potent antioxidant, protective against an array of diseases associated with increased oxidative stress.
Now let’s quickly divert to NADPH – a super-good antioxidant, in fact, the most important antioxidant recharging molecule in the body. And now to another funky word, NOX (an abbreviation for NADPH oxidase); NOX isn’t so good – it’s a bad process that generates a great deal of oxidative stress on the all-important NADPH molecule, and if there’s too much NOX going on, it plays a significant detrimental role in a wide range of health conditions, including (but not limited to) vascular diseases and vascular complications of other diseases (i.e. diabetes, kidney failure, blindness and heart disease), neurodegenerative disorders, cancer, glaucoma, pulmonary fibrosis, erectile dysfunction, and … insulin resistance.
You’re now no doubt thinking that surely, to prevent many of these chronic states, finding a means of inhibiting or modulating NOX would be a good idea. Enter science discovering that bilirubin is thought to do this, as one of its main antioxidant functions is that it inhibits NOX – Tadah! And here’s where spirulina comes in, because there’s a component in spirulina (phycocyanobilin) that also inhibits NOX and increases NADPH.
Quick reminder on leptin resistance - leptin is a hormone that helps regulate appetite; when leptin levels rise, it signals to the body that it’s full, so we’re meant to stop eating. However, when the body becomes resistant to the leptin instruction and the body gains weight. Leptin resistance is a hallmark of obesity.
We already know that fructose is exceptionally effective at causing leptin resistance in our horses, a fact proven by Dr. Richard Johnson (University of Colorado who has published more than 500 medical papers and written a number of books on obesity) whose research shows that this is particularly so in animals and in the blocking of fat burning.
Then in 2018, James DiNicolantonio published a groundbreaking paper, “Antioxidant Bilirubin Works in Multiple Ways to Reduce Risk for Obesity and Its Health Complications.” He explains how bilirubin inhibits NADPH oxidase (NOX) and how phycocyanobilin found in spirulina can exert similar effects, and that spirulina supplementation may also be an effective treatment for leptin resistance.
It goes without saying that bilirubin in itself isn’t a useful nutraceutical, so this is where spirulina comes in, as the phycocyanobilin found in spirulina is very similar to bilirubin. To quote DiNicolantonio from his research:
“Studies evaluating the impact of bilirubin or phycocyanobilin administration on the development of hypothalamic leptin resistance appear to be warranted … Two studies have been published very recently in which inclusion of spirulina in the diet has been shown to inhibit gain in body weight and fat when fed a high-fat diet; these appear to be the first studies to have evaluated spirulina’s impact in this regard.
Although neither of these studies focused on leptin function, the fact that markers of adipose tissue browning were higher when fed spirulina is consistent with effective leptin function.
Moreover, a double-blind, placebo-controlled clinical trial has also emerged, in which spirulina supplementation (at only 2-grams daily) was found to potentiate loss of body fat, body weight, waist circumference and BMI in overweight subjects placed on a calorie-restricted diet.
Bilirubin mimesis [imitation or mimicry] may represent one example of a more general strategy for preventing or reversing inappropriate weight gain: counteracting hypothalamic leptin resistance or upregulating hypothalamic leptin signalling.”
Since phycocyanobilin is a very close relative of bilirubin - and spirulina is a great source of phycocyanobilin - spirulina has enormous clinical potential due to its NOX inhibiting effect. Hence why phycocyanobilin has been the focus of such a large amount of research.
As DiNicolantonio’s 2018 paper explains, “bilirubin reduces the risk for obesity and related health problems through a number of mechanisms, but primarily by inhibiting NOX complexes. Downregulating NOX activity - which can be done with spirulina, thanks to its bilirubin-mimicking phycocyanobilin - could therefore have profound implications for preservation of metabolic and vascular health.”
Caution - some spirulinas are grown in an uncontrolled environment which has the potential to become contaminated with heavy metals and other toxins, so it’s important to choose organic spirulina from a reputable source.
Our EquiVita-A mineral balancer range includes a daily 10g measure of certified organic Spirulina.