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Scientific Stufies on AFA

Below is an excerpt from the book Primordial Food: Aphanizomenon flos-aquae by Christian Drapeau. Mr. Drapeau is a wild food expert, author, research scientist and neurophysiologist who has lectured on nutrition to over 30,000 people internationally since 1994. Since 1995, Mr. Drapeau has been pursuing scientific research in collaboration with various universities and research centers on the health benefits of AFA. This section of his book, Primordial Food, discusses how Phycocyanin, the blue pigment in AFA, has been proven to contain strong antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties.

Anti-inflammatory Properties of Phycocyanin
Phycocyanin is the blue pigment present in all cyanophyta. In the living algal cell, phycocyanin serves as a protein storage unit and as an antioxidant, protecting the cell from certain wavelengths. Phycocyanin accounts for nearly 15 percent of AFA’s dry weight.

Phycocyanin has been shown to have strong antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. In various animal models of inflammation, phycocyanin was shown to reduce or prevent inflammation.65,66 Phycocyanin has been shown to prevent colitis in acetic acid-induced colitis in rats.67 The mechanism of action was identified as the ability to block the production of the inflammatory eicosanoid leukotriene B4.66 Recently, phycocyanin has also been shown to be one of the strongest natural COX-2 (cyclo-oxygenase) inhibitors.68

The Eicosanoid Pathway
Eicosanoids are a group of oxygenated fatty acids containing 20 (eicosa) carbon atoms, produced by the body to support many body functions.
Eicosanoids are ubiquitous substances considered local hormones because their activity is limited to the site where they are released. Short-lived and synthesized on demand, they are not stored in tissues. Their role in the body’s homeostasis (equilibrium) is such that their two main precursors, Omega-6 (3) linoleic acid (LA; 18:26) and Omega-3 (3) linolenic acid (LNA; 18:23), are called essential fatty acids and were even considered vitamins a few decades ago (vitamin F).

The action of specific enzymes leads to the transformation of both LA and LNA into whole families of eicosanoids having various roles in the support of immune and cellular functions (see Figure 3 on page 37). Generally speaking, LA metabolites (6) are responsible for the support of immune responses by inducing inflammation, fever and platelet aggregation. On the other hand, LNA metabolites (3) are responsible for the support of immune responses by attracting immune cells on the site of injury and then suppressing inflammation when the immune response is done.

Over the past decades, the American diet has evolved by increasing the 6:3 ratio, thereby promoting inflammation in the body. A higher 6:3 ratio has been associated with cardiovascular diseases,30-35 immunosuppression,36 arthritis,37 mental problems,38-41 and skin problems.42 To remedy this situation a comprehensive effort was made by various health organizations to promote increased consumption of 3 fatty acids (flaxseed oil, fish, etc.). Though this effort has had some positive impact, it is marginal. Inflammatory diseases are still rising in western countries.

A parallel effort has been the search for compounds that would modulate or inhibit the transformation of 6 fatty acids into inflammatory compounds. This research effort has led to the discovery of two main classes of compounds: COX-2 inhibitors and lipoxygenase inhibitors. Both COX-2 and lipoxygenase are considered inflammatory enzymes, and their inhibition reduces inflammation. Recent discoveries reveal that phycocyanin, the unique blue pigment in AFA, inhibits both enzymes.
Phycocyanin has been shown in various animal models to significantly reduce inflammation.65-67 This anti-inflammatory property is due to phycocyanin’s ability to inhibit the formation of leukotriene B4, a compound involved in the pathophysiology of asthma. Recent drugs developed for the treatment of asthma are inhibitors of leukotriene B4 action.

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