Health benefits of blue-green algae: prevention of cardiovascular disease and nonalcoholic fatty liver disease

J Med Food. 2013 Feb;16(2):103-11. doi: 10.1089/jmf.2012.2468.


Blue-green algae (BGA) are among the most primitive life forms on earth and have been consumed as food or medicine by humans for centuries. BGA contain various bioactive components, such as phycocyanin, carotenoids, γ-linolenic acid, fibers, and plant sterols, which can promote optimal health in humans. Studies have demonstrated that several BGA species or their active components have plasma total cholesterol and triglyceride-lowering properties due to their modulation of intestinal cholesterol absorption and hepatic lipogenic gene expression. BGA can also reduce inflammation by inhibiting the nuclear factor κ B activity, consequently reducing the production of proinflammatory cytokines. Furthermore, BGA inhibit lipid peroxidation and have free radical scavenging activity, which can be beneficial for the protection against oxidative stress. The aforementioned effects of BGA can contribute to the prevention of metabolic and inflammatory diseases. This review provides an overview of the current knowledge of the health-promoting functions of BGA against cardiovascular disease and nonalcoholic fatty liver disease, which are major health threats in the developed countries.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cardiovascular Diseases / diet therapy*
  • Cardiovascular Diseases / genetics
  • Cardiovascular Diseases / metabolism
  • Cardiovascular Diseases / prevention & control*
  • Cyanobacteria / chemistry*
  • Developed Countries
  • Fatty Liver / diet therapy*
  • Fatty Liver / genetics
  • Fatty Liver / metabolism
  • Fatty Liver / prevention & control*
  • Functional Food / analysis*
  • Humans
  • Non-alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease