Should You Add Pond Scum to Your Diet?

By , SparkPeople Blogger
When you see slimy, blue-green algae in a body of water, chances are you don’t think about grabbing a spoon. In fact, pond scum in its natural form is quite the opposite of appetizing—so it may seem strange that it’s become one of today’s top health food trends.

Also known as spirulina, the algae is composed of beneficial bacteria called cyanobacteria, which live on the surface of freshwater or saltwater lakes, ponds and oceans—it can even be found on moist rocks in the desert and in the Antarctic. It’s not new—many centuries before it broke onto the health scene as a trendy green, spirulina was a dietary staple of the Aztecs, who collected it from Lake Texcoco in central Mexico, and African natives, who harvested it from Lake Chad in west-central Africa.
Today, health food companies are adding this scummy staple to everything from coffee and iced tea to smoothies, energy bars and ice cream. You can also buy spirulina as a powder or pill from AmazonWalmartGNC and dozens of other supplement shops. With its brilliant blue hue, it is also approved by the FDA as a substitute for artificial food coloring.

Nutritional Makeup of Spirulina

A single tablespoon (7 grams) of dried spirulina powder contains the following nutrients:

  • 4 grams of protein (60 to 70 percent of its dry weight)
  • 2.0 milligrams iron (11%)
  • 0.167 milligrams thiamin, B1, (11%)
  • 0.257 milligrams riboflavin, B2, (15%)
  • 0.897 milligrams niacin, (4%)
  • 0.427 milligrams copper (21%)

The super powder is also a good source of magnesium, potassium and manganese. As an added bonus for those trying to lose weight, each tablespoon has only one gram of fat.

Potential Health Benefits of Spirulina

  • Protein Boost: The high ratio of protein in spirulina could help to boost energy, fuel your muscles and keep you feeling fuller longer.
  • Anti-Inflammatory Properties: Spirulina contains the powerful antioxidant phycocyanin, which helps to fight the chronic inflammation that can be a contributing factor in cancer and other diseases.
  • Reduced Cancer Risk: The super powder has been linked to reduced cancer risk, especially oral cancer. In one controlled study, farmers in India who had existing precancerous mouth lesions consumed one gram of spirulina per day. After one year, 45 percent of the participants saw a complete disappearance of the lesions. (More studies are needed to confirm this effect in other populations.)
  • Stronger Immunity: The blue-green algae has been credited with boosting the immune system, particularly in adults 50 and over, but again, more evidence is needed to confirm these claims.
  • Alleviation of Allergies: Some research has suggested that spirulina’s anti-inflammatory effects could help to alleviate allergies. In one controlled study, participants who consumed two grams of the algae each day noticed a dramatic improvement in nasal allergy symptoms, including nasal discharge, sneezing, nasal congestion and itching.
  • Improved Endurance: Other evidence indicates that pond scum could make you a better athlete—or at least enable you to maintain longer periods of exercise. One study published in the European Journal of Applied Physiology found that participants who added spirulina to their daily diet for a three-week period experienced less muscle damage and were able to exercise longer than those who didn’t consume the algae.
  • Reduced Blood Sugar: In a controlled study, people with Type 2 diabetes experienced a significant lowering of blood glucose levels after two months of supplementing their diet with spirulina.
  • Lower “Bad" Cholesterol: Patients with high cholesterol levels who consumed just one gram of spirulina per day for 12 weeks saw a significant reduction in low density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol, which is the type that can raise the risk of heart disease and stroke. 

Who Should Avoid Spirulina?

If you are pregnant or breastfeeding, it’s best to avoid spirulina, as its effects on the fetus are still unknown. People with autoimmune diseases, such as lupus, rheumatoid arthritis and multiple sclerosis, should also steer clear of the scum, as it could stimulate the immune system and intensify symptoms. If you have a genetic disorder called phenylketonuria, spirulina could worsen the condition. Hand points out that spirulina supplements could possibly be unsafe for children, as they can lead to the accumulation of heavy metals like lead and mercury. 

Although spirulina is packed with nutrients and there is some encouraging evidence of potential benefits, more research is needed to confirm just how much it could boost your health.

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CHIRUKEN 3/21/2018
Healthy? Maybe. Tasty? Debatable. On my menu? Absolutely not! Thereís a such thing as going too far when searching out a healthier diet and just the thought of consuming that disgusting stuff I see floating on water is enough to turn my stomach. If other people enjoy this, more power to them...just donít try to feed it to me. Report
GEORGE815 12/10/2017
Healthy blue stuff Report
LUNA_IS_MY_HERO 12/6/2017
No thank you! Report
CKOUDSI617 10/3/2017
Interesting...! Report
BONDMANUS2002 10/1/2017
Ugh!!! Report
KATHYJO56 9/29/2017
You have to be kidding me! Report
MISSGREECE91 9/27/2017
To all leaving a negative comments, those are the ones who eat mcdonalds and outside junk food and processed foods from the grocery store and constantly feeding that to their children as well. Im so fed up seeing this in public Report
REDROBIN47 9/27/2017
Some people eat bugs too but I think I will skip both. Report
Never knew the origin of it Report
GOGEENOW 9/26/2017
I don't think it was meant for consumption. Years ago I took Chlorella, it is another type of pond scum that a health fanatic. sold me on. I stopped taking it after I developed an allergy to it. It is garbage in my opinion. Report
IRONADONIS 9/26/2017
Interesting. This I didn't know. I mean the origin of it. Report
BRIDGETTDW1 9/26/2017
Barf. Report
CECELW 9/26/2017
I am disgusted. Thoroughly! No. Just no! Report
ETHELMERZ 9/26/2017
I remember this stuff being pushed over 30 years ago, until individuals began losing muscle control over their bodies. Why was that not mentioned? Report
Interesting Report
ANHELIC 9/18/2017
Wow, this sounded gross, until I read the article. Really interesting. I guess I learned something new today. Thanks. Report
Great Report
PLATINUM755 9/1/2017
With all the experimentation done to the rest of our food supply, the question is why not consider it as a potential power food?!? Report
I did spirulina in the 80's, only it was green then. Report
ELISHA172 8/29/2017
So...I could go out in my yard and fill bottles with pond scum and actually sell them? Hehe Report
ELISHA172 8/28/2017
May as well eat the slugs the ducks are feeding on while I am there drinking the green liquid. I mean, look how shiny a ducks feathers are! Must be the pond scum/ slug combo Report
ELISHA172 8/28/2017
There's a duck pond nearby where I live. The smell of excrement that wafts in my window once in a while just automatically makes me want to run out there and drink from it. Sarcasm* Report
Ha! Report
DEE107 8/28/2017
no thankyou Report
ROBBIEY 8/27/2017
Not something I would like Report
SYLBA61 8/27/2017
I was all for trying this until it said persons with autoimmune diseases should steer clear. Oh well, sounded good until then. Report
ELRIDDICK 8/27/2017
Thanks for sharing Report
COASTERB 8/27/2017
I don't think so Report
GBPFS0905 8/25/2017
blue... not my favorite flavor Report
SHASTA1991 8/25/2017
Don't think I would ever want to try that sounds gross Report
GABY1948 8/25/2017
Sounds dreadful Report
JVANAM 8/24/2017
We must use time creatively.
- Martin Luther King Report
-POOKIE- 8/24/2017
This has been around as a supplement since early 2000's Report
Yuk! Report
CECELW 8/23/2017
I am now completely grossed out Report
BIKE4HEALTH 8/23/2017
Nope... not for me Report
SHOAPIE 8/23/2017
Spirulina sounds much better than pond scum! Report
AJB121299 8/22/2017
interesting Report
BROKENWING2005 8/22/2017
You can also take it in capsule form. I might try that bc I certainly don't want to TASTE any pond scum. Some of those things that are good for you don't taste very good. That's why they make nutritional supplements in capsule or pill form. Report
EO4WELLNESS 8/22/2017
I just read another article about this very substance. Surprise, surprise. Hm. Who knew. The other article I read was about the fact this very substance survived 2 years on the outside of the ISS and scientific researchers hope to discover how it survived the rigors of space! I thought it was interesting that this SP article includes nutritional info, as well as folks who due to their health/genetics might do better avoiding it. Good to know.

Here is a link to the science article about the unique properties and hopes about this unique "pond scum" algae. You'll have to google it, the software edited out my link. Report
PATRICIA-CR 8/22/2017
Not in my plans. Report
LEAS44 8/22/2017
It's actually tasty. I've been eating it for almost ten years. The article made sure to try to elicit an "eww" response with the way they described it. When I drink it in my smoothies it sort of tastes like a vegetable version of a sweet tart. My husband refuses to eat any greens at all, but drinks this. It comes powdered so there's no texture unlike many things that have real probiotics. Don't let an article like this sum up your mind about something, especially considering the amount of info and lack of sourcing implies a cursory look at information at best. Report
REDROBIN47 8/22/2017
I don't think this is something I will try. It may be healthy but so are many bugs we see crawling around. And I really don't plan on eating those either. Report
SPARKLINGME176 8/22/2017
I see it turns many people off, but I have been drinking it since the 80's. ONLY organic & usually in "super smart greens" version. I LOVE the taste.... I must be from the planet where beavers come from! I only drink 3 times a week, in my green drink smoothies, about 1TB. I KNOW it's not for everyone. But I do NOT like kale, so I get more greens from this source, as well as, spinach, young spring green & broccoli all organic of course! Report
BLUE_22 8/22/2017
It's been around for ages. But I don't think I'll be adding it to my diet any time soon, lol. Report
4CYNDI 8/22/2017
Thanks for including the list of people who should not use the supplement. With all it's benefits I was thinking of it, but I belong to the group that it might worsen conditions as I am always on the lookout for immune boosting and anti-inflammatory products. Not worth it. I'm not sure I'd try pond scum anyway. Concept food as my DH would say. Report
CECTARR 8/22/2017
A sucker is born everyday Report
Funny how Spirulina spirals in and out of "healthy" foods...I was reading about it in the 1970's in my late grandma's Prevention magazine. My ex husband was using it in the 1990's specifically TO chelate out the heavy metals and amalgams released when he had his mercury laced fillings removed from his teeth and replaced with non-metallic fillings... so I don't buy into the "may have toxic metals disclaimer for pregnant and breastfeeding moms. Report
CACUJIN 8/22/2017
"...they can lead to the accumulation of heavy metals like lead and mercury."
I cannot think of an adult that would appreciate an accumulation of lead and mercury. If children and expecting mothers cannot use it, it isn't that safe in my opinion. Report
GETULLY 8/22/2017
I remember years ago, right after I graduated college, that this was the "it" food. Report
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