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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Wonder what other research has been done since this article was written. Report
Yes I actually like this, but not sure why you called it pond scum. It's basically just seaweed Report
VHAYES04 9/25/2020
Ty Report
My mold allergy rules my diet. No cheese, mushrooms, beer, wine, tof Report
I wouldn't eat my pond scum! But very interesting! Report
Why did you use the click bait tactic of using a negative word like scum instead of just calling it by its real proper name? Poor journalism. Report
Forgive, but exempting something from needing certification is not the same as approving it. The "pond scum" is NOT approved by the FDA; it is exempt. Report
No, thank you! But what an interesting article! Report
I have great concerns about this based upon contamination, and possible "scum" born bacteria that can be harmful. There are so many whole foods that can provide good nutrition, why resort to pond scum.
I think it's worth a try if health benefits outweigh taste. Report
I've been drinking it in a Scandinavian protein powder called Spirutein -I used to enjoy it until they changed natural sweeteners. Report
The article cites Hand. Last name only. Report
Puzzling why the constant reference to SCUM. Report
Eww no thank you! I would rather stick to my clean veggies. Report
Thanks for an interesting article! :) Report
What a horribly sensationalist and clickbaity title that will turn people off to eating a healthy food. "Scum"?? Seriously? It's grown in clean, man-made ponds for consumption. From the comments this article has just assured many people won't even consider it. And yet I'm sure without the sensationalist articles, they wouldn't have trouble consuming yeast or probiotics or other healthy micro-organisms, or algaes (including many seaweeds) cultivated in ponds and other waterways. Seriously SparkPeople? Report
Healthy? Maybe. Tasty? Debatable. On my menu? Absolutely not! There’s 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 don’t try to feed it to me. Report
Healthy blue stuff Report
No thank you! Report
Interesting...! Report
Ugh!!! Report
You have to be kidding me! Report
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
Some people eat bugs too but I think I will skip both. Report
Never knew the origin of it Report
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
Interesting. This I didn't know. I mean the origin of it. Report
Barf. Report
I am disgusted. Thoroughly! No. Just no! Report
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
Wow, this sounded gross, until I read the article. Really interesting. I guess I learned something new today. Thanks. Report
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
So...I could go out in my yard and fill bottles with pond scum and actually sell them? Hehe Report
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
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
no thankyou Report
Not something I would like Report
I was all for trying this until it said persons with autoimmune diseases should steer clear. Oh well, sounded good until then. Report
Thanks for sharing Report
I don't think so Report
blue... not my favorite flavor Report
Don't think I would ever want to try that sounds gross Report
Sounds dreadful Report
We must use time creatively.
- Martin Luther King Report
This has been around as a supplement since early 2000's Report