MadSci Network: Other

Re: Is it really safe to eat aphanizomenon flos aqua ?

Area: Other
Posted By: Hurley Shepherd, Agricultural Research, USDA Southern Regional Center
Date: Thu May 15 16:34:17 1997
Area of science: Other
ID: 863698659.Ot
Another example of "natural" not being the same as "healthy".  The problem you 
are concerned with is the possibility of microcystin (a toxin produced by 
Microcystis another blue-green algae) being contained in harvests of the 
blue-green alga Aphanizomenon.  This is a real concern which is noted by both 
producers and regulators.  The companies which harvest and sell have apparently 
agreed not to harvest if the toxin level exceeds 1 ug/liter, according to the 
phycotoxin site.  However, since microcystin accumulates and damages the liver, 
long term effects are not known.  Dr. Carmichael reports on the Phycotoxin site 
that he finds some Microcystis in all the samples he has checked, so it is 
apparently always present, even though in low amounts.  If you think someone has 
liver damage symptoms (jaundice is one) have them go to a doctor immediately.

Another possibility for ilness from these products is the active ingredient in 
Aphanizomenon, anatoxin, which seems to act like both nicotine and cocaine, and 
hence may be very addicting to some people, and lead to intense withdrawal 
symptoms when it is removed.  Incidentally, a common test for this toxin is 
whether it kills a rat within ten minutes following injection.  For more info on 
potential allergic reactions see here.

To contact scientists who study these and other toxins, try redtide at Woods 
Hole Oceanographic Institute, particularly Drs. Boyer, Carmichael, and Moore who 
specialize in these toxins. 

Is it really safe to eat  Aphanizomenon?  I would not put it in my body, but it 
has not been ruled unsafe by FDA.  Under the Dietary Supplement Health and 
Education Act of 1994, this is a food supplement.  A company must offer some 
evidence that it is safe, but the requirements are not as stringent as for a 
"food" or a "drug".  FDA must show that it is unsafe for it to be removed.  You 
might also try contacting the Oregon Department of Health, which is looking into 
this matter.

Current Queue | Current Queue for Other | Other archives

Try the links in the MadSci Library for more information on Other.

MadSci Home | Information | Search | Random Knowledge Generator | MadSci Archives | Mad Library | MAD Labs | MAD FAQs | Ask a ? | Join Us! | Help Support MadSci

MadSci Network
© 1997, Washington University Medical School