Aphanizomenon flos-aquae (AFA)

Aphanizomenon flos-aquae (AFA) is a species of cyanobacteria (blue-green algae) which is commercially processed into a dietary supplement. It grows naturally in Upper Klamath Lake in Southern Oregon, making it a particularly unique whole food supplement. This single-celled micro-algae was first discovered over 15 years ago in one of the most diverse and rich wetland habitats in North America. It is harvested at the peak of its bloom in summer, and then quickly processed to preserve its nutritional profile and enzymatic activity.

Upper Klamath Lake has an average depth of about eight feet, yet the algae feeds on mineral rich sediment that is believed to be at least 35 feet deep. It’s estimated that just one inch of this mineral rich sediment, generated over 10,000 years ago from a volcanic explosion, is able to produce enough AFA to feed every person on the planet one gram a day for the next sixty years!

It’s simply a nutritional powerhouse. Over 98% of its nutrients are bio-available, which means they can be used directly by the body in the same form in which they naturally occur. Amino acids are the building blocks of proteins (and muscle tissue), and AFA contains all eight essential amino acids, in the correct profile for optimum absorption. Aphanizomenon flos-aquae (AFA) contains up to 68% more protein by weight than any other whole food.

Animal research at Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School found that AFA raised blood levels of eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). EPA and DHA are known to contribute to optimal functioning of numerous organ systems, including the nervous system. The researchers found that AFA was more effective than soybean oil, a good source of PUFAs, at raising blood levels of these omega-3 fatty acids. Nearly 50% of AFA’s lipid content is the essential fatty acid alpha-linolenic acid (omega-3). Omega-3 fatty acids support the immune system and build the white fatty myelin sheath on connective neural fibers in the brain. People who eat AFA on a regular basis report an overall increase in mental alertness and stamina, improved short and long-term memory, enhanced creativity and problem-solving abilities, as well as a greater sense of well being.

Aphanizomenon flos-aquae (AFA) also has a full spectrum of naturally cheated minerals, chlorophyll, antioxidants and wide range of vitamins. One gram of AFA extract supplies 48% of the recommended daily requirement of Vitamin B1 (beta-carotene), 133% of Vitamin B12 and significant amounts of all the B complex vitamins. The protein rich cell wall of Aphanizomenon-flos-aquae is a source of glycogen, used by the liver for energy, which is one reason people often report an increase in energy after adding it to their daily diet. AFA is also known to contains unique molecules that modulate various aspects of human health. Phenylethylamine (PEA), known as the "molecule of love", enhances concentration and attention. PEA is also a natural mood elevator and anti-depressant.

The special molecule that provides the blue color in AFA is called phycocyanin. Depending on the algae source, the amount of phycocyanin can amount to up to 15% of the dry weight of the algae. Phycocyanin has antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects. One study evaluated the ability of a novel natural extract of AFA enriched with phycocyanin to protect normal human erythrocytes and blood plasma samples against oxidative damage in vitro. In red blood cells, oxidative hemolysis and lipid peroxidation induced by the aqueous peroxyl radical generator [2, 2'-Azobis (2-amidinopropane) dihydrochloride, AAPH] were significantly lowered by the AFA extract in a time and dose-dependent manner; at the same time, the depletion of cytosolic glutathione was delayed. In plasma samples, the natural extract inhibited the extent of lipid oxidation induced by the pro-oxidant agent cupric chloride (CuCl2); a concomitant increase of plasma resistance to oxidation was observed as evaluated by conjugated diene formation.

In recent years, there has been an increase of interest in microalgae metabolites. A water-based extract of AFA containing high concentrations of phycocyanin inhibited the in vitro growth of one out of four tumor cell lines, indicating that at least some tumor cell types may be directly sensitive to killing by phycocyanin. In addition to this Phycocyanin stimulates the migration of immune cells in the body especially stem cells and it’s the only natural compound known to do so.

A team at the Royal Victoria Hospital, Montreal, Canada, demonstrated that consumption of AFA results in an immediate change in the trafficking of immune cells. The effect is transient and cell-type specific. An extensive body of data documents that long-term consumption does not lead to hyper-stimulation of the immune system. According to researchers, AFA make natural killer cells "patrol" better throughout the body. These effects were seen when using a low oral dose of algae (1.5 gram), corresponding to a low amount of food supplementation. Other research describes the identification of three new high molecular weight polysaccharide preparations isolated from AFA that are effective activators of human monocytes/macrophages, including "Immunon" from Aphanizomenon flos-aquae. Immunostimulatory activity was measured using transcription factor-based bioassay. Each polysaccharide studied in this research, including AFA, substantially increased mRNA levels of interleukin and tumor necrosis factor-a (TNF-a). These polysaccharides are between one hundred and one thousand times more active for in vitro monocyte activation than polysaccharide preparations that are currently used clinically for cancer immunotherapy.

Research also characterizes the effect of a water-soluble preparation from known agents that modulate the immune system. One such study suggests that the macrophage-activating properties of an AFA water-soluble preparation are mediated through pathways that are similar to LPS-dependent activation. But the most extraordinary discovery is the ability of Aphanizomenon flos-aquae(AFA) to stimulate the natural innate phenomenon of healing, and regeneration in the human body.

  • Hector Sabelli, Peter Fink, Jan Fawcett, Cynthia Tom - Sustained Antidepressant Effect of PEA Replacement.
  • Mark Berthold-Losleben, Sabine Heitmann, Hubertus Himmerich - Anti-Inflammatory Drugs in Psychiatry.
  • C. Romay, J. Armesto, D. Remirez, R. Gonza´lez, N. Ledon and I. Garcı´a - Antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties of C-phycocyanin from blue-green algae.
  • Serena Benedetti, Francesca Benvenuti, Silvia Pagliarani, Sonia Francogli, Stefano Scoglio, Franco Canestrari - Antioxidant properties of a novel phycocyanin extract from the blue-green alga Aphanizomenon flos-aquae. Elsevier.
  • David Marc, Kelly Olson - Neuroimmunology of Autism Spectrum Disorder.
  • Thomas E Ichim, Fabio Solano, Eduardo Glenn, Frank Morales, Leonard Smith, George Zabrecky and Neil H Riordan - Stem Cell Therapy for Autism. BioMed Central.
  • Aaron N. Hart, Lue Ann Zaske, Kelly M. Patterson, Christian Drapeau, Gitte S. Jensen - Natural Killer Cell Activation and Modulation of Chemokine Receptor Profile In Vitro by an Extract from the Cyanophyta Aphanizomenon flos-aquae. Journal of Medicinal Food.
  • Gitte S. Jensen, Steve G. Carter, Kimberlee A. Redman, Kathleen F. Benson, Axel Ehmann, Jesse Guthrie, Jim Turner, Christian Drapeau - Cognitive enhancement and immune modulating properties of an antioxidant-rich microalgae extract, AFAninPlus™.
  • Mahmood Khan, Saradhadevi Varadharaj, Latha P. Ganesan, Jagdish C. Shobha, Madireddi U. Naidu, Narasimham L. Parinandi, Susheela Tridandapani, Vijay Kumar Kutala, Periannan Kuppusamy - C-phycocyanin protects against ischemia-reperfusion injury of heart through involvement of p38 MAPK and ERK signaling.
  • David J. Schaeffer, Victor S. Krylov - AntiHIV Activity of Extracts and Compounds from Algae and Cyanobacteria.
  • Gitte S. Jensen, Aaron N. Hart, Lue A.M. Zaske, Christian Drapeau, Niraj Gupta, David J. Schaeffer, J. Alex Cruickshank - Mobilization of human CD34+CD133+ and CD34+CD133- stem cells in vivo by consumption of an extract from Aphanizomenon flos-aquae — related to modulation of CXCR4 expression by an L-selectin ligand?. Elsevier.
  • Gitte S. Jensen, Donald I. Ginsberg, Christian Drapeau - Blue-Green Algae as an Immuno-Enhancer and Biomodulator
  • Gitte S. Jensen, Donald I. Ginsberg, Patricia Huerta, Monica Citton, Christian Drapeau - Consumption of Aphanizomenon flos-aquae Has Rapid Effects on the Circulation and Function of Immune Cells in Humans. Rafail I. Kushak, Christian Drapeau, Elizabeth M. Van Cott, Harland H. Winter - Favorable Effects of Blue-Green Algae Aphanizomenon flos-aquae on Rat Plasma Lipids. JANA.
  • Aphanizomenon flos-aquae and The Nervous System. Attention deficit disorder, Depression and Mood elevation.
  • Rafail I. Kushak, Christian Drapeau, Harland S. Winter - The Effect of Blue-Green Algae Aphanizomenon Flos-Aquae on Nutrient Assimilation in Rats.
  • Victor Rimbau, Antoni Camins, David Pubill, Francese X. Sureda, Cheyla Romay, Ricardo Gonzalez, Andres Jimenez, Elena Escubedo, Jordi Camarasa, Merce Pallas - C-Phycocyanin protects cerebellar granule cells from low potassium/serum deprivatation-induced apoptosis.