Intended for healthcare professionals

Clinical Review

Management of the severely malnourished child: perspective from developing countries

BMJ 2003; 326 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.326.7381.146 (Published 18 January 2003) Cite this as: BMJ 2003;326:146

Can Spirulina be an Answer for Treatment of Malnutrition?

Today, malnutrition is one of the severe crises in world. As per several statistical reports it affects not less than one in four children around the world. Indeed, it is a major killer of children every hour of every day. Chronic malnutrition is more lethal and more extensive than short term acute malnutrition1.
Malnutrition is a broad terminology1 which refers to both undernutrition and overnutrition. Individuals are identified as malnourished (undernutrition) if their diet does not provide them with adequate calories. On other hand, people are also malnourished or suffer from over nutrition if they consume too many calories. Malnutrition can also be defined2 as insufficient, excessive and imbalanced consumption of nutrients. Poor diet results in to subnutrition where as excessive calorie intake in diet leads to overnutrition-both are because of imbalance of nutrition and calorie in diet.
World Health Organisation reports1 that malnutrition- particularly subnutrition is the largest contributor to child mortality. It also reports that absence of Vitamin A, Zinc and other micronutrients during pregnancy leads to underweight births, it also leads to intra-uterine growth restrictions.
Research2 supports that, malnourished children usually face health and educational problems in their adulthood. Malnourished children tends to become adults who have smaller (underdeveloped) babies. Malnutrition is directly associated with mortality and morbidity resulted from diseases including diarrhea, malaria, and other communicable diseases which can be otherwise controlled with strong immunity.
Though, malnutrition can be easily treated with supportive nutrition balance and drug regimen, but major challenge is to identify and reach to the malnourish child on time. It is always better to fortify them with required nutrition to avoid future chances of malnutrition. Our efforts should target to make them nutritionally fit.
Spirulina is well known blue-green algae with heavily loaded micronutrients required for human body. Spirulina is categorized as superfood and recommended by WHO and NASA3. Researchers have proved that daily intake of 1-3 gms Spirulina powder can help in maintaining nutritional fitness in human body4.
Spirulina contains iron, protein, carbohydrate vitamins, magnesium, potassium, manganese in required amount for human body. A tablespoon of spirulina contains a small amount of fat (around 1 gram), including both omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids in about a 1.5:1 ratio. It is a single most nutritious food on the planet. The quality of the protein in Spirulina is considered excellent, comparable to eggs. It contains all the essential amino acids that human body need4. Spirulina is good source of protein: gram per gram more so than beef, poultry, fish, and soybeans5
Research4 supports that, Spirulina also has antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties; it modulates immune response, which would help in fighting against communicable diseases.
Cultivation of Spirulina is very economical and does not involve any technical expertise. It can be grown at home for personal use. These evidences can support use of Spirulina in treatment of malnutrition, indeed- helps in avoidance of condition of malnutrition.

1. Maharaj K Bhan, ‘Management of the severely malnourished child: perspective from developing countries’Published in British Medical Journal (BMJ) 2003; 326
2. Catharine Paddock, ‘Malnutrition Stunts 200 Million Children Under 5, Future Generations In Jeopardy Says UNICEF’ published in Medical Health Today (Nov 2009), Available at http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/170830.php?sr
3. Report submitted by Mohasin G Trados, on ‘Characterisation of Spirulina Biomass for CELSS diet potential’ to NASA under NASA Cooperative Agreement on CELSS program.
4. Joe Leech, ‘10 Benefits of Spirulina’ Published in Authority Nutrition – An Evidence Based Approach (Healthcare e-Magazine). Published in April 2016 available at https://authoritynutrition.com/10-proven-benefits-of-spirulina/
5. ‘Benefits of Spirulina’ information material available on http://www.nutrex-hawaii.com/benefits-of-spirulina

Competing interests: No competing interests

26 April 2016
Ajay Pise
Associate Professor
Rohini Kharwade, Shilpa Pise, Ujwala Mahajan
Dadasaheb Balpande College of Pharmacy, Besa, Nagpur, MS, India
DBCOP, Besa, Nagpur, MS, India