The Truth About Klamath Lake Algae

What’s So Special About the Algae from Klamath Lake?

Klamath Lake

In the natural health world a lot of attention is given to a place called Klamath Lake.

Why?

Because it’s home to a particular type of blue green algae called Aphanizomenon flos-aquae, which is similar to spirulina and chlorella, but just a wee bit different.

Some folks claim that Klamath Lake blue-green algae has special health benefits, and because it only grows at Klamath, it’s worthy of special attention above and beyond other types of lake algae.

Is that true?

Well….kind of. To a degree.

A Quick Overview About Klamath Lake Algae

Aphanizomenon flos-aquae is a type of cyano-bacteria that biologically is quite similar to spirulina. It’s actually toxic in most places where it’s grown, but Klamath Lake is remarkably pure and free of toxins, and so the blue-green algae there can be ingested by humans. And it grows there in heaps and tons.

100,000 thousand kilograms of blue-green algae is harvested from the lake every year for the supplement industry. During the summer the growth of algae is so robust that the lake turns green and most of the native fish die out because the algae sucks out all the oxygen from the water.

Klamath Lake Blue Green Algae

The algae at Klamath Lake Changes Its Color

Health Benefits

So we know Klamath Lake algae is unique, but does that make it better? 

After all, caviar is really expensive…but that doesn’t mean people should go out and buy it.

The claims about it are numerous, but hard to verify. They include tumor suppression, immune system enhancement, and a possible plant source of vitamin B12.

Like other blue-green algaes, Klamath lake algae is a good source of protein, phytonutrients, and iron that has a high level of bio-availibility.

With regards to the health benefits of Klamath Lake Algae in particular, there are two remarkable points to consider:

  1. It has large amounts of a compound called phycocyanin, moreso than any other food in the world
  2. There’s really not a whole lot of research on the health benefits of klamath lake algae

Let’s go over both points.

Phycocyanin

Phycocyanin is a naturally occurring antioxidant that naturally forms in cyanobacteria. It reduces oxidative stress and inflammation in the body, and is one of the reasons spirulina is considered a “superfood.”

By weight spirulina is about 5% phycocyanin, whereas Klamath Lake Algae is about 15% by weight, and has an unusually high amount of bioavailibility.

That’s great, but there’s a good reason to curtail this benefit.

Lack of Evidence

The truth is there’s not a whole lot of evidence one way or another about the benefits of Klamath Lake algae.

To see what I mean, go to this link: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed?term=klamath%20algae

There’s a total of 4 studies on Klamath Lake algae. That’s not very much.

The ones that were conducted all show positive results, but in my opinion they’re not especially well done and not worth getting excited over.

Mostly studies where they give a small group of people a pill for a few weeks and then ask how they feel afterwards. Not exactly conclusive.

Another link that re-enforces my point can be found here: http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/druginfo/natural/923.html

The NIH keeps a database of all foods, and rates the potential health benefits of each one as “likely” “possibly likely” etc.

It determined there wasn’t enough evidence to conclude anything. 

So I’m fairly underwhelmed about this stuff.

Vitamin B12

Contrary to certain perceptions, algaes cannot reliably provide vitamin B12. They synthesize a metabolite of B12 that’s kinda-sorta like the real thing, but really doesn’t have the same effect in the body.

It’s believed by some raw-foodists that Klamath Lake algae is an exception has a biologically active form of B12, but I don’t believe this to be true.

The only evidence I can find of the Klamath Lake/B12 connection is this study…but that’s just one, and it’s far from conclusive.

Klamath Lake Supplements

Supplements

You can frequently buy a powdered form of Klamath Lake Algae either by itself or as part of a superfood/greens powder.

In my opinion buying it separately is not necessary. Just buy spirulina powder or something similar that’s not as expensive.

As part of a superfood cocktail it’s a nice addition, but in my opinion is not necessary. It’s used in the mixtures of some of the better known brands like Boku and Vitamineral, but I wouldn’t think any less of a product that didn’t have it listed. Especially if it already has spirulina and chlorella.

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About Jonathan Bechtel

Owner of Health Kismet, maker of Incredible Greens, a green superfood supplement that combines 35 different raw greens, herbs, probiotics, grasses and fruits into a sweet tasting powder.

Comments

  1. Shannon elm says:

    does blue green algae grow anywhere else? Are there other types? i ask because i’ve tried spirulina and chlorella and think their taste is DISGUSTING, but would like to try a supplement for them because of their health benefits.

    • Jonathan Bechtel says:

      Shannon,

      Algae’s of all sorts more or less have the same tastes: disgusting! They’re also all fairly similar in their molecular makeup. So the truth is I don’t know that there are huge benefits of trying one type of algae over the other.

      If the taste is too bad just make sure to eat them with other foods or supplements.

  2. Claudio says:

    If you had looked for better in the ncbi database (for example through “Phycocianin” or other words)
    you would have seen 64 studies about cancer et alii. And if you knew other languages there are university syudies in Italy and Germany.
    Thanks for another misinformation.The web is full of that.
    I used to get Klamath for a serious problem few months ago and I resolved, while drugs and other stuff did not do anything.
    Good-bye

  3. I’ve tried chlorella, spirulina and Klamath algae and I think Klamath tastes OK – quite nice, even – while the other two don’t. I also find that the Klamath algae gives me a really quick, steady energy boost while the other two take much longer to have any effect.

    • Jonathan Bechtel says:

      Emily,

      I’m glad it’s worked out well for you. In what form do you take it? Any particular brand that you use?

  4. I just moved to Klamath Falls. Is it safe to forge for blue-green algae? Or should this go through a deep cleaning process to remove any possible toxins? I thought about soaking it in bentonite clay to clean it like I clean my produce… Any thoughts?

    • Jonathan Bechtel says:

      Miranda,

      I’m not sure but I believe Klamath Algae can be toxic in its purely natural form so I don’t think it’d be a good idea to scoop it right out of the lake. Not sure about the bentonite clay. I believe Klamath Lake has a LOT of algae suppliers there these days so I’d recommend finding someone local (maybe at a farmers market?) who works with it first hand to get their opinion on it.

      Just my $.02

    • During certain times of the year another algae that cannot be separated from the blue green algae produces a toxin call mycorcystin. This is very toxic. Don’t let your dogs and small animals consume this or it will kill them. At times the toxin is extremely high and above what the government will allow to be sold to the public. Most of the harvesting is done in the fall when the toxin is usually at it lowest. So it isn’t a good idea to just scoop it out of the lake. Get it from a company that harvests it and knows when it is safe to use.

  5. I would appreciate less opinion and more factual information. This writer does not support his assertions. I am mystified as to his qualifications for posting this misleading article.
    Spirulina is not an inexpensive equivalent to Klamath Blue Green Algae and I, unlike the author, can say this because I have personal experience with both, have sought other users feedback and have done more research than this author.

  6. Hello!!Thank you for this wonderful information…

  7. I would like to hear your take on the relative merits of Spirulina from Hawaii, versus from India. Now foods Inc. used to make their Spirulina with Hawaiian grown, now it’s from India. Is it just a safe? Is it just as nutritious?

  8. Do not harvest algae on your own there are very specific times of year it has to be harvested and many tests has to go through to make sure it’s safe for human consumption, whoever wrote this can have there own opinion but I know a lot of people who use klamath algae products my entire family and I myself personally do.. All I have to say is simply try it and make up your mind a week of use and it’s not hard to see the benefits

  9. Why are you using a picture from Crater Lake in the beginning of this article? Wow….not sure what to think, but that’s just not right….Get your facts straight.

Trackbacks

  1. […] dose of superfoods.The algae at Klamath Lake Changes Its Color4). Klamath Lake Blue Green AlgaeI’ve written about klamath lake algae before.  It’s a type of blue green algae found in a eutrophic lake in Oregon.  The scientific name […]

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