Aphanizomenon flos-aquae is known to produce endotoxins, the toxic chemicals released when cells die. Once released (lysed), and ingested, these toxins can damage liver and nerve tissues in mammals. In areas where water quality is not closely monitored, the World Health Organization has assessed toxic algae as a health risk, citing the production of anatoxin-a, saxitoxins, and cylindrospermopsin. Dogs have been reported to have become ill or have fatal reactions after swimming in rivers and lakes containing toxic A. flos-aquae.
Microcystin toxin has been found in all 16 samples of A. flos-aquae products sold as food supplements in Germany and Switzerland, originating from Lake Klamath: 10 of 16 samples exceeded the safety value of 1 µg microcystin per gram. University professor Daniel Dietrich warned parents not to let children consume A. flos-aquae products, since children are even more vulnerable to toxic effects, due to lower body weight, and the continuous intake might lead to accumulation of toxins. Dietrich also warned against quackery schemes selling these cyanobacteria as medicine against illnesses such as attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, causing people to omit their regular drugs.
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A Canadian study studying the effect of A. flos-aquae on the immune and endocrine systems, as well as on general blood physiology, found that eating it had a profound effect on natural killer cells (NKCs). A. flos-aquae triggers the movement of 40% of the circulating NKCs from the blood to tissues.
As a food supplement
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