Talk:Aphanizomenon flos-aquae

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Is AFA Toxic?[edit]

So is AFA toxic or not? Does it product toxins or was it contaminated with something that did? I find it hard to believe that the scientist who said it was toxic didn't separate the AFA to make sure it was the only thing they were studying.

Was the toxic part removed because it was not true or was it removed by someone selling AFA? I need proof and reason to believe the source that says it is toxic is in error.

I see that non-toxic has been changed back to toxic, but my statements remain and what makes AFA toxic has not been commented on. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 21:03, 19 November 2008 (UTC)

If you mean AFA in general, then the previous answer is mostly correct. However, toxin forming species of cyanobacteria don’t always produce toxins. When or why they do produce toxins has yet to be definitively determined.

If you are referring to Upper Klamath Lake (UKL) AFA (super blue-green algae) available as a health food supplement, then its a bit more complicated. While it is true that AFA harvested from UKL has not been known to produce toxins, there are two species of toxigenic cyanobacteria (anabaena and microcystis) present in UKL that regularly produce toxins. The Oregon Health Division and the Oregon Department of Agriculture has estabilished a regulatory limit of microcystin (a toxin produced by anabaena and microcystis) of 1 µg/g for microcystin in AFA containing products. --UKLwatcher (talk) 21:07, 25 November 2008 (UTC)

Answer: Yes and No[edit]

This is an understandable confusion since the answer to this question is quite scientific and little explanation can be found online. Just a warning: understanding the entire explanation probably requires some background in biology or another scientific field. This is not because it is incredibly dense material but I am probably not intelligent enough to explain it that well. I tried to include some cross-referencing links to help out. Anyways the:

Short Answer Some AFA are toxic, some are not. Right now both types are called AFA but that will probably change. To my knowledge no toxic type of AFA is marketed or sold (as a health supplement or anything else.) Anecdotal information leads consumers to believe that there is an anti-cancer effect on tumors. Research should be conducted to determine if the "non-toxic" form is supplemental encouraging cancer cell death, or if this is imagined. Is there a scientific method to separate the toxic from the non-toxic, and is that clearly indicated in research articles? Product self-promotion cannot be the criteria for determining purity.

Long Answer and Explanation: Public assumptions about biology or the incorrect interpretation of biological principles are often misleading. The first step in understanding the answer to your question, “is AFA toxic?” is to understand some background in microbiology. (I'm not assuming that you do not already understand these things rather elucidating the entire picture for anyone else that might read this. You may, for all I know, be a microbiologist or professional in another field of related expertise) Species microbiology is structured much differently than the species differentiation rules for animals and plants. In animals and plants the most definitive factor in determining a new species is whether individuals from the two groups can mate and still produce fertile offspring. For example a Pit Bull and a German Shepherd can mate and produce a hybrid (Pit Shepherd or German Bull) that can still mate with other dogs to produce offspring. Thus Pit Bulls and German Shepherds are still the same species (I believe ‘Canis lupus familiaris’ is the latin name for 'domesticated dogs'.) Conversely a horse and a donkey can mate and produce a mule offspring; mules are biologically sterile (except for extremely rare cases). This constitutes two different species.

These rules do not apply in the case of microbiology. In addition to having asexual and sexual reproduction, microorganisms can share genes across species barriers at almost any point in a cells life cycle. (Can you imagine a grown person sharing genes with a fruit fly, just by close proximity for awhile, and then starting to grow wings a couple days later? That would be the animal equivalent. I just find that interesting.) This means that the lines between species are a little more difficult to draw. As a result there are several ways microbiologists decide phylogeny (where an organism goes on the tree of evolution.) This is where the problem of AFA toxicity starts.

In my opinion the best way to draw species lines in micro-organisms is with the percentage of genome shared. If we said that anything that shares 99.5% of its genetic code with another organism is in the same species as that organism, then we would have a completely objective way of placing every currently known life form. This works great for the purposes of phylogeny and developing a time line for evolution, divergence, and relation. But this works poorly for several reasons.

First, half of a percent of genetic code is actually a lot of information. You have probably heard the distance between humans and chimpanzees is less than that. So this rule would state humans and chimps are the same species. The obvious answer would be to make the rule more stringent, say 99.99%. This may or may not solve that problem. Truthfully, I don’t know right now and will have to research it. I suspect that if you were to make the rule too stringent you might accidentally make certain races and groups (such as aborigines; who have had minimal gene flow over the past ten thousand years) into new species. I think that might cause some human rights groups to be angry with you. I don’t know why though, it’s not like the people you reclassified are humans anymore anyway. That’s just a joke people; please do not take it seriously. (I apologize for my lack of brevity. I enjoy my tangents.)

Second is that because of the way RNA and DNA are transcribed into proteins even slight changes in genetic code (genotype) can result in drastic changes in the observed physical traits (phenotype). For example, the human genome is composed of 3 billion base pairs (haploid DNA). If a single base pair is changed from adenine to thymine in sequencing a single human gene (beta-globin), the change results in sickle cell disease. That’s a genotype change of 0.00000003% but a huge phenotype change.

For these reasons microbiologists sometimes classify species using phenotype characteristics rather than genotype similarities alone. A small change in the genetic code can make the difference between a toxic and non-toxic species. (Is this starting to sound relevant yet?) However, since there are estimated to be over a billion species of bacteria it takes a while for microbiologists to sort them out.

So, to recap: AFA is a species of cyanobacteria found worldwide (on every continent I believe). Some types have been proven to produce endotoxins, harmful to the human liver and brain tissue once the bacteria lyses. On the other hand some types have been proven to be safe for human consumption even in large quantities and over extended periods of time. Both of these types are currently under the same species name Aphanizomenon flos-aquae. Although I have not seen evidence that the toxic and non-toxic algae share the vast majority of their genetic code, I have not seen evidence to make me suspect otherwise either (besides the production of toxins of course.) Once their genomes are determined we will know if the two groups share 99.5% of their genetic code or more. If they don’t they will be separated into separate species. If they do, they will likely still be placed into different species groupings because of their phenotypic differences.

It would make no sense to continue to keep them under the same species identification unless either the production of endotoxins played no significant role in the species biology or toxin production was the result of the environment where the organism grew and not the genetic code.

There has been speculation that all AFA is toxic and that the health supplement industry has concealed this in order to continue selling AFA as a health product. I find this extremely difficult to believe since thousands of people have not perished from the liver failure that would follow the routine consumption of the toxic type of algae. If the marketed, health supplement, type of algae is toxic then it must be treated in some way to remove the toxins or have so little negative effect that out of hundreds of thousands of consumers there has been only one reported death (and I believe in that case the company admitted liability because the product was tainted.)

On the other hand there have been documented cases of toxic AFA that grows in Canada, China, and Germany. These types contain hepatic and neuro endotoxins; which damage tissue irreversibly even in small doses. The public (and any other vertebrates) are advised not to swallow large amounts of the water in these lakes and rivers. Claims that you can’t even make contact with these waters, however, seem spurious since the chemical is an endotoxin and requires that the algae cells lyse before becoming harmful. Maybe there is some other factor here that I am unaware of though.

I have studied Aphanizomenon flos-aquae extensively and value any criticisms and questions that you may offer. Post them and I will try to view the page regularly with answers or discussion as the situation might warrant. Please keep in mind that I am only here to continue seeking and spreading factual information and that the pedaling of products or the bashing of companies is meaningless when the validity of such statements is in question. It is in everyone’s best interest that the truth is widely available to the public and that inaccurate information is not propagated. —Preceding unsigned comment added by JBurkhardt10 (talkcontribs) 20:54, 24 November 2008 (UTC)

Thank you for this thorough response, I look forward to the changes in the article! Greenman (talk) 17:55, 25 November 2008 (UTC)

Article Improvements[edit]

I am also preparing a paragraph for the main article that will address this controversy. If anyone would like to contribute they can leave a note on my talk page (User talk:JBurkhardt10) and we can start a discussion. (Only experienced medical and scientific information will be included in the article but everyone's input is valued.) —Preceding undated comment was added at 00:54, 25 November 2008 (UTC).

Questionable assertions[edit]

There are very many questionable assertions and self-promotion in the article on the health benefits of AFA supplements which all reference companies selling these products. The questionable assertions which I am removing are:

  1. "However, non-toxic forms of AFA are often used as a health supplement for nutritional deficiencies or to increase alertness and memory." (Reference is [1], a company not surprisingly based in Klamath Lake, Oregon, that is in the business of distributing the supplements)
  2. "Recent research shows that non-toxic AFA boosts the amount of Adult stem cells circulating in the blood stream". (Reference is [2], which despite the name "free library" in the article's URL is a self-promotion of [3].)
  3. "These supplements come entirely from Klamath Lake in Southern Oregon." (another self-promotion)

Serouj (talk) 04:05, 15 January 2009 (UTC)

"Whole Food Effect"? I removed an entire section called "AFA and the Whole Food Effect." It was entire self-promoting garbage. The text deleted is:
AFA is a source of chlorophyll and magnesium, Omega 3 and 6 fatty acids, vitamins A, B, C, E, and K, and essential amino acids. [temp1 1] This well rounded nutrition is caused by the “Whole Food Effect”—not to be confused with the whole foods found in local farmers’ markets composed of “unpolished” grains, fruits, and vegetables. The Whole Food Effect results from consuming an entire organism; like eating a complete wheat plant rather than just eating the seeds. This drastically increases the overall nutrients obtained from the plant by including the stock, roots, and wheat germ (a portion discarded during traditional wheat milling that is now used as a supplement for zinc, vitamins, and folic acid). The health benefits from consuming whole organisms are innumerable and invaluable to the human body. AFA dietary supplements are composed of thousands of complete AFA colonies. As a result AFA exhibits the Whole Food Effect. [temp1 2]
I also removed the entire section titled "Non-toxic AFA." This section was either entirely sourced by commercial companies selling the product, or had references from non-commercial companies but they referenced facts that were tangential and trivial as opposed to addressing the contentious statements.Serouj (talk) 06:45, 15 January 2009 (UTC)


  1. ^ McKeith, Gillian Ph.D. Miracle Superfood: Wild Blue-Green Algae Keats Puplishing 1999, pp. 14-41
  2. ^ Elkins, Rita: Blue-Green Algae Woodland Publishing 1995 pp. 7-23

Right Now Looks Biased[edit]

This is for the "comments" page. Hope I put in right place...

Presenting the truth in an unbiased manner is exactly what should be done. However, if you do a search for Aphanizomenon flos aquae and open the link to Wikipedia's the immediate response is likely to needless alarm to consumers -- or to the mother or friend of a consumer! I really don't think you want to spread panic, I believe you when you say you want to present facts. I believe you will not slander a poor bacteria/plant/animal speciman that can't defend itself. So, I have decided to give you some suggestions in how to present the facts fairly. That said "the whole truth and nothing but the truth" is extremely important.

To counter the undue harm that various propaganda and misinformation has caused the for nutritious edible algae, be sure to begin with a balanced scale. Both sides must be equal; however, in this case in light of the hysteria that exists it takes a little more weight to tip a downward scale up so that it is back in balance with the opposite side of the scale. A good way to go about this is by telling the whole truth. Explain that all harvesting and production of UKL AFA is inspected by the Oregon Department of Agriculture and by the FDA for food handling, safety, storage and food facility guidelines. That toxicity and viability testing by the harvesters/producers is done in house then further testing is done separately by in independent labs by scientists at Woods Hole Institute and Wright State University for ensuring State of Oregon guidelines for safety and quality are met and these results are turned over to the State of Oregon..

The responsible and truthful thing to do is very conspicuously at the beginning of the post explain that this species has been a source of confusion and panic for many because both edible strains that have long been harvested as food and used as dietary supplements happen to share the same name as a non-edible variety know to contain toxins. This should be the first thing stated. It is so important and get the truth out there in black and white. Following that statement explain that the naive spreading about of misinformation has resulted in an epidemic scale of propaganda being circulated widely in consumer targeted articles, books and on the internet where it has taken on a life of its own.

When talking about the edibile AFA and the non-edible AFA call it just that and explain that the non-edible variety is non-edible because it is toxic. This is much better and less sensationalistic. Either it's edible or it isn't . Either it's good or it's bad. And it is not both. They are two different things that just somehow ended up with the same name for lack of a better one at naming time. It's like saying your friend Fred the Irishman and your friend Fred the Indian are both one and the same because they both are named Fred. Fred the Irishman is not Fred the Indian and vice versa. Neither is Fred the Irishman Indian nor the Indian Irish. Both both Fred's may even be nicknamed Red because of their coloring may appear somewhat reddish. But even that is different, their reddish coloring is not the same color red at all. And we could go on and on. That is the issue. If you were giving the facts about mushrooms would you slant the information so that people began to think they may all be poisonous because some were? Of course not. Some are some aren't. We buy edible ones at the grocery store. We don't pick out own. In most cases, because people know that picking wild mushrooms from the backyard is just not a good thing to do, besides there are edible mushrooms and non-edible mushrooms that look very similar and may be growing near one another.

Mentioning some of the double bind research is also important because this is information that has emerged within the past ten years and is continuing to emerge. The fact is, this isn't a well known fact. And Wikipedia is supposed to be about the facts. So, you may wish to contact USF, University of Illinois, McGill (Royal Victoria Hospital, Harvard, Los Almos, UCLA, etc. You may consider contacting "that company" as they probably could put you right on it. Perhaps you should talk with the headquarters and not the independent distributors. Anyway, if there is double bind research available to you detailing what's been discovered, it is worth your while to look into it so you can tell the truth.

I've read research about the effects on the immune system, effects on killer cells, cholesterol, indications of neurological improvement and a lot more. I would like to point out that reputable university research institutions and teaching hospitals are using the UKL Algae for their studies that doesn't mean it is a promotion. It just means it's a study. How do you test UKL AFA if you don't test UKL AFA? Especially if UKL AFA is what all the hype is about. You don't test spirullina to find out about AFA. Nope, didn't think so.

Another thing you should really think about is, if a certain company has what seems to be far fetched claims, shouldn't that product be subjected to indisputable double-blind scientific research by world class scientist in order to prove or disprove the claims? And if different studies are conducted at not just one but a handful of some of the best research institutions and/or teaching hospitals don't you think you should take a look into this since these are independent studies of the highest scientific method? What could be self promoting about that?

If you focus on facts of why AFA UKL is good and good for you and that some varities are non-edible because of toxins and why and differentiate between the two --- not by guessing but by actually seeing what is being tested and how it's tested as well as the independent testing and talking with those people. Getting DOA and FDA reports. Then perhaps you'll have a better picture of the facts and whether or not it's likely that "that company" is going to have toxins in their UKL AFA.

If you will get the facts, It might turn out that you discover that nutrition plays a much bigger role in health and preventing and fighting what ails us than you ever thought. It's all in the balance. And it may be that you find something really amazing to share about something so few people know about. But, please do be sure to tell people not to scoop their own blue-green algae or their AFA, but to be safe and buy it from a trusted source that meets DOA, FDA, organic and kosher guidelines and certifications for food safety and purity.Ldrubin (talk) 09:06, 4 February 2009 (UTC)

I believe the previous condition of the article indicates that Klamath blue-green "algae" is checked for edibility and sold as a food supplement. If you have a good reference regarding checking of this product for the characteristic toxin this cyanobacteria makes, please provide. Last I looked, no regulatory body, including the FDA, was bothering to do this assay. The Oregon industry has been left to "self-regulate", which means that so far there have not been any problems, but if there ever are, a lot of new regulations will be written.
It isn't that the Klamath river is not capable of producing toxic blue green algae: even AFA will produce toxins, and the Cell Tech product was seized by the FDA in 1983 for containing toxins. Since then, Cell Tech, the big multilevel promoter of Klamath AFA, has tested its samples more carefully. But no testing would be necessary if the danger didn't exist:
I'm very tired of Cell Tech boosters who think I should be influenced by articles which call AFA a "miracle superfood." AFA actually contains much the same nutrients as spirulina (which shouldn't be surprising) with mildly higher levels of something, and mildly lower levels of others. Spirulina isn't a superfood, either-- it's just a food (a very expensive one). There's nothing in spirulina or the cyanobacterium AFA that you can't easily get from many, many other foods (yes, it's permissible to eat other foods together at the same meal, as in a salad), and for a lot less money. And why trust Cell Tech to protect you from a danger you don't need to expose yourself to, and pay a lot of money to do it? SBHarris 20:21, 17 October 2009 (UTC)


Should these pages be merged? Seems right, but I don't know about the topic. —innotata (TalkContribs) 18:45, 5 February 2010 (UTC)

Possibly.. This article is more about Aphanizomenon flos-aquae as a food supplement, whereas the other article is just about the substance in general. -MacJunky(Talk) 00:41, 6 February 2010 (GMT)

It is my understanding that the company you mention has never been shown to be toxic. So I don't understand your reasoning/comments to the contrary. The company in question has equipment that can detect "undetectible" mycrocystin -- this is how the State of Oregon knows it is there because the company told them it is there. No testing is done on drinking water but the company has tested and there is less in their product that in our drinking water supply. There is more mycrocystin in drinking water than in the AFA. However, referencing that the product was seized does not give the reader the entire story buy it does creat a bias. Let me explain, there was a death and the sensationalism from all the panic on the internet caused a lawsuit to be filed and testing of product and everything that could be found that could be in relation the sudden death. Anytime something like that happens product, if accused, is siezed. If you go to a restaurant and get sick you can call the heath department and they will go and seize food/do an inspection of the premises. Until the results are in, you cannot legally or truthfully claim that the restaurant was serving bad food that was making people sick without proof that they were responsible. It cold be that the person had the flu... or perhaps used the restroom and filed to wash her hands... With that in mind, you should have finished the story and given the full truth. The judge threw out the case because there were found to be no grounds for the claims being made. So let me remind you, it is your responsibility not to spread hysteria or harm the name of a legitimate business. You can't slander people or businesses just because you don't understand certain things. It's been over a year since I handed a wealth of information to you for research purposes and you still haven't contacted any of the independent universities, researchers, hospitals, etc., doing or that have done the double bind studies. This leads me to believe you have something to hide. You are not representing one of the companies that have been sued for slander are you? Or maybe you represent the drug industry and it's cutting into your profit because people feeling good and not needed useless perscriptions is killing demand? I believe there are some forms of toxic algae present during certain times of the year or under certain conditions in UKL. I also believe some companies harvesting on the lake are suspect as far as providing a safe product free of these toxins because they continue to harvest when they shouldn't or don't properly screen or don't safely handle their product. However, I also know that at least one company diligently screens and ensures the safety and the integrity the certified organic and certified kosher labels as well as the blessing of the Orgegon Dept. of Argiculture due to inspections and sscreening/testing as well as being applauded by the FDA due to the quality and cleanliness found pertaining to the products through inspections/screenings/testings and have been held up as a quote "model of what can be accomplished" regarding the highest level of food safety. So, let me repeat in case you missed it the first time, AFA by that company has never been found to be toxic -- and the inspections include surprise visits. Please contact: Dr. Paula Bickford, et. al, (She's merely a world-renowed neurologist and scientest) with the University of South Florida for information concerning research concerning AFT and the neurological implications discovered regarding stem cells... That is if you are serious about the truth. —Preceding unsigned comment added by Ldrubin (talkcontribs) 00:47, 26 March 2010 (UTC)

Delete the AFA dietary supplement article![edit]

I think there shouldn't be much to merge, if you reduce the dietary supplement article to an evident core and let out all the advertizement and babble around the facts.

Even if AFA contains certain useful substances, do people really need them in a food supplement, or are they already contained in average food? Of course, sellers of food supplements claim that people are underfed with certain substances, but in fact, few people actually need food supplements.

For example, what is the entire, long nutrients section good for? Even if it is true, the small amount of nutrients consumed with AFA bacteria pills is little compared to the consumption of average foods.

Even worse is the health section, which actually supports quackery, which occurs whenever AFA bacteria are sold with health claims. It has only singled out effects certain substances can have, sometimes in-vitro, but if you want evidence on health effects, there should be a specific kind of illness and an evidence that the medicine helps at least a fraction of the patients. If such evidence is there, a product should be easily rated as a drug. And, of course, many of the mentioned substances also occur in many other foods, in much greater quantities. So consider the "Evidence on health effects" section to not contain any such evidence! — Preceding unsigned comment added by BBirke (talkcontribs) 06:19, 5 April 2011 (UTC)

lack of citations and NPOV[edit]

I'm inclined to mark this article NPOV for it's numerous marketing-language paragraphs. Just because it is marketing material doesn't mean it needs to be deleted however, and I dont know enough and have enough references to replace the sections that I find disturbing. I did mark the article for citations however, as there are analytic claims made without inline references, and the whole article could use a deep scrubbing and objectification. That said Id really mind the article as is, marketing claims wrapped around a species article and all. I tried adding ref? tags and just skipping the marketing language but finding that impossible, I'm going to try to write out the marketing language and flag claims I can't neutralize, and then come back and flag for refs. --— robbie page talk 17:23, 24 July 2011 (UTC)

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