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Phytoplankton – Super Food Of The Future

The oceans of the earth contain the largest concentration of life on this planet and life on earth revolves around the oceans. The greatest numbers of organisms on the oceans are tiny forms of animal and plant life collectively known as the “plankton', which is a Greek word for “wanderer” or “drifter, as they drift in the water. All plankton are inert floaters and do not actively swim in the water, however, they are the most numerous organisms in the oceans - and clearly the most important as well. In fact, the marine phytoplankton (phyto=plant) release vital oxygen into the atmosphere and inhabit the pivotal base of the ecosystem. These minute organisms can be considered to be the basis of all ecosystems and one of the most vital organisms when the Earth is taken as one planetary biological arena. The billions of phytoplankton in the oceans form the very basis of life on this world, a vital link in the chain of life as many processes in the environment are affected by their life cycles. The billions of tiny organism in the oceans play an important role in the carbon cycle of the oceans and are food sources forming the very bottom of the food chain of planet earth. Huge volumes of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere are absorbed and utilized by the phytoplankton in the oceans with the resultant release of oxygen into the atmosphere - oxygen is the very basis of all animal life. Thus the phytoplankton in the oceans is necessary for all life in the world.

Phytoplankton in the oceans can be seen as microscopic powerhouse plants that produce concentrated raw materials and release them into the food chain; they also release and store essential minerals as well as varied nutritional compounds that are necessary to the maintenance of cellular health in a biological system.

Cells and life

The cellular arena is the foundation of all life on the planet, and every function of the biological body is dependant on the biochemical mechanisms operant in the cells. Indeed, all the crucial tasks and the metabolic actions of a body take place in the cells forming the organism.

Cells are autonomous systems that absorb nutrients and convert them into something else; they are also responsible for the disposal of the various toxins produced as a result of chemical reactions. All the metabolic energy required for every mental and physical function of an organism is produced in the cell. The vital functioning of an organism is based on the communication existing in between cells, which are constantly transmitting and receiving signals from one another, thus uniting the entire organism as a whole. The cellular arena is also responsible for numerous other functions that make up a living system - storage, protection, sensory activities, etc. This is why cellular health always translates into general health in the entire body.

The importance of plankton

When taken as a community of organisms, the plankton which consists of floating microscopic animals and plants which are freely suspended in fresh and oceanic waters is the most important one. The very definition of plankton is a group of organisms that freely float or drift in great numbers, at or near the surface of the oceans and other water bodies. All plankton are by definition minuscule in size and include organism such as algae and many species of protozoans. Nevertheless, all of these organisms play a very vital role in the biological community and affect the environment of the earth itself. Indeed, the absence of plankton would be catastrophic for life on earth and life itself may not be possible without these microscopic organisms, life in the oceans would not be possible in their absence - as a consequence, life on earth would also be severely limited. The term “phytoplankton” is especially applicable to the microscopic sea plants, which are grouped as a distinct community separate from the animal component of plankton - called zooplankton. In fundamental terms, the phytoplankton can be considered the grasses that grow on the seas and oceans of the world. The grazing food chain in the oceans thus begins with these tiny plants, which are consume by the zooplankton, which themselves are consumed by other animals higher in the trophic food chain.

Like all other plants on planet earth, all the phytoplankton's manufacture their own food using sunlight and carbon dioxide, and water - releasing oxygen as a byproduct. Therefore, all the phytoplankton of the world are photosynthetic that synthesize their own edible organic substances (photo is light, synthesis is build). These minute life forms contain concentrated amounts of the vital food manufacturing green pigment known as chlorophyll - this pigment is the principal agent required for natural photosynthesis to take place. The production of organic end products is the goal of photosynthesis; during the process energy containing nutrients called carbohydrates are formed by the plant at the cellular level. The thousands of different species of fishes and other oceanic animals such as whales are dependant on the phytoplankton and zooplankton. Indeed, at the basic level, the plankton is the only nourishment for all marine life. The varied species of phytoplankton are what give fishes the healthy fatty acids called the omega-3 fats - such as the eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). Humans also benefit from the same omega-3 fatty acids, when they consume fishes in the diet. Human health is boosted by the omega-3 fats, and a diet rich in these fats is very beneficial. Clinical research has confirmed that a greater consumption of these beneficial fatty acids translates into a reduced risk for many forms of cardiovascular diseases, auto-immune disorders as well as behavioral disorders.

Plankton for human use

Human beings can benefit from the nutrients stored by these tiny plants according to results from recent studies - this may be one way in which the world huge human population can find more food to feed its growing population. Indeed, as a source of nutrients, these micro-plants are in the same league as the numerous other beneficial "super green" products that have been in stores for decades now. Phytoplankton may not be simply a fad food, however, as it is potentially valuable as an almost limitless resource for a hungry world.

Some common plant products including sea weeds like kelp, chlorella and spirulina have become quite popular to people wishing to maintain their youthful vigor and overall health in the long term. However, the nutritional quality of phytoplankton is not similar to the nutritional profile of these products.

As far as cellular nutrition and health are concerned, the quality and nature of the nutrients obtained from the food is the single most important factor. Cellular health is also affected by the environment surrounding all cells; this includes the real level of various toxins and external factors such as stress. The consumption of nutrient poor and highly processed food products over a long period of time tends to impact cellular health in a deleterious way. The health of cells is compromised by a poor diet.

At the same time and to add to the problems, the nutrient depleted soils and the poor agricultural practices in the modern age has made it so much more difficult for an individual to gain adequate nutritional benefits from foods. The nutrient levels in whole and unprocessed foods are also low nowadays and this has a telling impact on health. The entire human body tends to be affected when cells are malnourished or damaged - the depletion of any vital nutrient in the cell will immediately register on the functioning of the body as a whole.

Human nutrition and plankton

There are some positive things to say about the human body, it is very resilient. It is capable of healing itself and has a capacity to bounce back from a disease. The human body possesses an innate tendency to heal and regain its balance when all the necessary nutritional elements are found in the diet - therefore, diet and food play an important role in diseases and their treatment. The high nutritional value of plankton is being recognized and some very health - conscious individuals are already turning to marine phytoplankton supplements to boost cellular health. The biochemical metabolic functions of the human body are promoted by the unique blend of phytonutrients found in the phytoplanktons. The high nutritional value of phytoplankton is of a very high order, in fact, the entire range of essential trace minerals necessary to the human body are in proportion to what is found in human blood. Therefore, phytoplankton may well be the ideal or the super food of tomorrow.

When analyzed, phytoplanktons are found to contain nutrients which are a veritable combination of all the major trace minerals found in the oceans and seas. This trove of essential trace minerals is found along with many other essential cellular nutrients, such as the vital amino acids which make up all the proteins, phytoplanktons are also rich in their content of the omega-3 fatty acids, as well as being rich sources of many vital vitamins, different enzymes and small traces of other micronutrients - all of which are good for human health and nutrition.

The nutritional value of marine phytoplankton's and its beneficial effects on humans is continually being unveiled by food scientists continue in the laboratory. The promise of phytoplankton in nutrition is such that, clinical studies to study its effectiveness as a supplement in dealing with obesity and diabetes have been started in some laboratories around the world.
The functioning of the cellular membranes is supported and boosted by all the vital nutrients that are found in marine phytoplankton, these nutrients also aid metabolism at the cellular level. They are also important as agents bringing about detoxification in the cells. These nutrients also boost the production of energy at the cellular level according to the scientific evidence. As any improvement in the health at a cellular level translates into general health in the body, consuming this super food as a supplement may well be great addition in any nutritional program.

Phytoplankton is a very interesting choice as food choices go, especially when this fish food is to be adapted for the consumption of human beings. The view of most nutritionist is that the consumption of phytoplankton could be a nutritional bonanza, it may have great beneficial effects on cardiovascular health, and it may possibly be useful in dealing with problems such as chronic fatigue syndrome, in dealing with weight loss. The nutrients found in phytoplankton may also help in alleviating blood sugar disorders, and in reducing the impact of arthritis and some serious digestive disorders that are commonly associated with a poor diet. Though, unverified in scientific tests the testimonials associated with the use of phytoplankton supplements are amazing, there are even reports of complete recoveries from disorders that are almost believed to be beyond cure, following the long term use of these phytoplankton supplements.

Health related issues

The claims about the beneficial properties of phytoplankton supplements have not been supported by concrete clinical studies. However, the results from preliminary studies have been encouraging and suggest the existence of many useful compounds in the phytoplankton that can improve general health and lower the risks for certain diseases. Compounds there are potentially responsible for the beneficial effects include the various trace minerals, the plant pigment chlorophyll and the carotenoid compounds as well as other health boosting pigments that are still not identified. At the same time, compounds such as EPA and DHA omega-3 fats are also believed to be boost health. The benefits of phytoplankton's in general was confirmed from the results of an animal test in 2003, it was found that one unique strain of phytoplankton known as nannochloropsis could reduce elevated cholesterol levels in the blood and liver to a significant extent - thus, being of potential benefit to improving the functioning of the cardiovascular system and health in general. The study also conclusively demonstrated that the omega-3 fats in phytoplankton support the normal development of the fetal brain in baby rats during the late pregnancy and early lactation stages. This is another potentially important find and requires further investigation.

Plankton supplements

The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition recently published a review about the health protecting qualities and the benefits of consuming raw fresh fruit and vegetables, the paper linked these beneficial effects of the foods to the complex mixture of photochemical found in the food items - these compounds are also responsible for the variety of colors seen on the skin of fruits and vegetables. Chemists working in the laboratory have confirmed the presence of up wards of five thousand phytochemicals in plant foods - how many types exists unidentified and uncaptioned remains a mystery requiring painstaking study. At the same time, clinical researchers have confirmed convincingly in laboratory tests that many plant pigments and phytochemicals present in foods are capable of working synergistically as antioxidants to fight disease by scavenging free radicals, produced as a result of normal metabolic processes at the cellular level. In fact, many disease states and disorders affecting the human body are believed to be either caused by oxidation at the cellular level - this vital chemical reaction also results in the creation of free radicals - or due to excessive oxidation of metabolites leading to cellular damage. Oxidation describes a negative reaction caused by oxygen that causes the "rusting" of cells, tissues, and organs. These free radicals are very reactive molecules that disrupt cellular machinery and induce disease states by damaging cells. Compounds called antioxidants found mainly in plant based foods can slow down these free wheeling oxidative agents by scavenging the free radicals - neutralizing them chemically. The action of these anti-oxidants prevents any cellular damage and as a result prevents a disease state from affecting the particular cell in question. Large amounts of antioxidant pigments and nutrients are found in the phytoplanktons - this alone is sufficient to encourage their supplemental use in treating disease states. Phytoplankton based antioxidants include the plant pigment compounds known as carotenoids including astaxanthin, as well as the compounds called canthaxanthin, and zeaxanthin - these are also found in some other higher plants. The class of useful plant pigments called carotenoids work like a family to prevent the onset of diseases. The only way to obtain sufficient amounts of these beneficial carotenoids is from food sources - this is because of the sensitive balance of chemicals forming the carotenoid class of compounds.

Plankton and nutrition

Food items sourced in their natural state, such as the phytoplankton, contain the full range of nutritional compounds compared to processed food products. The range of nutrients include all the essential vitamins, the important major minerals and the trace minerals, organic compounds like proteins, as well as special compounds like the free radical scavenging antioxidants such as the carotenoids and the omega-3 fatty acids so useful in combating some disease states. The main benefit of whole and raw foods is that the nutrients present in whole foods work synergistically to improve overall health and help maintain the body. The combined effect of the multitude of nutrients found in plant foods is pointed out as being the reason for the health benefits associated with them, according to most nutritionist, the synergistic working of these varied nutrients results in a net positive effect on the body as they balance each other out - the result, is good health for the person consuming such foods. The hopeful term a natural "insurance policy" may be applied to diets that contain a lot of such wholesome plant based foods. Phytoplankton is a whole nutritional package by itself, filled with all the essential nutrients that can ever be required in the human body. Supplements of phytoplankton are therefore called for to support the daily meals as an extra source of much needed nutrients. Phytoplankton can also be seen as the ideal green food, an alkaline food item that is extremely rich in essential minerals which are organically bound inside the structure making up the plankton. Vital minerals such as calcium, magnesium, potassium and manganese are all found in high amounts in the organic form in phytoplankton and are thus readily absorbed into the body. Therefore, the phytoplanktons are complete nutritional foods in themselves.

A note on general nutrition

The majority of practitioners of natural health therapy are of the view that most disease tend to develop in a body that is overly acidic - these diseases range from different heart disorders and many types of digestive disorders to severe illnesses such as cancer. The human body naturally produces acids as a result of exercise, factors like metabolic stress, physical or mental trauma or the consumption of large amounts of alcohol, meats, sugar, dairy products and all kinds of processed foods - which are all believed to be acid forming. The human body normally has a self regulating system that enables it to maintain a healthy pH level internally. This self regulating mechanism may sometimes go out of whack and create problems - this will endanger the person as it makes the body susceptible to the onset of diseases by depressing the immune system. This loss of regulatory control and consequent acidic problem can luckily be solved, by the simple expedient of consuming large amounts of alkaline forming foods. The intake of alkaline rich foods is said to lower the harmful levels of acids in the body, thereby preventing the onset of diseases and syndromes. This treatment strategy can be explained on the basis of an alkaline-acidity theory, and the alkaline foods are mostly plants - therefore to protect the body from acidity and consequent risk of disease, the belief is that one must consume a lot of plant based foods.

Clinical studies have been conducted to confirm this particular line of nutritional reasoning. In the course of these studies, it was found that slightly lowering the blood pH levels translated into greater acidity in the body might make the body susceptible to the loss of minerals from the bones over a period of time - a factor leading to osteoporosis and its attendant symptoms. Consuming alkaline rich plant foods is a solution for this problem as with an increase in the intake of alkaline foods in the diet, potassium rich green plants in particular seem to gradually normalize the lowered blood pH levels and this translated into a reduced risk of osteoporosis due to bone mineral loss. The clear message then is that a lot of plant foods must be consumed as a part of the daily diet to ensure optimal protection against disease as well as to offset disorders already present in the body. Supplements of whole green super food like the phytoplankton, which can be said to be the "king of greens" due to its high alkalinity, its high content of bio-available trace minerals and natural nutrients, may be the best way to support the average diet and ensure health.

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