an ingredient used by the Mexicans and sent into space by NASA

Spirulina was an excellent food for Mexicans and now astronauts (Photo: Getty)

Spirulina was an excellent food for Mexicans and now astronauts (Photo: Getty)

spirulina These are microscopic algae that, since the time Aztec Empirewhen he was called Tecuitlatlit was used to enhance the diet of residents Mexican. It is now considered a superfood due to the amount of nutrients it contains and the fact that scientists from POT They value it as a potential product that can be grown on other planets.

Tecuitlatl, It means “rock excrement” and although it sounds like something that would be thrown away, residents Mexico Pre-Columbian people valued it and ate it with pleasure because they knew it was a protein-rich food that helped them endure long journeys or days of work.

The Mexicans dried these microalgae and added them in powder form to corn, grains, mole or chili peppers – a custom that was lost after the Spanish arrived and drained the lake. Texcoco in the center of the new country to build the current one Mexico City.

But the superfood was emerging from obscurity in Mexico and returned to its place of honor after a Mexican company Sosa Texcoco S.A., dedicated to extraction sodium carbonate alkaline waters, you will notice the presence of blue-green microalgae on the surface of the lake that bears your name.

This discovery was perceived by the company as a thorn in the side of its traditional production, and its representatives decided to consult the situation with French Petroleum Institute who advised Sosa Texcoco.

Finally, after many analyses, the experts of the French institution informed the Mexican company that this seaweed is valuable because it is an ancient food that was also discovered a few years ago in Africa Belgian botanist researcher Jean Leonard during his participation in the trans-Saharan expedition, in which he analyzed with particular care the diet of the ethnic group that settled near Lake Chad.

Before Leonard, in 1940, a report by a French psychologist Pierre Danger in which he talked about a cake called “dihe” that was eaten by an African tribe. Kanembuethnic group considered to be descendants Kanem-Bornu Empire that reigned around Lake Chad, where rich microalgae grow.

The researchers found it very interesting that the Kanembu looked healthier than other ethnic groups, and they noticed that these people ate cakes made from a puree of sun-hardened blue-green algae that they took from the lake.

It was spirulina, turned into flat cakes, that received the name say.

However, it was only after the “rediscovery” of a Belgian botanist that spirulina resurfaced, and the Mexican company, which had previously considered the appearance of algae as an obstacle, now saw the discovery as an opportunity to expand its business.

Today there are several laboratories in the world engaged in the reproduction of this algae, which can grow in fresh or salt water. In some parts of Africa it is still sold as a cake, while modern industrial versions come in tablet or powder form.

Spirulina is one of the trendy nutritional supplements right now and its popularity continues to grow.

Blue-green superfood

But what’s so great about spirulina? The breakdown of its components results in such an impressive array of proteins, vitamins and minerals that people suffering from diseases and receiving pharmacological treatment should consume it in moderation.

FDA discovered ArthrospiraAs spirulina is scientifically called, it is among the foods “generally recognized as safe” for human consumption.

In any case, spirulina has not stopped being considered a superfood since the modern world turned its microscopes on it.

In some parts of Africa, spirulina is still sold in the form of dikhe (Photo: Getty)In some parts of Africa, spirulina is still sold in the form of dikhe (Photo: Getty)

In some parts of Africa, spirulina is still sold in the form of dikhe (Photo: Getty)

Moreover, given that its production requires less water and resources than other protein sources, and that it can use land that is not suitable for the development of traditional agriculture, spirulina is valued in all its nutritional and economic breadth not only for those on Earth, but also for those who are in a spacecraft or intend to spend time studying other stars.

UNESCO data shows that 15 grams of spirulina contains as much protein as 100 grams of beef, but that’s only a fraction of what it offers.

100 grams of spirulina contain 57.5 grams of protein, 7.7 grams of lipids, 120 milligrams of calcium, 28.5 milligrams of iron, 195 milligrams of magnesium, 118 milligrams of phosphorus, 1,360 milligrams of potassium and 1,050 milligrams of sodium.

In addition, among other valuable components, it contains significant amounts of vitamins C, B6, A, K, D, riboflavin, niacin and pantothenic acid.

Ideal for astronauts

After spending months in space, astronauts’ bodies begin to suffer damage, and scientists have been studying formulas for years to reduce the negative effects these journeys can have, as well as find better ways to feed these crews.

Both NASA and European Space Agency (WHAT) analyzed the properties of spirulina and adapted it to the diet of astronauts.

This is food that can grow inside a spaceship (Photo: Getty)This is food that can grow inside a spaceship (Photo: Getty)

This is food that can grow inside a spaceship (Photo: Getty)

For example, spirulina gnocchi was developed by French companies for ESA and potential space explorers.

Thus, tests of spirulina confirmed to scientists that it is an excellent nutritional supplement for astronauts, who often suffer from microgravity And oxidative stressamong other problems that cause problems with the brain, bones, circulation and more.

“Microgravity and radiation affect several molecular systems and mechanisms, such as repair, replication, transcription, and protein expression,” notes a scientific analysis published in 2022 entitled “Wide Range of Applications of Spirulina: From Earth to Space Missions.”

According to this analysis, spirulina “is able to activate cellular antioxidant enzymes and inhibit lipid peroxidation and cell damage.” DNAthereby eliminating free radicals and increased enzyme activity.”

In addition, microalgae have “immunomodulatory and anti-inflammatory properties,” qualities that are particularly beneficial to astronauts, as it has been confirmed that the space environment can influence immune responses and that those who travel off-Earth experience a deterioration of the immune system during their missions.

“NASA has discovered that the ecosystem inside a spacecraft plays an important role in the daily lives of astronauts in space. microbes “They can change their characteristics in space, and microorganisms that naturally live in the human body are more easily transmitted from person to person in closed habitats,” the US space agency article explains.

Under these conditions, NASA explains, levels stress hormone And the immune system changed.

Spirulina is included in the Alternative Microecological Life Support System project (Melissa), which produces water, oxygen, food and nutritional supplements and works by processing metabolic waste from the space station crew, including CO2 exhaled in the cabin.

ESA research analyzes how spirulina reacts to spaceflight conditions and whether it produces the same quantity and quality of oxygen in space as on Earth.

“These microalgae, also known as spirulina, could be used to remove carbon dioxide exhaled by astronauts, which can become toxic in an enclosed spacecraft, and to produce oxygen and fresh food as part of life support systems on future missions,” NASA says.

In addition, this peculiar food has been proven to have radioprotective properties that will help space travelers protect themselves from cosmic radiation.

About 35 years ago, NASA began conducting experiments in space using spirulina as a food source for astronauts, becoming the first space agency to do so.


Quality soil, remote sensing and land cover: the future of sustainable agriculture

Sources: NASA, ESA, CNN, USDA, NIH, UNESCO, Researchgate.

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