Also known as cyanobacteria, blue-green algae from ponds, lakes and seas around the world produces toxins including beta-methylamino-L-alanine (BMAA). Research in Sweden is indicating a link between green algae and neurodegeneration in diseases such as Altzheimers, Parkinsons, Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis and others.

Based on work he concluded eight years ago, this association was suggested to the Swedes by Dr. Paul Alan Cox, a world famous American ethnobotanist who became the first King Carl XVI Gustaf Professor of Environmental Science at the Swedish Agricultural University and the University of Uppsala.

Led by Sara Jonasson and Birgitta Bergman, researchers from Stockholm University have dredged the Baltic for samples of algae, fish, and mollusks, and have now begun the substantial challenge testing these for BMAA. According to evidence from a preliminary study that they published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), BMAA produced by cyanobacteria in the Baltic Sea may be “bioaccumulating” in the plankton, fish and mussels, and later down the food chain, exposing humans to the neurotoxin.

Authors of the PNAA study found BMAA levels 200 times higher in fish from the Baltic Sea than in the ambient green algae itself. Furthermore, the toxin was concentrated 82 times higher in brain tissue than muscle. Zooplankton, which feed on cyanobacteria, registered six times higher concentrations. High levels were found in fresh commercial seafood sold in markets, including herring, whitefish, mussels and oysters.

According to a July newspaper report in the Svenska Dagbladet, the Stockholm research team is struggling to obtain grants and equipment to complete comprehensive analyses. They are combining high pressure liquid chromatography (HPLC) with tandem mass spectrometry to detect BMAA. Extended resources will enable inclusion of human samples in later studies when they hope to resolve issues posed by scientific skeptics.

Sources: www.als.ca, www.researchals.org, www.ethnomedicine.org