Your Facebook questions answered: What are the benefits of phytoplankton?

“I’m wondering what your thoughts are regarding the benefits of phytoplankton. Specifically Karen Phytoplankton (the FB page is Phytoplankton Biotech). It has come on the market here recently with some amazing testimonials, especially concerning use for digestive problems, skin problems and fibromyalgia. Thanks in advance, Rosie!” asks Enlightened Eater Facebook fan Jennifer Burnham.

Jennifer, phytoplankton, from the Greek words phyto (plant) and plankton (made to wander or drift), are microscopic organisms that live in watery environments, both salty and fresh. All phytoplankton can be classified as algae. But while most varieties of phytoplankton may offer benefit, not all algae is beneficial. Both phytoplankton and other varieties of algae can yield toxic blooms – not desirable in any way.

This particular product, Karen Phytoplankton, though, is produced through aquaculture so the conditions are controlled and have no toxic consequences.

Phytoplankton is actually the bottom of the food chain for marine life. Small fish eat it and then they’re eaten by larger fish and so on. Phytoplankton are indeed a rich source of nutrients and for vegetarians, they’re the one way to consume the type of omega-3s found in marine sources. Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), one omega-3 fat, is especially important for pregnant women and the developing fetus.

But – and this is a big but – the amount of omega-3s contained in these particular products is minute (with no DHA listed). According to the product’s website, 100 grams of this phytoplankton contains 19 grams of fat and of this, 43 % or 8.17 grams are eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), another type of omega-3 fat.

Sounds like a reasonable amount, doesn’t it? When you do the math, though, it is anything but.

Well, consider that a 30 day supply of Karen Phytoplankton contains 15 grams of phytoplankton or a measly 1.2 grams of EPA. That’s a 30-day supply which costs $60. That means that the daily dose is only 40 milligrams of EPA. (Compare this to 3 ounces of cooked  salmon with its 1500 millgrams of omega-3s.) But there are certainly other vegan supplements containing significantly more DHA and EPA, some with ten times the amount of DHA at the same price.

I don’t get it.

There are other nutrients as well including an assortment of antioxidants, but again, how much are you getting in your daily dose of just half a gram? Consider an ounce is equal to 28 grams or 56 times the daily dose.

Even without doing the math, the website and testimonials raise red flags right off the bat. The About page on the website states, “The majority of people who eat Phytoplankton report life changing feelings of wellbeing in a short period time, ranging from the same day to three weeks. Most of the people who eat our Phytoplankton claim this food becomes their staple and their base source of nutrition. Not only do most people who eat our Phytoplankton enjoy eating it as a daily ritual, they also are more than happy to share and tell all their friends and acquaintances about how it makes them feel in a positive way. This to us is the biggest measuring stick on any product.”

Changed feelings of wellbeing on the same day as taking the supplement? Placebo effect, anyone?
The testimonials talk about it being a cure for insomnia, a treatment to improve concentration and everything from acid reflux and Candida.

Andrew from New Brunswick writes, “We still go out for wing night, we still have pizza. In the past, those things would definitely would have caused a problem. Last night we had a donair and a chicken alfredo pizza from Papa Johns and no issues at all. … I would definitely recommend this as an alternative to pharmaceuticals with a similar issue as me. It has really made a difference in my quality of life.”

This product, in my opinion, definitely fits into the Give Me a Break category.

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Have you tried any of these supplements. Please share your thoughts and experiences in the comment section below.

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Categories: Rosie's Rants, Your Questions Answered

Author:Rosie Schwartz

Rosie Schwartz is a Toronto-based consulting dietitian and writer.

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24 Comments on “Your Facebook questions answered: What are the benefits of phytoplankton?”

  1. October 4, 2015 at 12:46 pm #

    Dear Ms. Schwartz, I am very new to using this Phytoplanton and now on my second months supply. I have been taking medication for acid reflux for 8 years and watching what I eat. The first week of taking this Phytoplanton, I noticed that i did not feel sick upon waking in the morning. I also noticed that my stomach did not start to expand and bloat out after every meal. Being a skeptic and not use to taking any “pills” that were not perscribed by a Doctor, I was a little surprised. Then I ran out and did not re-purchase the phytoplanton for a week. During that time my stomach pains came back, the sever bloating came back and I was in misery. I got some more pills this week and I will take them for another month and then stop again to see what happens. It is really nice for me to be able to look down and see my feet instead of a swollen stomach. I’m not advocating this medication nor putting it down. I am just telling you what I have observed and my experience with it.

    • October 4, 2015 at 2:57 pm #

      That’s great to hear, Jean. I’m happy that you have had a positive experience. While the product may offer benefit for some individuals, so far, the research doesn’t support its use for most people. That doesn’t mean that new studies won’t do so. But it’s also important to keep in mind that there need to be a number of positive studies for the product to be recommended as a remedy by health professionals.

  2. March 19, 2016 at 6:26 pm #

    I have been using this product for three months. In the first month I immediately saw results in the form of dramatically reduced recovery time from very long training runs and improved energy and mental state and acuity These results continue to sustain themselves. As an active runner, I recovery rates continue to improve What you don’t mention about the product is that it contains Super oxide dismutase. http://www.m.webmd.com/vitamins/ai/ingredientmono-507/superoxide+dismutase
    This would support the reason why my recovery rate improved. The company also provides peer reviewed case studies that are required by Health Canada before they can even sell the product. Have you considered this before posting your comments?

    • March 21, 2016 at 7:30 am #

      Thanks for your comment, Scott. I’m glad to hear that you feel the phytoplankton is helping your exercise recovery. I haven’t been able to find any studies showing this supplement or this type of supplement would offer benefit and would appreciate the references on this from the company. In addition, I did try the link but it doesn’t work. Can you please report it? If there is more to learn, I would love to. But so far, I stand by my post until I see anything further.

      • March 21, 2016 at 11:11 am #

        Try copy pasting the link, it seemed to work fine for me. The folks at Karen told me they called you several times to talk about the in-vitro tests that were done that looked at oxidative stress, but that you never called back. Perhaps you should give them a call?

  3. March 21, 2016 at 11:57 am #

    Scott, I did try copying and pasting the link and this is what I get: http://www.webmd.com/404?site . Maybe you can provide me with the title of the webmd article. As for the folks at Karen, if they had ever called me, I would have returned the call so for them to say they called me several times is indeed a mystery. But I would like to add that in-vitro tests might show that there are benefits but are there clinical studies showing benefit in this area? I haven’t seen any. If they have any, they can send them and I will revisit the topic.

    • Lindsey
      September 22, 2016 at 6:33 pm #

      They told me the same thing that they had called you. 🤔

  4. Duncan
    April 3, 2016 at 9:55 am #

    I have tried this for 2 months and don’t notice anything different apart from being constipated is this normal ? I was mixing it with water in the mornings

    • April 3, 2016 at 10:33 am #

      Thanks for posting your experiences, Duncan. It seems that your lack of benefit matches up to what the science says about the product – not much! As for the constipation, I have not heard this but it’s also not something I think the company would promote. It’s unfortunate that products such as this can make claims and have no science to back it up. But that’s how Health Canada operates when it comes to Natural Health Products!

  5. April 22, 2016 at 7:17 am #

    I culture phytoplankton and it’s at the bottom of the food chain, everything eats it in one way shape or form. The health benefits are amazing for my creatures and if only a person can make it edible, how can it not be beneficial to humans? that is like saying spinach is not healthy for a human or grass is bad for cows.The only thing she may be doing wrong is not blending the strain of different type of phyto together to create the proper super food. you’re going to hear a lot about phyto in the future trust me.

    • April 22, 2016 at 4:51 pm #

      Thanks for your comments, Clint. I do agree that phytoplankton offers nutritional benefits. What I do not agree with is the marketing of this particular product. There are all kinds of claims made by the manufacturer with absolutely no science to back them up. Some of these claims do not make any scientific sense. And while there may be benefits, the testimonials offered simply raise red flags for me.

      • April 22, 2016 at 5:59 pm #

        In order to have a complete health benefit you are right. Until she specifies the phyto she is culturing. Phyto it self has low DHA in one strain and another high. But then the high Dha strain will be lacking other benefits and will not be complete.To be complete there has to be 2 to 3 plus strains. which I do not see specified. Besides one strain will compete against another when stored in its liquid live form, so one will devour the other over time, leaving only one strain as being the dominant strain.

  6. April mouland
    September 30, 2016 at 5:38 am #

    What are the ingredients in karen

    • September 30, 2016 at 9:10 am #

      April, this product contains phyoplankton or marine algae. The company, however, does not provide any information about the strains used. In addition, Health Canada does monitor these products for toxins which may be produced by some strains of phytoplankton. Need I say more?

  7. Thérèse Lanteigne
    October 10, 2016 at 4:31 pm #

    I was wondering if that product can be taken if I have hypothyroidy??

    • October 10, 2016 at 4:59 pm #

      Thérèse, I would suggest you speak to your pharmacist as I cannot offer you advice about your medications online.

  8. Faye
    October 17, 2016 at 3:44 pm #

    Thanks for the feedback…..not wasting my money!!!

  9. Dorothy
    October 26, 2016 at 8:21 am #

    I cannot believe people will buy this crap! eat properly (whole foods) it will make a difference in your life, why is everyone looking for a short cut to good health. too much on the market promoting healthy pills and crap like that, not any wonder cancer is having a feast on human life! just saying.

    • October 26, 2016 at 1:32 pm #

      Dorothy, I do agree that eating whole foods is the best way to eat. As for people buying supplements such as this, they are often vulnerable due to factors such as illness or other medical conditions and are looking for solutions. Unfortunately certain supplement companies prey on this population.

  10. D Earle
    January 8, 2017 at 11:35 am #

    After taking Karen’s phytoplankton for only 8 days, I am sleeping much better. I do not take Aleve anymore for foot pain that had been there for 2+ years. I feel better. I have taken it for months now and have no reason to stop!

  11. wendy e wadhams
    March 25, 2017 at 1:37 pm #

    Referring to Dorothy’s comment that eating whole foods is the best way to get nutrients, I agree. I am guessing, however, that Dorothy does not have absorption problems that keep her from absorbing the nutrients from whole foods. The fact that the phyto is microscopically sized to enter the cells directly without going through the digestive tract for absorption is its key quality. For those of us with compromised digestive systems this is a godsend.

    • March 25, 2017 at 4:01 pm #

      Thanks for your comments, Wendy. But I do have to disagree with you. Anything taken by mouth must go through the digestive tract in order to be absorbed.

  12. Vicki Sarginson
    July 8, 2017 at 8:10 am #

    I have tried this product for the last month.
    I get nothing no changes in anything.
    Save your money..

  13. Susan carleton
    August 6, 2017 at 12:19 pm #

    I have been using Karen Marine Phyotoplankton since march of 2017 I have noticed such a difference in my life…no more headaches…I was an insomniac forever , now I sleep right away and stay asleep for six to seven hours….wake refreshed and full of energy . I have arthritis and had a hip replacement, with this product I have no more joint pain or swelling. I realize results differ with each individual, but this is a product I will continue to use for the rest of my life. I love it. Has also tamed my eczema not near as bad as it used to be.

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