These nutrients provide numerous health benefits throughout the body.
Chlorella’s long (and growing) list of health benefits has led some researchers to refer to it as a “superfood.”
Here is a closer look at how supplements of chlorella can provide a health boost.
Chlorella helps the body to detox. Exposure to heavy metals such as cadmium, lead and mercury is widespread and a known contributor to several chronic diseases. Cadmium exposure has been linked to pulmonary, renal, skeletal, cardiovascular and reproductive dysfunctions; lead exposure has been a known contributor to neurological and blood dysfunctions, renal and liver damage as well as reproductive disorders in humans (1).
People can be exposed to heavy metals through pollution and while working in some occupations such as mining. The conventional treatment for heavy metal toxicity is chelation therapy. This type of therapy, however, has been reported to have a number of safety and efficacy issues. Researcher eagerly seeking alternative agents to aid in the removal of these metals may have found it in chlorella.
In a review published in Scientific World Journal, researchers noted that several natural polymers, including chlorella, are gaining attention as potential absorbents of harmful heavy metals in the blood (2).
A paper reviewing the efficacy of dietary supplements in removing cadmium and lead, noted that algae such as chlorella can diminish cadmium or lead toxicity in the liver, brain and kidneys of animals.
The findings were published in the peer-reviewed scientific journal, Nutrients, in January 2015 (3).
Chlorella may enhance the immune system. A healthy immune system is vital when it comes to successfully fighting invading pathogens to keep the body strong and healthy. In limited studies, chlorella has shown to be effective in boosting the immune system in humans and animals.
One study, using a blind, randomized, crossover design, reported that after giving a dose of 6g of chlorella supplementation to a group of men for four weeks, there was an increase in the salivary secretory immunoglobulin A (SIgA).
Why is this important? SIgA is an antibody found in mucous secretions — tear glands, salivary glands, mammary glands, the respiratory system, the genito-urinary tract, and the gastrointestinal tract. It plays a critical role in mucosal immunity to fight infections (4).
Findings are mixed, however, with some studies showing little to no effect on the immune system. In one study, for example, a chlorella-derived dietary supplement given to 124 healthy adults, did not have any effect in increasing the antibody response to influenza vaccine in the overall study population, except among participants aged 50-55 years (5).
Further large-scale studies are warranted.
Chlorella may help lower cholesterol. Having high levels of LDL (bad) cholesterol is known for putting people at greater risk for developing atherosclerosis which can lead to heart attack and stroke.
Researchers testing the impact of daily chlorella consumption on reducing cholesterol revealed their promising results in a 2014 issue of Nutrition Journal. In the double-blinded, randomized, placebo-controlled study, a group of 63 participants (with mildly high cholesterol) were given either 5g of chlorella daily or a placebo. At the end of the study, those in the chlorella group exhibited significant changes in total cholesterol and triglycerides (6).
Chlorella helps to lower high blood pressure. In 2002, a pilot study took place to determine if daily supplementation of 10g of chlorella would reduce the blood pressure of participating subjects with mild to moderately high blood pressure. After two months, it was reported that 25 percent of the subjects achieved their goal of reducing their numbers. (7).
In another study, GABA-rich chlorella was given orally for 12 weeks in participants with high-normal blood pressure and borderline high blood pressure. GABA is short for gamma-aminobutyric acid, a neurotransmitter involved in regulating communication between brain cells.
Researchers saw a significant decrease in systolic blood pressure in the subjects given GABA-rich chlorella compared with placebo. Reduction of systolic blood pressure in the subjects with borderline hypertension was higher than those in the subjects with high-normal blood pressure (8).
Chlorella acts as an antioxidant. Chlorella contains several compounds that have high antioxidant content, including chlorophyll, carotene, chlorophyll and lutein (9). The primary role of antioxidants is to neutralize free radicals in the body. Free radicals can damage cellular components and are associated with numerous diseases.
In a double-blind study published in Clinical Laboratory journal in 2013, researchers revealed how chlorella’s high antioxidant content is beneficial to smokers. Thirty-eight Iranian smokers were given a dose of 3600mg of chlorella extract daily for six weeks.
At the end of the testing period, there was a marked elevation of all assessed serum antioxidant measures. They also noted that supplementation decreased lipid peroxidation in chronic smokers. Lipid peroxidation is the oxidative degradation of lipids that results in cell damage (10).
Not only is chlorella a “smartfood” that provides numerous positive effects, it is generally safe to use.
Mild side effects may include nausea and abdominal discomfort (11).
At doses of 6g daily, loose stools and diarrhea have been reported at times but are brief and clinically insignificant (12).
Chlorella is available in capsule, tablet and powder form, and supplementation appears to be in the range of 6-10g daily.
Higher doses have not been sufficiently tested and the optimal dose of supplemental chlorella is not known.
Experts suggest gradually building up your dosage, starting with 1g daily, paying attention to how your body reacts and upping your dosage from there. Seek the advice from a medical professional on the right dose for your particular needs.
Chlorella (Chlorella pyrenoidosa) is a green freshwater algae that offers a host of health benefits, namely helping rid the body of harmful heavy metals, enhancing the immune system and lowering bad cholesterol and high blood pressure. This nutrient-rich supplement is packed with antioxidants, protein, fiber, magnesium, zinc, copper, potassium, calcium, folic acid and other B vitamins.
Research is ongoing, and experts believe this supplement will continue to show promise in treating and preventing a wide range of conditions.
This supplement is available in capsule, tablet and powder form and is generally well tolerated with mild side effects.