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Chlorella is a microalga that grows in fresh water. It has the highest content of chlorophyll of any know plant. Chlorella is highly nutritious. Its nutritional composition is: 45% protein, 20% fat, 20% carbohydrates, 5% fiber, and 10% minerals and vitamins. Chlorella is a good source of Chlorophyll, Iron, protein, amino acids, and magnesium (1).
Regarding protein and amino acids, as much as 5% of Chlorella consists of amino acids, (19, including all eight of the essential amino acids). In 100 g of Chlorella powder there is: 1990 mg Isoleucine, 4320 mg Leucine, 3430 mg Lysine, 1280 mg Methionine, 2360 mg Phenylalanine, 2530 mg Threonine, 1030 mg Tryptophan, 2910 mg Valine, 1080 mg Histidine, 730 mg Cystine, 1980 mg Tyrosine, 3080 mg Arginine, 4320 mg Alanine, 4700 mg Aspartic Acid, 6180 mg Glutamic Acid, 2960 mg Glycine, 2370 mg Proline, 2060 mg Serine (2).
Chlorella is a good source of beta-glucan and nucleic acids. It has omega fatty acids in it that promote hormone balance (3 Natures Balance) and cardiovascular health (4 Dockery et al., 2004). Chlorella also has pro-vitamin A, and vitamins B 12, C, K, E. it is high in beta-creatine, lutein, thiamine, riboflavin, and pyroxidine, niacin, pantothenic acid, and folic acid (4 Dockery et al., 2004) as well as biotin, iodine, and inositol.
Chlorella has high ratios of RNA/DNA (3), 3 percent for RNA and 0.3 percent for DNA (5). RNA and DNA are needed by cells to form and divide properly. When there is a breakdown in the production of RNA and DNA, which happens with age, physical deterioration and a loss of energy can occur (5). Chlorella even has mucopolysaccharides (long-chains of sugar molecules), which are found in joint fluid and mucus amongst other things in the body (6).
Three tablespoons (1-once) of Chlorella has the following nutritional value:
- 16 grams of protein
- 133 percent of the daily recommended value of zinc
- 202 percent of the recommended daily value of iron
- 22 percent of the daily recommended value of magnesium
- 287 percent of the daily recommended value of vitamin A
- 71percent of the recommended daily value of vitamin B2
- 33 percent of the daily recommended value of vitamin B3.
- Chlorella also has phosphorus, and vitamin B1 and B6. (7)
Cellular health: Chlorella has high ratios of RNA/DNA (3 Natures Balance), 3 percent for RNA and 0.3 percent for DNA (5). RNA is ribonucleic acid and DNA is deoxyribonucleic acid. Both have anti-aging functions, RNA and DNA are needed by cells to form and divide properly. When there is a breakdown in the production of RNA and DNA, which happens with age, physical deterioration and a loss of energy can occur (5). Further, Chlorella is also high in GLA or Gamma Linoleic Acid, which is a building block of cellular membranes (6).
Chlorella has something called CGF or Chlorella growth factor in it. This stimulates the production of human growth hormones in the pituitary gland. This helps enhance the replacement of cell tissue and healing (6). Chlorella is also a good source of both the amino acid Arginine and GABA (Gamma-Aminobutyric Acid), both of which increase the production of human growth hormone (8 Organic News Room). This effect is even more pronounced when taken together, or with one of following: L-Dopa, L-Ornithine and Alpha-GPC (Alpha-glycerophosphocholine).
Weight-loss and metabolic disorder/prediabetes: taking Chlorella supplements can be helpful for weight management. People often over eat in an attempt to get enough of the nutrients (vitamins, minerals and fatty acids) their diet lacks. This overeating results in excessive insulin production, and a dysfunctional endocrine system, which then leads to more cravings for unhealthy or refined foods. Chlorella is a great source of nutrition and provides most, or all, the essential nutrients the body needs (6).
Chlorella also assists in insulin signalling while providing a consistent, balanced supply of insulin. Insulin resistance can contribute to nutritional deficiencies by disrupting glucose homeostasis. Insulin is the hormone primarily involved in breakdown, absorption and uptake of carbohydrates, proteins, and fats (called intermediary metabolism). This metabolic process underpins glucose homeostasis or blood sugar balance. This is very important as it greatly impacts how glucose and glycogen are used or stored. This decision by the body will be a reaction to how much energy the body is using, and how much it is taking in in the form of food. This mechanism underlies the body’s use of fat as a source of energy for the brain and muscles. Also for skeletal muscle uptake of amino acids and the liver’s conversion of amino acids into proteins (34).
Chlorella has a balance of carbohydrates and proteins. This provides a consistent supply of energy without the production of excess insulin. This helps to balance blood sugar and it is the reason Chlorella acts as a natural appetite suppressant (6).
In a human study using both at risk and normal weight subjects, both groups benefited by taking Chlorella supplements. It helped both groups to reduce body fat percentage, total serum cholesterol and to lowered blood glucose levels. The researchers also found, regarding the at-risk group, that Chlorella positively impacted genes that were involved with fat metabolism and insulin signaling (9).
In animal studies Chlorella supplementation improved blood glucose (blood sugar) sensitivity and lowered serum triglycerides, or fat in the blood. Further, Chlorella inhibited the build up of visceral fat, or fat around major organs like the kidneys, liver and pancreas. Chlorella also improved lipid metabolism disorders, when the body is not able to break down fat or fat-like substances (fatty acids, waxes, oils and cholesterol) properly (10 Noguchi, et al., 2013). In an animal study, Chlorella was shown to reduce serum (blood), and liver cholesterol levels significantly in animals fed Chlorella powder. It was shown in this study that Chlorella converts cholesterol to bile acids in the liver (30).
Chlorella is high in essential fatty acids, including Gamma Linoleic Acid, or GLA. These acids help the body regulate or control cholesterol levels in the blood (6). Chlorella has the amino acids tyrosine and phenylalanine, which can act as apatite suppressants (11).
Chlorella stimulates intestinal peristalsis, or the contraction and relaxation of muscles to move food through the digestive system. This helps to optimize digestion, which can aid in weight loss (11). The faster the food moves through the digestive system, called the transit time, the fewer nutrients are absorbed and the more likely the person is to lose weight. Conversely, the longer the transit time, the more likely they are to gain weight (12).
Edema: Chlorella has been shown to reduce edema, or swelling due to flued retention, in pregnant women (13).
Hair, nails and skin: Chlorella has biotin in it, this substance improves the appearance and health of hair, nails and skin. Chlorella is high in vitamin A, which improves skin’s appearance. It may also help to lesson the appearance of scars, and as it detoxifies the body, it lessons the likelihood that the toxins will come out through the skin, causing blemishes.
As a supplement it is high in vitamin C, protein, iron, calcium, fiber, and omega-3 fatty acids. These nutrients can make skin glow with health (33).
When used in a cream, Chlorella has been proven to be anti-aging, anti-cellulite, anti-stretchmark, anti-wrinkle, and anti-sun damage. It is shown to slow down, or prevent, the break down of elastin and collagens. It can help the dermis (inner layer of skin) and epidermis (top layers of skin) to restructure itself in a healthy way. So, Chlorella slows down the aging process by keeping skin firm (32). It also helps reduce the colour of, and morphology of, stretch marks (after 84 days of use).
Chlorella in a cream (called Dermochlorella) has been proven to significantly reduce the production of new blood vessels. This helps to improve some skin conditions. It helps rosacea, which is the result of face oedema or skin redness and an excessive dilation of superficial facial blood vessels. Chlorella also helps treat psoriasis, which is characterised by an increase in the production of new blood vessels. Chlorella also helps protect the skin from free radicals, which produced an appearance of aging. And, when applied as a cream, (extract of Chlorella 5%) for three days before sun exposure, it is helpful in preventing UV sun damage (32).
Anemia and oxygen in the blood: Chlorella has the highest known percentage of Chlorophyll in plants. Chlorophyll carries oxygen in the blood stream and increases our red blood cell count. It also helps to cleanse the blood of impurities as well as the bowel, kidneys, and liver (6). In pregnant women, Chlorella supplementation has been shown to improve anemia. This is as Chlorella has the following nutrients in it: folate, vitamin B 12 and iron (13).
Cardiovascular health: Chlorella is very high in GLA (Gamma Linoleic Acid) which acts as an anti-inflammatory agent, lessoning the likelihood of blood clots and lowering blood pressure and cholesterol (6). It also has magnesium and Omega-3 oil in it, both of which are necessary for heart health (6). In an animal study Chlorella was shown to lower blood pressure, and after 21 weeks of supplementation, animals fed Chlorella had significantly lower serum total cholesterol. They were less likely to experience strokes, called cerebral vascular accidents in the brain, than control animals. The Chlorella group also had a much longer life-span than the control group (14). Regarding hypertensive disorder, high blood pressure, in a human study Chlorella was shown to improve hypertensive disorder in pregnant women (13) when 6 grams of Chlorella.
Immune system: Chlorella supplies important nutrients that are essential in preserving good health, fighting infection and supporting and restoring immune functions (15).
In one human study of Chlorella, after eight weeks of supplementation the healthy subjects’ tests showed improvement in the activity of natural killer, NK, cells and an increased production of immune system cytokines interferon-y and interleukin-12 and interleukin-1B and Th-1 cell-induced cytokines in healthy people (16).
Cytokines are proteins that are important in cell communication. When they are released the cells around them change their behavior. There are many types of cytokines and impact health in both positive and negative ways. Cytokines play an important role in how the body responds to the following: immune responses, infection, trauma, sepsis, cancer, reproduction and inflammation. So, they are important to the immune system.
Chlorella has been proven, in human trials, to help protect the immune system during cancer treatment (chemotherapy and radiation treatments). Chlorella has a lot of chlorophyll in it. This protects the body from ultraviolent radiation, at the same time it removes radioactive matter from the body (7). This protective factor is especially true of those who have had their health compromised by illness and need to undergo chemotherapy, or have to take immunosuppressive medications like steroids (15).
Chlorella is a great source of beta-carotene, which is thought to terminate cancerous cells. It also has the antioxidants selenium, vitamin C, and vitamin E, which are important to immunity. Chlorella also has an ability to improve the production of interferon, which helps fight cancer (6).
Antioxidant/aging: Chlorella helps to increase antioxidants in the body. For instance, taking Chlorella supplements for six weeks has been shown to reduce oxidative stress in smokers of both sexes (17). This is very important as oxidative stress is a known risk factor in serious illness like cancer, cardiovascular, or heart, disease and pulmonary, or lung, disorders.
Aging: after only two weeks of supplements, Chlorella increases levels of the vitamins A and C in the body as well as glutathione. These substances eliminate free-radicals and protects cells. In this way Chlorella reduces oxidative stress and so slows the aging process (7).
Chlorella is also a great source of the nucleic acids RNA and DNA. These help to repair damaged genetic material within the cell, in short allowing cells to repair themselves. Through this mechanism, the whole body’s health is enhanced, including energy levels and overall vitality. Further, DNA and RNA consumption can slow the aging process of the body. They help rid the body of toxins and protect against disease (5).
High amounts of chlorophyll speed up tissue healing both when applied to a wound and taken orally. If applied to skin, the high amount of chlorophyll in chlorella is believed to speed up healing. If taken orally, TNF, or tumour necrosis factor, may be involved in the promotion of fibroblasts, which repair wounds (6).
Antioxidants and depression: as an antioxidant Chlorella provides phospholipids and other nutrients that help with cognitive abilities, support the body’s immune functions, and enhance cardiovascular health (4).
Oxidative stress is associated with the development of major depressive disorder. Chlorella is antioxidant-rich, and has been shown in human studies to be an effect treatment for major depression. Here the subjects took the supplements, 1800 mg divided into two 900 mg doses, for six weeks. By the end of the study the test subjects showed a significant reduction in symptoms as outlined in the Hospital Anxiety and Depression Scale and the Beck Depression Inventory II, including the cognitive and physical symptoms subscales. This means that Chlorella supplements reduced physical symptoms of depression, including anxiety, and improved the thought processes of the subjects (18).
Fibromyalgia: Chlorella has been proven to help relieve the pain associated with fibromyalgia. After two months of taking Chlorella supplements subjects in a human trial reported a 22% reduction in reported pain, (29).
Anti-Inflammatory: Chlorella has anti-inflammatory mediators and cytokines. In a clinical study this is stated as being a potential source of anti-inflammatory agents that would be a good alternative to conventional anti-inflammatory medication, both steroidal and non-steroidal (19). In another study (20) Chlorella has been shown to reduce or prevent inflammation at the cellular level, by suppressing inflammatory mediator activation in the liver and peritoneal macrophages.
Regarding arthritis, an inflammatory disease, Chlorella is alkaline, so it neutralizes PH in the body. High acidity is associated with arthritis. The selenium, vitamins A, E, and C also found in Chlorella help treat arthritis. Further, glucosamine is in Chlorella’s outer cell wall. This helps the body renew ligaments, cartilage and tendons (6).
Detoxifying: In animal studies chlorella has the ability to remove toxins and heavy metals from the body and blood stream. Chlorella is able to envelope toxins and metals like lead, mercury, cadmium, and uranium, and stop them from being absorbed by the body (into organs and tissues). The toxins and metals are excreted, or flushed, out with the chlorella (21; 22).
Outside of clinical trials people report the following effects of Chlorella: less stress, tension and anxiety, improved well being, improved mental clarity, increased energy levels, clearer complexion (3 Natures Balance).
Chlorella (6 000 mg per day) has been shown in human studies to reduce dioxins in the blood (23). Dioxins can be formed in the body from PCBs, which are absorbed via food and stored in body fat. Dioxins are released during weight loss, disrupt thyroid functioning, and increase the risk of developing breast cancer in women predisposed to it genetically (24; 25).
Thyroid functioning: Chlorella is high in iodine, so if you have a thyroid problem related to low iodine intake, it is a good supplement. But, if you have a thyroid problem due to an excess of dietary iodine, you may want to avoid it (34). Too much iodine leads to the inhibiting of thyroid hormone production by increasing cellular resistance to T3. This can lead to swelling, tenderness, iodine induced thyroid deficiency and goiter development (34).
There are two types of thyroid disorder, hyperthyroidism and hypothyroidism. The first is the result of too much thyroid hormone, the second by too little thyroid hormone. Either way, if the thyroid gland is not working optimally, it can result in infertility, osteoporosis, heightened cholesterol levels, and eventually heart disease (31).
The thyroid needs minerals (iodine, copper, zinc and selenium) to function. Chlorella has all three nutrients. Chlorella has selenium, moderate levels of Iodine and high levels of Zinc. Chlorella is also high in the amino acids Phenylalanine and Tyrosine. Phenylalanine, with iodine from dietary sources, synthesizes the non-essential amino acid tyrosine, which is needed to synthesis thyroid hormone. If the body is deficient in Phenylalanine it can use dietary Tyrosine. Tyrosine also prevents cortisol levels from rising excessively. This is good for the thyroid as prolonged elevated cortisol levels are associated with disrupted thyroid functioning.
Chlorella also helps sustain intestinal health. This is important as iodine in food is made into organically bound iodine in the intestines. This is then moved to the thyroid gland, where it is used to make thyroid hormone (34).
Regarding selenium, it is necessary for the proper balance of T3 and Rt3. Selenium also binds to mercury, protecting the thyroid from toxins. Selenium deficiency, present in up to 50% of the population of North America, leads to cellular thyroid activity being degraded, even in the face of normal hormone levels. The thyroid also needs the minerals zinc, copper and iron for proper thyroid metabolism.
Chlorella (3 g a day) can be helpful to the thyroid as it clears the body of heavy metals, exposure to which is connected to hyperthyroidism. Zinc helps eliminate excess estrogens, lowers stress and balances adrenal glands.
Chlorella is high in Vitamins A, C, E, and B 12. These are needed for optimal thyroid hormone production. Vitamin A supports immunity and optimizes cell receptor sites. It is also shown in a human study to improve iodine efficacy, lessoning the likelihood of the participants developing hypothyroidism. B vitamins help make enzymes needed to reduce stress, balance hormones, and help with metabolizing estrogen (34). Vitamin C helps iodine to be transported to the thyroid and it protects against damaging free radicals (34).
Optimal thyroid functioning is associated with healthy cardiac functioning, and the prevention of cardiovascular disease.
Thyroid problems contribute to the following health problems: anemia, fatigue and sleep disruptions, inflammation, parasites, malnutrition, CFS, toxicity, Lyme disease, hyperthyroidism, depression and allergies. Also, a heightened risk of cardiovascular disease, high cholesterol, arteriosclerosis, aortic stiffness, hypertension. Even those with subclinical hypothyroidism may have twice the risk of developing heart disease (34).
It can also reduce cholesterol, which is associated with thyroid problems (31).
Bowel health: is improved by the fiber and chlorophyll in Chlorella (4 Dockery et al, 2005), these both detoxify the body and cleanse the bowel. Chlorella has digestive enzymes in it, and this supplement helps lactic bacteria, the good bacteria, to multiply many times over. This enhances the absorption of nutrients and improves digestion. So, intestinal flora or good bacteria is supported by Chlorella, which is helpful for digestion and disease protection (6). Further, the fibre in Chlorella’s outer shell stimulates peristalsis or the bowels to move, relieving constipation. Besides cleansing the bowel, Chlorella also helps to cleanse the blood of impurities as well as the kidneys, and liver (6).
Hypertension and blood pressure: Chlorella is rich in GABA (gamma aminobutyric acid) which has been shown to reduce blood pressure. A human study showed that 12 weeks of supplementation (20 mg, two times a day) of Chlorella significantly lowered systolic blood pressure. And, diastolic blood pressure had a tendency to decrease after chlorella intake (26). A similar study found that Chlorella reduced, or kept stable, the sitting diastolic blood pressure, or SiDBP, of subjects with mild to moderate hypertension. Here, after 1 to 2 months of Chlorella supplementation 25% of subjects achieved their blood pressure goal (of SiDBP less than 90 mm Hg) and the blood pressure in the other test subjects did not increase significantly over the blood pressure readings they had when they washed-out, or stopped taking, blood pressure medication. Also of importance from a psychological perspective, the subjects’ quality of life questionnaires showed an overall perception that their health had improved significantly with taking Chlorella (27).
Estrogen overload: having too much estrogen in the body can be problematic. This is associated with premenstrual syndrome symptoms (heavy flow, cramping, bloating, headaches and breast tenderness). Estrogen overload is also associated with health issues like gall stones, cancer, and endometrial problems. Chlorella helps to turn estrogen into the less problematic substance estrone. It also helps flush estrone from the body. At the same time the antioxidant form of estrogen, estriol, is not affected by Chlorella (24; 28).
Estrogen, in the form of estradiol, rises during the fist half of the menstrual cycle, to help produce eggs. Once the egg/s are released, the estrogens must be cleared from the body. The estradiol binds to a protein in the liver and then moves into bile. The bile travels through the gall bladder to the digestive tract, where it should be eliminated. The elimination process may be disrupted if there are too many unhealthy bacteria. In this situation the unhealthy bacteria consume the estradiol and then it gets re-released into the body, causing estrogen overload. Chlorella stops this from happening.
Dosages: for a healthy person wanting to get enough nutrients, take 3 grams a day (based on an average body weight of 154 lbs).
For someone fighting a disease, take 5 to 8 grams per day.
Introduce this supplement incrementally into your diet, as it can act as a mild laxative (6 Schurt, 2015).
Chlorella should be purchased in a broken cell form, to better be digested and for all of the nutrients to be absorbed (4).
Cautions: when first taking Chlorella, you may experience a detox like effect (upset stomach, fatigue, acne, headaches, digestion/elimination problems). You may also experience vertigo, weariness, and trembling (7; 3). These effects should lesson or stop after seven to ten days (3 Natures Balance).
Chlorella has moderate levels of iodine, so if you have a thyroid condition based in being iodine sensitive you should avoid it (1).
This information is for educational and informational purposes only. It is not to take the place of medical advice or treatment. Seek out a qualified health care provider if you have questions or need help. Dr. Grant is not responsible for any possible health consequences of anyone who follows or reads the information in this content. Everyone, but especially those taking medication (over the counter or prescription) should talk with a physician before undertaking any changes to their lifestyle or diet (including taking supplements).
This information is copy written.
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30 Shibata, S., Hayakawa, K., Egashira, Y., & Sanada, H., (2007). Hypocholesterolemic mechanism of Chlorella: Chlorella and its indigestible fraction enhance hepatic cholesterol catabolism through up regulation of cholesterol 7a-Hydroxylase in rats. Bioscience, Biotechnology, and Biochemistry, 71(4):916-925. DOI: 10.1271/bbb.60566.
31 Miller, M, 2015. Alive.com your complete source for natural health and wellness website. Webpage: Addressing thyroid disorders. Last updated 04, 2015. Accessed on: Dec, 28th, 2017. Accessed at: www.alive.com/family/addressing-thyroid-disorders/
32 Personal Care magazine, November 2017 addition. Article: Effects of Chlorella extract on skin. Accessed on: Dec, 28th, 2017. Accessed at: www.osmosisskincare.com/research/files/chlorella-extract-on-skin.pdf
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