Small but mighty
Graham Butler, BSc, CNPA, RH
Chlorella is a little green algae, but it's one of nature's greatest superfoods. It's rich in protein, carotenoids and has a multitude of other health benefits.
Chlorella is little green algae, but it’s one of nature’s greatest superfoods. The name chlorella is taken from the Greek word chloros, meaning green and the latin suffix ella, meaning small. The exciting algae has been the subject of intense research. Chlorella is rich in protein, carotenoids (including lutein), chlorophyll, magnesium, and calcium, as well as amino and nucleic acids. It has potential applications as varied as reducing oxidative stress, controlling cholesterol, and improving immune system functions. Chlorella also shows promise as a treatment for fibromyalgia, hypertension, and ulcerative colitis. Traditional uses Chlorella has long been used to cleanse and detoxify the body and as a source of protein and other nutrients. It is also rich in chlorophyll. Chlorophyll has deodorizing and antiseptic properties. It is similar in some respects to chlorophyllin, which speeds healing and has been shown to protect the liver against highly carcinogenic and potent toxins such as aflatoxins. In addition, it has been suggested that chlorophyll, as well as the mucopolysaccharides in chlorella’s cell walls, may bind to heavy metals and chlorinated hydrocarbons such as PCBs and insecticides, assisting in their elimination from the body. Similarities in the structure of hemoglobin and chlorophyll molecules have often been used as evidence to support the use of chlorella as a blood and tissue oxygenator further assisting in detoxification. Chlorella is an excellent source of nucleic acids which are needed for effective tissue growth and repair as well as healthy cell function. The aging process is thought to be associated with an increased breakdown of nucleic factors such as DNA and RNA. A simple hot water extract of chlorella has been shown to stimulate the body’s natural production of interferon which strengthens the immune response. It may also promote the growth of friendly bacteria (lactobacillus) in the digestive tract, vagina, and small intestine. Research studies A study published in the Journal of Medicinal Food (2004) found that chlorella powder stimulated the release of cytokines, interferon-gamma, and tumour necrosis factor-alpha from human peripheral blood mononuclear cells. Results suggest potential applications in the prevention or treatment of inflammatory conditions and cancer. According to Phytotherapy Research (2004) a randomized, controlled study of the effects of a hot water extract of chlorella on rat populations bred to mimic human age-related bone loss evaluated the extract’s effect on body weight, serum lipids, and bone mass. After seven weeks the extract was found to reduce total serum cholesterol levels and normalize triglyceride levels. These results suggest that a similar extract delivered as a dietary supplement may be useful to control body weight and improve lipid metabolism of menopausal women. A study published in Alternative Therapies in Health and Medicine (2001) reported that chlorella has the potential to relieve symptoms, improve quality of life, and normalize body functions in patients with fibromyalgia, hypertension, or ulcerative colitis. A follow-up study provided some evidence to suggest that daily dietary supplementation with a combination of 10 g of chlorella and 100 mL of chlorella extract for two months may improve quality of life and stabilize resting diastolic blood pressure for some individuals. An earlier uncontrolled pilot study of 18 fibromyalgia sufferers, published in Phytotherapy Research (2000), found that regular chlorella supplementation reduced pain intensity by 22 percent. Chlorella is easily added to the everyday diet with many clear and potential benefits. It’s widely available in tablet, capsule, and powder forms and is a common ingredient in many green products. Always choose a product that contains either a cracked or abraded cellular wall form of chlorella and follow the manufacturer’s directions for use.