Analysis of the Health Benefits of Chlorella: A Must or a Bust?
Chlorella has become a staple ingredient of a plethora of health supplements. But why is this the case and what are the health benefits of chlorella?
This green algae, close relative to spirulina, has been extensively researched in the past decades in order to understand the potential health benefits and medical applications.
Chlorella is rich in nutrients such as protein, fiber, vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants that have been proven to have multiple health benefits. These include but are not limited to: helping the body detox, fighting chronic inflammation and improving response to chronic diseases, improving aerobic performance, and reducing the damage free-radicals do to our bodies. A daily dose of 1g is required for most benefits.
However, due to its hard cell wall, it’s not digestible by humans. Thus, we mostly consume it via supplements like green powders.
So without further ado, let’s find out about the health benefits of consuming chlorella, and what the best way of adding chlorella to your diet is.
Chlorella is extremely rich in nutrients and phytonutrients.
Chlorella is 50-60% protein (dry weight). Additionally, it’s one of the only plant-based protein sources that is a complete protein, meaning it contains all nine essential amino acids necessary for optimal health.
Therefore, chlorella is ideal for vegans and vegetarians who may struggle to obtain sufficient protein from plant-based sources alone. That said, due to its flavor and availability, it’s very rarely used for that purpose. Pea plus rice protein combo or soy protein isolate are the most common complete plant-based protein sources.
Furthermore, chlorella is a good source of essential vitamins and minerals. It contains vitamin B12, which is rarely found in plant sources and is crucial for nerve function and DNA synthesis. Chlorella also provides iron, an essential mineral that plays a vital role in oxygen transport and energy production.
Other nutrients found in chlorella include vitamin C, antioxidants, omega-3 fatty acids, magnesium, zinc, and various B vitamins.
Health Benefits of Chlorella Analyzed
Due to its nutrient-rich profile extensive research has been done analyzing the properties and potential health benefits of this algae. Most studies show remarkable health benefits in multiple areas:
Multiple studies have shown that compounds found in chlorella are able to bind heavy metals and toxins, helping your body getting rid of them
Animal studies have demonstrated chlorella’s ability to reduce heavy metal toxicity in the liver, brain, and kidneys. It has also been shown to lower the levels of harmful chemicals, such as dioxin, which can contaminate the food supply.
A study on patients with chronic HCV infection explored the effects of Chlorella supplementation on liver enzyme levels and HCV viral load. Most patients who exhibited improvements in alanine aminotransferase (ALT) and aspartate aminotransferase (AST) levels also showed a tendency towards a decreased HCV viral load.
These findings suggest that Chlorella may have a beneficial effect on liver health, though further research is needed to fully understand its mechanisms of action.
Immune System Enhancement
Your immune system is your body’s defense against infections and diseases
Chlorella supplementation can enhance immune responses, stimulate the production of immune cells, and modulate the release of various cytokines involved in immune function.
In one small study, participants who took chlorella showed increased antibody production compared to those who took a placebo. Increased antibody count increases the efficiency with which your body can fight pathogens.
Several studies have shown that chlorella supplementation can lead to reductions in total cholesterol, LDL cholesterol (the “bad” cholesterol), and triglycerides, while increasing HDL cholesterol (the “good” cholesterol).
A combination of nutrients including fiber, nicacin, carotenoids, and antioxidants might be responsible of these positive changes
Blood Sugar Regulation
Chlorella may also have a positive impact on blood sugar control.
Animal studies have shown that chlorella supplementation can help lower blood sugar levels and increase insulin sensitivity.
In particular, individuals with non-alcoholic fatty liver disease have experienced improvements in blood sugar control and insulin sensitivity after taking chlorella supplements.
Help with Respiratory Diseases
For individuals with respiratory conditions such as asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), chlorella may provide some relief.
The anti-inflammatory properties of chlorella reduce coughing and shortness of breath.
Emerging evidence suggests that chlorella may enhance aerobic endurance.
A study conducted on young adults found that chlorella supplementation improved their ability to saturate their lungs with oxygen, a measure of endurance. This effect may be attributed to chlorella’s content of branched-chain amino acids, which have been shown to improve aerobic performance in various studies.
Plus, chlorella might increase oxygen delivery to your muscles which enhances athletic performance.
Fighting Chronic Diseases: Antioxidants and Anti-inflammatory Effects of Chlorella
Chlorella contains a high concentration of antioxidants, such as vitamins C and E), which help neutralize harmful free radicals in the body. These antioxidants play a crucial role in reducing oxidative stress and inflammation, two underlying factors implicated in various chronic diseases.
Chronic inflammation can lead to diabetes, gut issues, and arthritis, among other things. Human and animal research has shown that carotenoids (beta carotene, lutein, violaxanthin, beta cryptoxanthin) found in chlorella have strong anti-inflammatory properties and can help vs diabetes, cancer (colon, lung, skin), and other chronic diseases.
Furthermore, research has shown that antioxidants can reduce the risk of cancer, and increase the efficiency of chemotherapy as well as increase survival rates.
Other Potential Benefits
Some studies suggest that chlorella may promote eye health due to its content of lutein and zeaxanthin, carotenoids known for their protective effects on the eyes. Additionally, chlorella has been explored for its potential liver health benefits, as it has been shown to improve markers of liver function in individuals with liver disease. Some anecdotal evidence suggests that chlorella may aid digestion, reduce symptoms of premenstrual syndrome (PMS), and boost energy levels. However, further research is required to substantiate these claims.
Chlorella as a Supplement
Considering the multiple health benefits of Chlorella, it is no surprise that it’s one of the most widely available dietary supplements.
You can find chlorella supplements in tablets, powders, extracts or as part of supplements like green powders or meal replacement shakes.
There is no set recommended dose, and it might vary with age and gender. However, the general recommendation is to consume between 4-6g. A very minimum of 1g is required to feel any positive effect.
Chlorella Side Effects and Allergic Reactions
Chlorella is generally well-tolerated, but some individuals may experience mild side effects:
- abdominal cramping,
- flatulence, and
- Temporary green stools.
In extremely rare occasions, allergic reactions, such as asthma and anaphylaxis, have been reported.
Quality and Safety of Chlorella Supplements
Unfortunately, chlorella supplements do not require FDA approval, therefore the quality of the supplements varies.
We recommend buying from reputable brands that undergo 3rd party testing to ensure there are no heavy metals or other potentially harmful ingredients.
Conclusion – What Are the Health Benefits of Chlorella and Should You Take It?
Looking at the evidence, there’s no denying that chlorella is a superfood that can benefit our health in multiple ways, including but not limited to:
- Boosting our immune system
- Helping us getting rid of toxins and free-radicals that harm our body
- Increasing our aerobic performance
- Acting as an anti-inflammatory
- Reducing the risk of chronic diseases
- Providing a complete source of plant-based protein
In more practical terms, adding chlorella to your diet will increase the amount of nutrients you get in your diet without adding many calories. These nutrients have beneficial properties to our short and long-term health that are often overlooked on a daily basis.
Particularly, the high antioxidant and anti-inflammatory content in chlorella can be extremely beneficial to reduce the damage we cause our body on a daily basis.
While chlorella supplementation is available in multiple ways (tablets, powder, pills), make sure to buy from a trusted manufacturer and aim for at least 6g.
A good way to do so can be by consuming green powder blends that combine chlorella with other superfoods like spirulina, kale, or berries.