Chlorella – Uses, Health Benefits and Side Effects

Chlorella is a single-celled green alga that can be found in Taiwan and Japan. It chlorophyll, a green photosynthetic pigment, found in its chloroplast.

Through the process of photosynthesis, it reproduces and multiplies, needing only sunlight, carbon dioxide, water, and a small amount of minerals. Chlorella is a freshwater algae rich in proteins, minerals, vitamins, and dietary fiber.

The reported benefits of chlorella supplement include promoting weight loss, boosting antibody count and fighting cancer and other medical condition, drug or toxin detoxification, improving response to the flu vaccine, stimulating the immune system, slowing the aging process, and protecting the body against toxic elements such as lead and mercury.

There are various species of Chlorella, and each has varied nutritional qualities. These dietary qualities depend on the way the crop is cultivated, harvested, and processed.

Research has shown that dried preparation of Chlorella contains about 7 to 88 percent of protein, 6 to 38 percent of carbohydrate, and 7 to 75 percent of fat.

Chlorella is a difficult substance to digest due to its rigid cell wall. It is therefore prepared as a supplement in tablet, powder, and liquid extracts.

Following World War II, many people living in Europe were starving. This was attributed not just to the war, but to the world’s inability to produce enough food to support the rapidly increasing population.

Meat was expensive and took a lot of energy to produce, and there were issues of protein shortages. With this in mind, researches decided to explore the option of sea resources.

The initial testing of Chlorella by the Stanford Research Institute show that Chlorella was capable of converting 20 percent of solar energy into the plant, and when dried, contains about 50 percent protein, making Chlorella a viable option for food.

Reactions after the results of the initial testing of Chlorella ranged from skeptical to hopeful.

Health Benefits of Chlorella

Helps in Improving Cholesterol

Studies have shown that Chlorella helps in decreasing total cholesterol in the body. The dried powder form reduced levels of cholesterol (low-density lipoproteins) and triglycerides, and raised levels of good proteins (high-density lipoproteins) in test animals (hamsters and rats) on a high-fat diet.

Helps in Decreasing High Blood Pressure

A study conducted on 80 persons with blood pressure levels ranging from normal to high and with borderline hypertension showed that those who ingested Chlorella tablets rich in gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA), had their blood pressure reduced significantly.

Helps in Detoxing

Chlorella is well known for its ability to removing heavy metals and other harmful compounds from the body.

While some heavy metals like iron and copper are essential to the body in small amounts, others such as cadmium, mercury, and lead are dangerous in more significant amounts.

Although it is rare for people to have dangerous amounts of heavy metals in their bodies, people can get exposed to these elements via pollution, specific jobs like mining, and by ingesting contaminated substances.

Chlorella has been found to weaken heavy metal toxicity in the liver, kidneys, and brains of animals. It also helps to reduce the amount of certain harmful chemicals found in food.

Functions as an Antioxidant

Several compounds are present in Chlorella that makes it act as an antioxidant. These include vitamin C, chlorophyll, lutein, beta-carotene, and lycopene. These chemicals can help fight against several chronic conditions.

Research has shown that chlorella supplements increased the levels of antioxidants in chronic smokers of cigarette, a population with one of the highest risk of oxidative damage. This research, however, is in its preliminary stage.

Good for Nutrition

Chlorella is known for its impressive nutrition benefits. Although its nutrient content depends on how it was cultivated, harvested, and processed, it possesses several nutritional benefits.

These includes;

  • Protein
  • Vitamin C and Iron
  • Vitamin B12
  • Other vitamins and minerals such as zinc, copper, magnesium, calcium, and potassium
  • Antioxidants
  • Fiber in large quantities
  • Omega-3s

Helps in Fighting Liver Diseases

Research shows that patients with fatty liver disease who consumed Chlorella vulgaris tablets for eight weeks observed and improved liver function.

Furthermore, it enhanced the patient’s condition by reducing the blood sugar levels and decreasing indicators for inflammation.

Aids to Enhance Immune System

The immune system is responsible for fighting infections that may attack the body and keeps the body in good health. The immune system comprises of a complex system consisting of multiple mechanisms and cells that kick into action the moment an infection enters your body.

According to certain studies, Chlorella has been found to enhance the immune system response in both humans and animals. However, the evidence of this has been limited.

While it may be possible that Chlorella may have immune-boosting abilities in certain age groups and populations, it doesn’t happen in all. Several more studies need to be conducted to verify this claim.

Helps to Maintain Blood Pressure

Chlorella supplements have been shown to improve the health of the kidney and heart, organs responsible for blood pressure regulation.

Helps to Enhance Aerobic Endurance and Stamina

Chlorella had been shown to improve the ability of the lungs to be saturated with oxygen. This increased endurance may be due to the branched-chain amino acid content present in Chlorella.

These branched-chain amino acids are a set of three amino acid content that has been found to improve aerobic performance according to various studies.

Other potential benefits of Chlorella include;

However, some of these claims are yet to be verified by science.

Risks and Side Effects of Chlorella

Some of the side effects that have been observed in consumers include;

Certain medications can interfere with the action of Chlorella in the body. These drugs with cases of interaction include;

  • Bivalirudin
  • Heparin
  • Dalteparin
  • Warfarin
  • Protamine
  • Enoxaparin
  • Bemiparin
  • Antithrombin alfa
  • Fondaparinux

Dosage

The appropriate dosage of Chlorella depends on several factors, such as the age and existing health condition of the user.

There is not enough information to determine the proper dose for Chlorella. Remember that products deemed natural by the manufacturers are not always safe for human consumption.

Before using chlorella supplements, you are advised to consult your doctor or pharmacists about all the current medications you are on to know, which could interfere with Chlorella.

Victor Anunobi
Victor Anunobi is an environmentalist, writer and movie enthusiast living in the city of Lagos, Nigeria. He enjoys long walks, food and alternative music.