March 29, 2021 | Dr. Linda J. Dobberstein, DC, Board Certified in Clinical Nutrition
Chlorella, single-cell freshwater green microalgae, has been highly sought after for hundreds of years and is considered “more precious than algae.” You may not think about it as a superfood, but it is an amazing, nourishing food. Take time to learn more about it. It is truly unique and packed with many good things!
Many types of microalgae and chlorella exist, but the species Chlorella vulgaris, first identified in 1890, is of particular interest for its many benefits. This simple green algae plant has been used as a food source for humans and animals, especially in Japan, due to its high protein and nutrient content.
Rich in Nutrients and Antioxidants
Chlorella grows rapidly during intense photosynthesis which produces a compound called chlorella growth factor (CGF). CGF is a mixture of nucleic acids that support RNA/DNA functions that affect growth, cellular repair and purification, detoxification, production of proteins, antioxidants, and enzymes. Chlorella is the only microalgae to contain chlorella growth factor, which makes it “more precious than algae.”
Chlorella contains about 58 percent protein, which is higher than many other plant protein sources like soybeans. Chlorella contains all of the essential amino acids. It is considered a rich source of the amino acid arginine, which aids in the production of friendly nitric oxide (NO). This ubiquitous signaling molecule affects many things in your body including blood vessel, endothelial lining, and vascular regulation and natural vaso-dilation and immune and respiratory function.
Chlorella contains small amounts of beneficial polyunsaturated fatty acids found in plants like a-linolenic and linoleic acid. These fats are involved with inflammation management, the immune system, skin, brain and nerves, cell membranes, blood sugar processing, and more.
Chlorella naturally contains several vitamins and other nutrients such as vitamins B1, B2, B3, B5, B6, B12, vitamins C, D2, E, and K1, along with biotin, carotenes, lutein, calcium, magnesium, iron, and selenium. It also contains higher amounts of folate and iron that are more readily utilized than what is found in spinach.
Chlorella vulgaris contains the highest percentages of total flavonoid and phenolic antioxidant compounds compared to other chlorella species. This rich source of antioxidants help buffer against cell stress and free radicals. The abundance of all these nutrients, antioxidants, and chlorella growth factor makes it a powerhouse for overall nutritional health. Imagine finding another food like this.
Potent Antioxidant Support
Chlorella’s benefits were heralded in a 2013 clinical trial that evaluated antioxidant levels in healthy cigarette smokers. Individuals given chlorella vulgaris extract for six weeks experienced significantly improved overall antioxidant status and substantially less oxidative stress compared to the control group. Levels of glutathione, super oxide dismutase, vitamins C and E, and other antioxidants were found to increase in the participants given chlorella. (Antioxidants help recycle other antioxidants and work in a synergistic manner. The addition of chlorella helped protect the other antioxidants so they could work longer before being completely used up.)
Cell studies demonstrated chlorella’s antioxidant support improves management of TNF alpha, interleukin-6 (IL-6), prostaglandin E2, undesirable nitric oxide, and lower levels of lipopolysaccharides (LPS). LPS refers to toxins produced and shed by bacteria or other germs that trigger inflammation.
Cardiovascular and Metabolic Support
Due to its rich storehouse of antioxidants and nutrients, researchers have explored and evaluated chlorella’s impact on cardiovascular health. A meta-analysis review study on several randomized controlled trials (RCTs) demonstrated chlorella’s very positive support on cholesterol metabolism. Multiple trials showed that when it was used for 8 weeks or longer with a dose of 4 grams or more per day, chlorella supported healthy total cholesterol, LDL, blood sugar, and blood pressure management.
Chlorella also supports blood sugar metabolism. Randomized-controlled trials showed chlorella vulgaris aids blood sugar and insulin metabolism in the liver. This helps fat metabolism and takes stress off AST liver enzymes. When the liver gets clogged with sugar and fat, it affects your ability to lose weight.
Aids in Immune and Gut Health
Chlorella provides a 2-for-1 punch as it aids both immune and gut health activities within the digestive tract. Cell studies demonstrate chlorella’s robust support of immune system management against various bacteria and fungi strains. Other cells studies demonstrate chlorella’s beneficial antioxidant support within the colon protecting it from irritation and rogue cells.
Chlorella helps nourish and feed healthy gut flora and aids in the production of the highly beneficial short chain fatty acid (SCFA) called proprionate. Proprionate is important for mucous secretion in the colon, which helps stool pass more easily and protect against irritation. Proprionate also supports gut motility, antimicrobial activity, and blood vessels within the colon. SCFAs like proprionate help reduce hunger signals, support healthy food intake, and activate immune, nerve, and endocrine cells within digestive tract.
A 6-week randomized controlled trial provided evidence of mood support and stress with use of 1800 mg of chlorella per day. An overall improvement in physical and mental well-being and vitality were noted and the supplement was well-tolerated.
Powerful Support for Detoxification
Chlorella’s reputation has made it quite popular for detoxification support. It binds powerfully onto heavy metal toxins within the digestive tract and from dental fillings and implants. This helps removal of unwanted toxins.
Chlorella is also very helpful with removal of damaging heterocyclic amines. These highly reactive compounds are produced when amino acids, sugars, and creatine found in beef, pork, poultry, and fish react with high heat. When you consume these foods, the amine compounds must be detoxified or they cause tissue damage. Chlorella can inactivate or block the absorption of heterocyclic amines in the digestive tract.
Methylmercury, found commonly in fish and shellfish, is highly toxic to the nervous system. The fiber naturally found in chlorella with CGF and other nutrients bind onto the toxin, transform it, and excrete it out through the stool. Who knew that chlorella could help your body with so many different activities?
Helpful for the Environment
Chlorella’s extensive benefits reach beyond human and animal health. Due to its natural oil content and its ability to mitigate carbon dioxide and greenhouse gas emissions, it is being evaluated within the global biofuels industry.It is also being considered for removal of xenoestrogens and bisphenols like BPA and BPS from waste water treatment plants due to its ability to transform toxins.
Quality Watch Points
Chlorella provides a wealth of nutrients and detoxification support. Because of its sensitivity to bind onto toxins, make sure that what you consume is not loaded with naturally occurring environment toxins like xenoestrogens and BPA. The chlorella vulgaris in our Wellness Resources products Daily Detoxify and Chlorella are grown indoors in a hygienically controlled environment in sealed sterilized containers rather than grown outdoors. This avoids environmental contamination and exposure to pollutants.
In addition, Wellness Resources chlorella has a semi-permeable cell wall. This is preferred over “broken cell wall” or “cracked open cell wall” chlorella as nutrient content and quality may become compromised. Semi-permeable versus broken cell wall is like you determining when you want your screen door open versus having a screen door that is always open.
Chlorella works well with other antioxidants like r-alpha lipoic acid, N-acetyl cysteine, dandelion root extract, or by itself. It may also be used with other nutrients like probiotics and glutathione for more synergistic actions. The next time that you think about choices for a “green superfood” think about chlorella. It certainly has proven itself in time and research results.