Chlorella Review & Information: Is Chlorella A True SuperFood?

Chlorella Review & Information: Is Chlorella A True SuperFood?

Chlorella is a type of edible algae. It’s a single-celled organism that grows in water and has a high nutritional value. Two species are typically grown for human consumption: Parachlorella beyerinckii (aka Chlorella vulgaris) and Chlorella pyrenoidosa.

By the early 1900’s, scientists had recognized chlorella’s potential as a food source. By the 1950’s, many believed that its rapid growth rate might make it a solution to world hunger. However, as rice, soybeans and wheat yields expanded, the idea of marketing chlorella on a large scale was soon forgotten. Still, scientists continued to study the health benefits of the algae, and the resulting research boosted chlorella’s use as a dietary supplement.

Chlorella is over 50% protein (dry weight) and contains a spectrum of vitamins, amino acids and trace minerals. It also contains high amounts of chlorophyll. The high chlorophyll content of chlorella is credited with giving the algae many of its beneficial properties.

In alternative circles, chlorella is recommended as a “detox” supplement, to eliminate heavy metals and other environmental contaminants from the body. Whether it can actually do this, however, is open to question.

Certainly animal research has shown that – when chlorella is consumed at the same time as contaminants such as lead or cadmium, absorption of these toxic metals is reduced.

But this research doesn’t imply any effects on pre-existing tissue stores.

In fact, in a recent study on mice, increased excretion of methyl mercury was observed when it was co-administered with chlorella, but blood and organ levels were not significantly affected.

Unfortunately, I was unable to find any controlled studies that suggest acute chlorella consumption (as in a “detox” regime) can reduce the levels of heavy metals stored in human tissues.

At best, the research suggests that chronic consumption could be effective as a preventive measure. As one research group studying chlorella’s impact on dioxin absorption wrote:

“Eating foods such as Chlorella, green vegetables, and seaweeds containing chlorophyll and dietary fiber seems to protect against health disorders caused by dioxin exposure in humans by capturing dioxin in the digestive tract and by diminishing the amount of dioxin absorption. These foods serve as a first line of defense against dioxins by acting as interceptor molecules.”

(Emphasis mine)

Along the same lines, chlorella supplementation may help reduce the transfer of dioxins from pregnant and nursing mothers to their infants. Diets high in animal foods such as meat and fish are also comparatively high in dioxins… thus chlorella’s apparent ability to reduce the absorption of these toxic compounds is potentially beneficial for both infants and their mothers.

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Additional research indicates that chlorella has antioxidant activity and may ameliorate mild hypertension, improve fasting blood sugar levels and help normalize blood lipids. There is little evidence, however, that chlorella is effective for treating/preventing cancer or other serious diseases.

Chlorella supplements are easy to find. They’re available in powder, tablet, capsule and liquid form, although the quality can vary. The cell walls of the organism make it difficult to access its nutrients unless it is processed for human consumption. Thus, manufacturers of high-quality chlorella supplements break down the cell walls of the algae to make it more digestible.

As a food, chlorella is safe to consume, although some may have allergic reactions or digestive issues.

To purchase chlorella online, check out iHerb.com, one of our recommended online retailers.

Author: elissa

Elissa is a former research associate with the University of California at Davis, and the author/co-author of over a dozen articles published in scientific journals. Currently a freelance writer and researcher, Elissa brings her multidisciplinary education and training to her writing on nutrition and supplements.

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