What is Chlorella?
Chlorella is a freshwater unicellular green alga. Chlorella contains abundant protein and chlorophyll compared with other plants, and also large quantities of minerals, such as iron and magnesium, and vitamins, such as folate, vitamin B-6 and vitamin B-121. The proteins of Chlorella contain all the essential amino acids required for human growth and health2.
Where Does Chlorella Come From?
Chlorella a popular foodstuff worldwide, especially in Japan, Taiwan, and Korea3. It can be grown in many different climates and areas.
Chlorella is consumed as a food supplement because it provides a good source of essential amino acids, minerals, vitamins, fibers, and bioactive compounds4, 5. The scientific literature contains numerous reports on Chlorella’s health benefits for hypertension, antioxidant, immune activation, diabetes, etc., in vitro and ex vivo6-18. In human studies, Chlorella has been shown to:
- Lower cholesterol levels in patients with hypercholesterolemia19
- Decrease the transfer of dioxins from mother to fetus through the placenta or to nursing infants through breast milk20
- Increase bone mineral density in postmenopausal women21
- Increase plasma levels of vitamin C, vitamin E and erythrocyte catalase and superoxide dismutase activities3
- Reduce the risk of pregnancy associated anemia, proteinuria and edema1
- Increase salivary SIgA secretion and possibly enhances mucosal immune function22 Immunoenhancing effect after influenza vaccination23.
Negative Side Effects of Chlorella
A search of the scientific literature suggests that there are no significant negative side-effects from oral consumption of Chlorella in normal doses.
Chlorella Recommended Dosages & Timing
Because Chlorella is a food, it is usually consumed in multigram amounts. Typically amounts used in studies are between 5-10g daily.
Chlorella is either included on its own as a standalone powder or more commonly combined with other popular superfoods such as spirulina, wheat grass or barley grass. Such supplements are typically sold as ‘greenfood’ supplements.
As indicated above, Chlorella is most commonly combined with wheat grass, spirulina and/or barely grass.
Chlorella is very safe consumed in normal quantities, with no known contraindications.
1. Nakano S, et al. Chlorella pyrenoidosa supplementation reduces the risk of anemia, proteinuria and edema in pregnant women. Plant Foods Hum Nutr. 2010:65:25–30.
2. Tamura E, et al. Nutrition studies on Chlorella. Jpn J Nutr. 1959;17:19–20.
3. Lee SH, et al. Six-week supplementation with Chlorella has favorable impact on antioxidant status in Korean male smokers. Nutrition. 2010;26(2):175-183.
4. Borowitzka MA, et al. Vitamins and fine chemicals from micro-algae. L.J. Borowitzka (Ed.), Micro-algal biotechnology, Cambridge University Press, New York (1988), p. 153.
5. Schubert LE. The use of spirulina and chlorella as food resource for animals and humans. In: Round FE, Chapman DJ, editors. Progressing physiological research. Bristol, U.K.: Biopress Ltd; 1988, p. 237.
6. Shibata S, et al. Antioxidant and anticataract effect of Chlorella on rats with streptozotocin-induced diabetes. J Nutr Sci Vitaminol. 2003;49:334–339.
7. Rodriguez-Lopez M, et al. Plasma glucose and plasma insulin in normal and alloxanized rats treated with Chlorella. Life Sci. 1971;10:57–68.
8. Guzman S, et al. Anti-inflammatory and immunomodulatory activities of polysaccharide from Chlorella stigmatophora and Phaeodactylum tricornutum. Phytother Res. 2003;17:665–670.
9. Queiroz ML, et al. Effects of Chlorella vulgaris extract on cytokines production in Listeria monocytogenes infected mice. Immunopharmacol Immunotoxicol. 2002;24:483–496.
10. Konishi F, et al. Protective effect of an acidic glycoprotein obtained from culture of chlorella vulgaris against myelosuppression by 5-fluorouracil. Cancer Immunol Immunother. 1996;42:268–274.
11. Singh A, et al. Perinatal influence of Chlorella vulgaris on hepatic drug metabolizing enzyme and lipids. Anticancer Res. 1998;18:1509–1514.
12. Tanaka K, et al. A novel glycoprotein obtained from Chlorella vulgaris strain CK22 shows antimetastatic immunopotentiation. Cancer Immunol Immunother. 1998;45:313–320.
13. Lee HS, et al. Attenuating effect of chlorella supplementation on oxidative stress and NF kappa B activation in peritoneal macrophages and liver of C57BL/6 mice fed on an atherogenic diet. Biosci Biotechnol Biochem. 2003;67:2083–2090.
14. Tanaka K, et al. Oral administration of a unicellular green algae, Chlorella vulgaris, prevents stress-induced ulcer. Plant Med. 1997;63:465–466.
15. Hasegawa T, et al. Toll-like receptor 2 is at least partly involved in the antitumor activity of glycoprotein from Chlorella vulgaris. Int Immunopharmacol. 2002;2:579–589.
16. Sano T & Tanaka Y. Effects of dried powdered Chlorella vulgaris on experimental atherosclerosis and alimentary hypercholesterolemia in cholesterol-fed rabbit. Artery.1987;14:76–84.
17. Suetsuna K & Chen JR. Identification of antihypertensive peptides from peptic digest of two microalgae, Chlorella vulgaris and Spirulina platensis. Mar Biotechnol. 2001;3:305–309.
18. Merchant RE, et al. Nutritional supplementation with Chlorella pyrenoidosa for mild to moderate hypertension. J Med Food. 2002;5:141–152.
19. Okudo M, et al. The effects of Chlorella on the level of cholesterol in serum and liver. Jpn J Nutr. 1975;33:3–8.
20. Nakano S, et al. Maternal–fetal distribution and transfer of dioxins in pregnant women in Japan, and attempts to reduce maternal transfer with chlorella. Chemosphere. 2005;61:1244–1255.
21. Kim YH, et al. An effect of dietary chlorella on bone mineral density in postmenopausal women. J Biomed Lab Sci. 2002;8:217–221.
22. Otsuki T, et al. Salivary Secretory Immunoglobulin a secretion increases after 4-weeks ingestion of chlorelladerived multicomponent supplement in humans: a randomized cross over study. Nutrition Journal. 2011;10:91.
23. Halperin SA, et al. Safety and immunoenhancing effect of a Chlorella derived dietary supplement in healthy adults undergoing influenza vaccination: randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial. CMAJ. 2003;169(2):111-117.