Is chlorella just hit the hippies “hit food”, or something more? Is it worth for humans to eat food of crabs and fish..? An overview about this mysterious seaweed.
In this article you will learn the basics of chlorella. What it is, what kind of benefits it is and what you should pay attention when choosing chlorella.
- Contains more chlorophyll or chlorophyll per gram than any other plant in the world (2-7%).
- The highest known food source for nucleic acids RNA (ribonucleic acid) and DNA (deoxyribose). (these are claimed to delay aging process)
- Chlorella is one of the world’s fastest-growing organism, it will quadruple its size in less than a day. This is called as: “Chlorella Growth Factor (CGF)”.
- Contains about 60% absorbable protein (the complete protein) and its protein content is one of the largest in the world.
- Chlorella is one of the few plant-based absorbable vitamin B12 sources.
- Chlorella was one of the first green algae which became a dietary supplement. Industrial production began in Japan as early as shortly after the Second World War.
- Chlorella is one of the oldest forms of life on earth, is estimated to be at least 540 million years old. The first green algae developed Precambrian age approximately 1,5-2,5 billion years ago.
What is chlorella
Chlorella (Chlorella) is a single-celled algae which belongs to the Chlorophyta green algae family. It has a huge amount of chlorophyll and is also very rich in nutrients.
Chlorella contains the soaring number of a necessary vitamins such as B, C, E, and vitamin K, amino acids, beta-carotene, iron, minerals such as calcium, zinc, magnesium, potassium and other rare minerals.
Chlorella can be found in more than 100 different varieties, the most common ones are: Chlorella pyrenoidosa, vulgaris, minutissima, variabilis.
One of chlorella’s unique features is its rate of growth (growth factor). Under the right conditions chlorella is able to quadruple its size in 20 hours. For that reason chlorella was on top of the list in the 1950’s when scientists were looking for a solution to the food shortage. However chlorella was never potential solution for hunger crisis, since it requires a complicated processing before it can fit for human consumption.
Method for breaking chlorella’s strong cell walls was invented in Japan around 1970s. Chlorella quickly became a hit, it was one of Japan’s most popular dietary supplements. Today chlorella sells for around 187 million U.S. dollars per a year in Japan, which is almost half of the vitamin C sales.
Chlorella is great add on in diet for its nutritional content, but what other potential benefits this green algae has?
Potential benefits of chlorella
Although chlorella was discovered about 120 years ago, it has been studied relatively high. No one can say that chlorella has not been studied, when alone in the PubMed search for “chlorella” provides 4355 results and it seems to increase all the time.
Please note that chlorella sellers are often interpreted animal studies very creatively, and will tell you fairy tales about benefits of their chlorella. Although animal studies show indicative results, it does not necessarily mean that it is so in humans. You want to be skeptical with any health claim made about chlorella.
There is various studies and arguments about chlorella, here is a few of them.
Chlorella aids with weight loss? – Chlorella can be a good supplement for all dieters and those with weight problems. Chlorella has had slimming effects rats– and human trials, but there have also been studies in which the chlorella has not been affected weight in any way.
In 2008, the Japanese study shown that the use of chlorella (3 months 9g/day) significantly reduced the body fat percentage, fasting blood sugar and serum cholesterol. – Nutrigenomic studies of effects of Chlorella
Although Chlorella might not have slimming properties, it is still a good supplement for dieters as it contains important vitamins and nutrients. After all, it has almost all vitamins which are claimed to help with weight loss, such as magnesium, niacin, inositol, A, C, B vitamins and that chlorophyll.
Lesser dioxins in breast milk? – A Japanese study showed that 6 grams of chlorella every day during pregnancy reduces breast milk dioxins significantly (by 40%). Dioxin-side effects include. the child’s tooth development and gender development disruption in boys. Chlorella was also found to increase the IgA, or immunoglobulin A amount in a breast milk, which enhances the infant’s immune system and protects the child against infections. According to this study. (IMPORTANT: as always if you are pregnant you SHOULD consult your own doctor before using any supplements. In addition, chlorella has been shown to reduce the risk of anemia in pregnant women (Source).
Heavymetals? – Chlorella is said to be an effective heavy metal chelator (chelation). It is known to bind heavy metals such as mercury, aluminum, uranium and lead. So it makes sense to take chlorella before you go to eat a heavy metal-containing meals (such as fish and sushi). If chlorella helps to remove these heavy metals from the body, then it would certainly be a useful food that everyone should eat. However, more proper research on the subject is needed before any one can make claims about this.
It would be great if you could naturally reduce dangerous toxins such as methylmercury, lead, plutonium and other bioaccumulative toxins which we are exposed too easily these days. However, the best way to reduce the heavy metal is to avoid it. So, eating clean food and avoid: aluminum pans / cans, tuna fish, tobacco, unnecessary chemicals and so on.
If this subject interests you: explore 3-year research on the subject made in Russia: The Discovery of a Unique Natural Heavy Metal Chelator (PDF)
Prevent hangover? – Chlorella has an impressive reputation in mitigating hangover, in fact, it contains almost everything you need to alleviate a hangover. Chlorella is effective to increase glutathione, which helps cleanse liver and clearing up the alcohol byproducts such as acetaldehyde from the body. In addition, it contains a huge amount of vitamins that drinking alcohol reduces from body, ( B1, B2, B6, B12, C and E vitamins.) Chlorella contains chlorophyll which supports liver function and thereby might reduce alcohol related harm. – More information can be found from: Natural Hangover Cures
Chlorella delay aging process? – The amount of nucleic acids in the body decreases with aging and modern pollution, lack of exercise, poor nutrition and stress leads to the fact that our RNA / DNA deteriorate more quickly and cause premature aging. Before a sardines were the best-known source for nucleic acids, today it is known that chlorella contains about 5 to 16 times more nucleic acids than sardines. In addition, chlorella contains a number of substances which are claimed to delay aging, (such as chlorophyll, antioxidants, vitamins, minerals, essential fatty acids.)
“The claims for the life-extending benefit of nucleic acid administration are supported by a diverse series of experiments that span nearly 50 years. Based on these findings and the reports by Dr. Frank of its widespread clinical benefits with human use, I consequently agree with Dr. Frank’s recommendation to add at least 1.5 grams per day of nucleic acids to an anti-aging nutritional supplement regimen.” – A Highly Effective Anti-Aging Supplement
Of course, there are other benefits connected to the chlorella, but the above ones are most common.
Chlorella nutritional content
Chlorella is often called the natures own multivitamin, and it is undeniably a truth. Chlorella contains all the nutrients you need to sustain life. It is rich in A, C, E, and vitamin K, containing all the B vitamins (including B12), zinc, iron, calcium, magnesium, potassium, and the enzyme pepsin. Chlorella contains 58 to 70% bio-available protein (all essential amino acids).
It is one of the few foods that naturally contain vitamin-D. It has more beta-carotene than carrots and more than five times more chlorophyll than wheatgrass. 25 grams of chlorella provides the recommended daily intake amount of iodine (~150 µg). It is also the best source in foods for nucleic acids, and contains carotenoids, such as: astaxanthin, canthaxanthin, fucoxanthin.
100 grams of chlorella contains about 200 mcg B12-vitamin (cobalamin), but it is hardly sufficient in itself a source of vitamin B12 for vegetarians. I recommend high quality methylcobalamin spray for the B12 source.
For it’s nutritional content and the potential benefits to humans, chlorella seems to be a real super food, but is it safe for humans?
Allergies (this is not what marketers tend to tell you)
Feel bad after eating chlorella? You are probably allergic to it. Some people (about 20%) do not tolerate chlorella and may experience gastrointestinal symptoms such as: abdominal contortion, vomiting and nausea. Symptoms may appear immediately after eating or even 48 hours later. The symptoms can also be caused by the fact that your product is contaminated with heavy metals or your intestinal bacteria are in poor condition. These symptoms may be reduced by taking probiotics or changing the chlorella variety.
After taking chlorella: You should observe your state of mind, and if its causing symptoms, stop using it. Even though it’s a “superfood”, it makes no sense to use supplementation if it lowers your performance. (the opposite reaction what it should be)
In case of chlorella it’s easy to think that the symptoms are so-called “detox symptoms” because in theory it can bind heavy metals in your body. However, first I recommend changing the product and strain, as allergy is so common.
If you are taking medicines, drugs or have symptoms of occurring disease, it is advisable to consult a doctor before use of chlorella.
Chlorella is not recommended for users of anticoagulants, because it contains high amounts of vitamin K. Also its not recommended for bleeding disorder (hemophilia) patients.
Use with caution if you have low blood pressure or are taking drugs that lower blood pressure, as chlorella may cause low blood pressure. As always, consult your doctor before using nutritional supplements if you are pregnant, using medication or suffering from a medical condition.
How to use chlorella
Beginners should start slowly, for example, a maximum of 1 teaspoon in a day and observe the presence of any allergic reactions. Otherwise, you can mix it for basic smoothies and so on.
If you mix with plain water, put a teaspoon of honey and lemon among. Honey has prebiotics that may facilitate the absorption of chlorella and lemon spice up the taste.
Famous biohacker Dave Asprey’s recommendation: Before you go to enjoy heavy-metal-rich food (for example sushi buffet) you should take about 3-5 grams of chlorella.
The removal of a hangover: about half an hour before drinking at least 5 grams seems to be working for most people.
What you need to know before purchasing
Choosing right kind a chlorella is not rocket science but you should pay attention to certain things. Next I will reveal on how to avoid marketing scams and poor-quality products which only lowers your health.
With this supplement you need to pay special attention in the purity of product, as the living cell wall of chlorella is very effective binding heavy metals.
Always select a manufacturer who’s chlorella is grown in a filtered water and avoid marketing phrases such as: “clean pristine water” especially if it comes from China. I Prefer always those companies that give some sort results of purity of their products. Organic mark does not tell anything at all with chlorella, in fact it can predict poor quality product.
The rule of thumb: Prefer those who tell most about their product and the manufacturing methods. You can also get information about the quality with the following parameters.
Chlorella wall must opened before the human digestive system can use it. This can be done in many ways to today. If the manufacturer does not tell you their method of opening cell wall, then you should suspect that there is something weird going on.
- Pressure release – New and probably the best way to break the cell wall. Chlorella is lead through pressure chamber where pressure rise and fall abruptly, resulting in breaking of chlorellas cell walls. Heat or chemicals is not used during the process, so the survival of nutrients is guaranteed.
- Dyno-mill – The method developed in the 1970s. Chlorella is put into the mill with a thousands of small (2mm) glass beads and rotated for a few minutes. The problem with this is the potential destruction of nutrients. Explained in this video. Ok choice, but not the best.
- Thin cell wall – Chlorella vulgaris is grown inside the tank without sunlight, so the cell wall remains thin and is automatically “opened” in a drying process. Good selection and cleanest option, but possibly has lower chlorophyll content.
- Spray Drying / Jet-Spray – I don’t have exact data how this works. It has something to do with pressure and spraying. Japanese Yaeyama Chlorella is often used for this. Most experts says this is good method.
- Sound waves – A bit similar like the pressure release technology, but with sound waves. Good choice.
- Heat / freeze – Chlorella is heated and cooled quickly. Destroys nutrients, not recommended. (Usually labels will not tell you this.)
- chemical peeling – Rare, but probably the cheapest way as you dont have to invest in expensive equipment. Cell wall is fermented open with chemicals and enzymes. Destroys nutrients and increases the potential toxins in the final product. (Usually the label will not tell you this.)
Good to know because of allergies, and at the same time also suggests something about the quality of product. If the manufacturer / seller does not tell chlorella species, then it is possible that there might be something they are hiding.
- Vulgaris – Often grown inside tanks without sunlight. Contains less nutrients and chlorophyll than pyrenoidosa, but possibly more chlorella growth factor (CGF) than other varieties. Chlorella vulgaris absorption always better than the other varieties, so it might is best choice if you have sensitive stomach. (In this mouse study it was found that vulgaris is absorbed even cell walls was not broken.) Usually vulgaris is a purest chlorella variety, which is often made in South Korea and Germany.
- Yaeyama – Chlorella vulgaris subspecies. Usually grown in outdoor tanks in Japan. Has reputation of clean and high-quality chlorella.
- Pyrenoidosa – More nutrients and chlorophyll. Grown in sunlight outdoors, which is why pyrenoidosa has most pollution and environmental toxins. But for example, chlorella pyrenoidosa grown in Taiwan is always cleaner than organic chlorella grown in China. Nutrient rich but difficult to be digested by the human body.
The largest manufacturer of chlorella countries are: Taiwan, Japan, and China. There is low volume production in India, Germany and Indonesia. The country where chlorella is manufactured tells alot of it’s quality, so it is useful to know the basics.
- Japan – Japanese companies have manufactured chlorella longer than any other country, so you could imagine that there is a knowledge and skill to grow chlorella. The government of Japan has set strict limits for heavy metals and bacteria in Chlorella, so the quality is generally very good.
What about Japanese chlorella radioactivity? – Generally speaking, you should be more concerned about heavy metals than radioactivity. When you look at these laboratory test results (pdf) you will notice pretty fast that there is not really anything to fear about. As basically anything you collect from forest has more radioactivity than chlorella from Japan.
You should be aware that chlorella is not the same thing as, for example, kelp seaweed which collected from the sea. Chlorella is not grown or collected from the sea. Chlorella is grown and collected from separate pools and most manufactures are using filtered water.
The most common manufacturers are located the islands of Okinawa and Ishigakin which are about 1800-2000 km away from the Fukushima nuclear power plant. See manufactures sites: Ishigaki Island / Okinawa island
- South Korea – Mostly chlorella vulgaris grown in internal tanks. Probably the purest chlorella in the world.
- Taiwan – The largest chlorella manufacturers in the world. Probably grows all the varieties. Taiwan Chlorella is usually of high quality and pure.
- China – Generally speaking, most polluted and poorest quality chlorella comes from China. Although it is cheaper, I do not see the slightest reason to buy Chinese chlorella, because you dont know how it is done and what there is. If you can not afford to invest in a decent chlorella then dont buy it at all.
- Other countries – If the manufacturer / seller tells you all the necessary information, then it may be OK. If not, then I would recommend to leave the product on the shelf.
Popular chlorella products
I have tested a lot different chlorella products and most of them are just crap. Luckily there’s plenty of good manufactures who are making good stuff. Here is some recommendations for good chlorella products, which I personally use.
HealthForce Chlorella Manna
Country of Origin: South-korea.
Species: Chlorella Vulgaris
Purity: Filtered water, the inner tank.
Cell wall: Grown in dark without sunlight (does not have to break the cell walls)
Other: Tells you everything you need to know in their website. For example laboratory test results, you can see it here.
If you live outside of U.S, for example in Russia, Singapore, Brazil or Europe, then your best choice is iHerb.com which ships to over 150 different countries, and carries great selection of chlorella products and virtually every natural supplement there is.
Country of Origin: Taiwan, end product is packed in Japan.
Species: Chlorella Pyrenoidosa
Purity: Filtered water, outside tank.
Cell wall: DYNO-Mill®
Other: Declares that the measuring and test products from radiation and heavy metals, but does not offer any concrete results from it. Includes non-GMO soy lecithin. Grown to about 3,300 kilometers from Japan.
Personally im using this product: Sun Chlorella 300 Tablets
Iherb: Sun Chlorella 500 mg 120 Tablets
Sun Chlorella, A Granules, 20 Individual Packs (60 g) Chlorella grains in convenient packages.
Source Naturals Yaeyama Chlorella
Country of Origin: Ishigaki island Japan.
Purity: Out door tank.
Cell wall: Spray dried.
Other: Cheap basic chlorella. Good value for money.
If you have not yet ordered from iHerb.com, you’ll get $5 off from your first order, if you order for more than $40 dollars you’ll get $10 off. You get the discount code automatically from my links and while you’ll benefit from this, I also benefit by getting “iHerb credits” that I can use towards my next orders. Thank you for this!
Chlorella has been extensively studied in the last 100 years, it is rich in nutrients and one of the few foods that actually deserve to be named as a super food. If your stomach can tolerate chlorella, it’s probably one of the best things you can stick in your mouth.
Sources and links
Identification and characterization of heavy metal-resistant unicellular alga.
Protective effects of Chlorella vulgaris in lead-exposed mice infected with Listeria monocytogenes.