Chlorella is a freshwater microalgae that is estimated to have been in existence for over 1 billion years.
Despite being one of the oldest food sources on our planet, this ancient natural phenomenon is currently juxtapositioned at the forefront of modern health science. New studies are regularly being conducted on chlorella’s powerful ability to help detoxify the body, fight against cancer and improve general well-being.
In this article, we’ve compiled ten of chlorella’s most noteworthy health benefits, as well as a few tips on choosing which type of chlorella to buy and how to use it in your daily routine!
For each one of the benefits, we’ve also provided some relevant scientific literature for those who are interested in diving a bit deeper.
If you don’t want to read through the whole article, just use the table of contents below to find what you’re looking for.
Benefit 1: Chlorella Helps Remove Heavy Metals & Dioxins From The Body
Benefit 2: Chlorella Boosts Immune System Function
Benefit 3: Chlorella is Incredibly Nutrient-Dense
Benefit 4: Chlorella Can Assist With Weight Loss
Benefit 5: Chlorella Lowers Blood Pressure & Blood Sugar Levels
Benefit 6: Chlorella Enhances Aerobic Performance
Benefit 7: Chlorella Helps Remove Radioactive Isotopes From The Body
Benefit 8: Chlorella Can Help Prevent Cancer
Benefit 9: Chlorella Supports Healthy Liver Function
Benefit 10: Chlorella Promotes Better Eye Health
Chlorella is one of the most functional foods available, due to its ability to help detoxify the body from heavy metals and dioxins.
Heavy metal poisoning has become an international health concern over the past few decades, with more people each year being exposed to harmful amounts of heavy metals through contaminated food, water, soil & air pollution. 1
If you work in a heavily industrialised space, have mercury fillings, eat large ocean fish, live in a densely populated area or consume foods from China, it’s very likely that your body contains potentially harmful levels of heavy metals. 2 These substances can cause you to feel tired, sluggish or fatigued and can contribute to a number of serious health issues.
One of chlorella’s most notable benefits is its ability to bind to heavy metals and carry them through the digestive system. This prevents the metals from being reabsorbed, thereby helping to prevent the many illnesses that are tied to heavy metal poisoning. 3, 4, 5, 6, 7
Additionally, chlorella supplementation has been shown to decrease levels of dioxins in the body.
Dioxins are a vast group of chemical compounds that the World Health Organisation classifies as Persistent Environmental Pollutants (POPs). 8 These compounds contain highly toxic substances that can cause reproductive and developmental issues, damage the immune system, wreak havoc on hormones and directly contribute to cancer.
A 2007 study conducted on breastfeeding women found that chlorella supplementation directly reduced levels of dioxins in breast milk, and had a protective effect on both the mothers and their babies. 9
Our immune system keeps us healthy by fighting off infections, but it’s a complicated process which comprises multiple mechanisms and cell functions. Chlorella has the ability to help strengthen our immune system and improve our chances of being able to resist various pathogens.
In a 2011 study, the participants’ immune systems were able to produce more antibodies (proteins that help neutralize pathogens) when consuming chlorella, than when they took a placebo pill. 10
In another study, healthy men and women who took chlorella supplements showed specific markers of increased immune activity. 11 The results showed that chlorella provided a beneficial immunostimulatory effect, which enhanced the subjects’ natural killer cell (NK cell) activity. NK cells are important because they serve to contain viral infections while the immune system works toward clearing them from the body.
Despite the fact that it is extremely easy to grow, chlorella is one of the most nutrient dense plant-based human foods.
Here’s a quick breakdown of chlorella’s nutrient profile.
Chlorella is roughly 50 – 60% protein, which makes it one of the top 5 plant sources of protein in the world. It is also a “complete protein source”, meaning that it contains all 9 essential amino acids that the body needs for healthy growth and development.
Chlorella is one of the few plant sources of vitamin B12, a nutrient which is usually only found in animal products. 12
A study conducted in 2015 found that consuming chlorella improved the health markers of 17 vegans and vegetarians between the ages of 26 and 57, all of whom had a history of B12 deficiency. 13 This study also verified that our bodies are able to effectively absorb chlorella’s B12 content, which is an important confirmation that chlorella is a bioavailable plant source of B12.
As far as plants go, chlorella is very high in iron. A 2009 study conducted with a group of pregnant women found that the women who consumed chlorella experienced a statistically significant reduction in rates of pregnancy-associated anemia. 14
Chlorella can be an excellent source of vitamin C, which has a synergistic relationship with its iron content, as the human body requires vitamin C in order to properly absorb iron. 15
Some chlorella can be an excellent source of dietary magnesium – however, this often depends heavily on the growing conditions.
Omega-3 & Omega-6 Essential Fatty Acids (DHA & EPA)
Omega 3 & 6 essential fatty acids (EFAs) are crucial for human wellbeing. 16 Our bodies are unable to produce these EFAs naturally and therefore we need to consume them regularly in order to remain healthy.
Omega 3 & 6 EFAs form the building blocks of our nervous system, and are also essential for the integrity of every cell membrane in our body, making them particularly important for the health of vital organs such as the heart and brain.
Chlorella is a rich source of Omega-3 & Omega-6, containing roughly 350mg per 10g serving, which constitutes the full recommended daily intake of EFA’s for the average adult. 17
Chlorella contains several antioxidant compounds, including high levels of chlorophyll, beta-carotene, lycopene, and lutein. 18
Other vitamins and minerals
Most chlorella also provides a small amount of zinc, copper, potassium, calcium, folic acid and various other B vitamins.
Some research suggests that chlorella can assist with the process of losing weight.
In a 2008 study published by the Journal of Medicinal Food, researchers found that “chlorella intake resulted in noticeable reductions in body fat percentage, serum total cholesterol, and fasting blood glucose levels.” 19
Another study conducted in 2014, found that all subjects who took chlorella experienced some weight loss. 20
The tie between chlorella and weight loss could be attributable to its ability to help promote detoxification and support the liver; both factors which often have a peripheral relationship to weight loss.
Chlorella has the potential to help promote heart and kidney health, which is critical for normal blood pressure.
In a 2013 study, people with mildly high blood pressure took just 4 grams of chlorella daily for a 12 week period. 21 At the end of the study, participants who took chlorella had lower blood pressure readings than participants who took the placebo.
Another study showed that taking chlorella supplements could be directly linked to less stiffness in the arteries, which is a significant factor affecting blood pressure levels. 22
Chlorella has also been found to reliably lower blood sugar levels. A study conducted in 2008 concluded that taking chlorella for 12 weeks lowered fasting blood sugar levels in both healthy people, as well as those at a high risk of lifestyle-related chronic disease. 23
Here’s one for all the fitness enthusiasts out there – chlorella can naturally enhance your aerobic performance!
A study conducted in 2014 found that participants who consumed six grams of chlorella daily experienced a significant increase in lung oxygen saturation, which is a direct measure of endurance. 24 The placebo group in this study didn’t experience any change in endurance levels.
The science surrounding chlorella’s role in protecting humans from the effects of radiation is still relatively young, but some promising findings have already begun to emerge.
The main field of research in this area has focused on a radioactive isotope called Strontium-90 (90Sr). Strontium-90 is a radionuclide that is released into the atmosphere and/or ocean during any nuclear accident or nuclear weapons test. It is extremely pervasive, with a half-life of roughly 28.8 years, and has the ability to spread across the globe via wind and ocean currents. Strontium-90 is particularly harmful to humans, with the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) listing it as a known carcinogen and the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) confirming that it causes multiple types of cancer. 27, 28
A study published in 2016 found that “chlorella could inhibit the absorption of 90Sr into the blood and enhance the elimination of 90Sr from the body through adsorption in the intestine”. 29 The word “adsorption” in this context describes the process of chlorella binding to the radioactive particles and carrying them through the digestive system to be excreted as waste, thereby protecting against the potentially devastating health effects that Strontium-90 can have on the body.
It’s important to understand that any form of cancer is a deeply complicated disease, and interestingly, most of us will develop cancer cells at some point in our lives.
However, properly functioning immune systems have the ability to attack and destroy many types of cancer cells before they have the chance to take hold and morph into the various types of “cancer” that we all recognize.
When taken preemptively, we know that chlorella strengthens the immune system, which allows our bodies to respond in an optimal way to the presence of cancer cells. Additionally, because chlorella helps to eliminate heavy metals, toxins, and radiation from our bodies, we’re less likely to suffer from the many cancers that are directly linked to those substances.
A 2009 medical study also found that chlorella directly reduced cancer cells in animal subjects through a process known as apoptosis or “programmed cell death”. 30
For those already fighting cancer, chlorella can still help by limiting the severity and side effects of radiation treatment and chemotherapy.
Chlorella’s high level of chlorophyll has been shown to have a protective effect in radiation-based treatments, while also helping to remove radioactive particles from the body.
A team of researchers from Virginia Commonwealth University Medical College observed that,
“Cellular components and functions of the immune system remain at or near-normal levels and are less adversely affected when patients are undergoing chemotherapy and/or taking immunosuppressive medications such as steroids.” 31
The university’s two-year study allowed researchers to observe that patients who consumed chlorella had fewer respiratory infections and flu-like illnesses during the course of their treatment.
Multiple studies conducted on subjects with liver disease have found chlorella to be effective at reducing the markers of these diseases, as well as improving the participants’ overall liver function. 32, 33, 34, 35
There hasn’t been much research conducted on whether chlorella has any significant positive effects on healthy livers, but given its ability to reduce the body’s toxic load, we can surmise that chlorella has a net positive effect on the overall function of the liver.
Chlorella contains two carotenoids, lutein and zeaxanthin, which protect the eyes and decrease the risk of macular degeneration.
Lutein and zeaxanthin are both fat-soluble antioxidants which are found in the tissues of the eye, as well as in the blood, serum, skin, cervix, brain, breast and adipose tissues.
Multiple studies have been conducted on the high carotenoid content of chlorella and the positive effect it can have on human eye health. 36, 37, 38
Chlorella certainly hasn’t earned such a good reputation based on palatability, and it’s generally not something that people reach for when they’re chasing a snack.
The 2 best ways to consume chlorella are either in tablet form (swallowed whole) or powder form (added to smoothies).
Chlorella has a relatively subtle taste profile, so mixing a small amount of chlorella powder into your daily smoothie will provide all the goodness you need without affecting the level of deliciousness.
So this is obviously the part where we plug our favorite brand of chlorella; the only Australian grown chlorella in the world – Biogenesis!
Are we biased? Of course we are!
Have a quick read of the points below – you’ll probably find yourself feeling pretty biased too.
1. Not Contaminated
Ironically, most of the chlorella that people use to help detoxify their bodies contain various environmental pollutants, heavy metals and in some cases, fillers & bulking agents.
Why? Because most chlorella is grown in China or surrounding areas and sold in huge quantities to the big multinational “health” corporations.
Most of us don’t realize how good we’ve got it here in Australia. Compared to many other countries, our air and water are still pristine, and our food standards are not politically corrupt.
For that reason, the Biogenesis founders chose to set up their unique operation in the pristine spring waters of far north Queensland, despite the fact that it would ultimately be much more expensive than an Asian-based operation.
Biogenesis chlorella is grown with no pesticides or herbicides, is totally GMO-free and is independently tested.
2. Regulated by FSANZ (Food Standards Australia & New Zealand)
FSANZ is widely recognized as the strictest food manufacturing standards authority in the world. Any chlorella grown and processed in Australia is required to undergo rigorous testing and quality control on each batch.
3. Nutrient Density
Biogenesis chlorella has been tested for nutritional density, and has been proven to contain significantly higher levels of Chlorophyll, Dietary Iron, Omega-3, Omega-6, Magnesium & Vitamin B12 than their competitors. See the chart below…
Most internationally sourced chlorella changes hands multiple times between the grower and the eventual retailer. During this process, there’s plenty of opportunity for corruption, especially in parts of the world which are renowned for their lack of oversight and corporate integrity.
The chlorella that we stock is entirely grown, processed, packaged and distributed by the same people. It’s a family-run Aussie business and we have the benefit of being able to reach out and chat to the owners whenever we need to.
So if you’re interested in detoxifying your body naturally, and improving your overall health, chlorella should definitely be on your next shopping list!