Chlorella: 3 Surprising Benefits (and a Major Warning)

With billions of humans on Earth and an exploding population of mouths to feed, scientists in the 1940s and 1950s quickly believed chlorella was the solution. When chlorella is dried out the plant has around 45% protein, 20% fat, and 20% carbohydrate with 10% minerals and vitamins; an ideal ratio for a superfood. Unfortunately, as agriculture grew more efficient, excitement of chlorella has dwindled…

…but not for everyone

The benefits of chlorella as a supplement for improving mental and physical performance are being researched for detoxification, immune health, and anti-aging.

More research is needed to make some of the claims that other supplement companies have made, but there is some literature to suggest that we can utilize the benefits of chlorella for our own purposes.

Chlorella Benefits for Detoxification

In the modern environment, there are toxins and specifically heavy metals everywhere. It is virtually impossible to escape urban life without them.

According to a 2012 study in EXS journal, there is a high degree of toxicity in the modern world that create organ damage even at the lowest levels of human exposure [1]. This study (cited over 900 times for the scale), goes on to show just how problematic heavy metals can be.

As it relates specifically to the brain, there is plenty of evidence heavy metals are problematic as well. One 2015 study in the Journal of Environmental Health found that environmental toxicity (heavy metals) found that children suffered learning disabilities and cognitive deficits compared to those without these pollutants. Any heavy metals increased risk for Alzheimer’s disease, dementia, and a host of others [2].

The heavy metals typically reduce important antioxidant systems including things like BDNF, which negatively impact memory formation and learning [3].

The good news is, chlorella powder can reverse or counteract this trend. Chlorella supplements help to bind with heavy metals like lead, cadmium, mercury, and uranium, which prevent them from being reabsorbed in our bodies [4]. According to some studies, the chlorella supplements can help to prevent heavy metals from accumulating in our soft tissues and organs as a protective measure [5].

Getting rid of heavy metals is a huge priority not only for prevention of neurological disorders, but also for achieving optimal mental performance.

Chlorella Benefits for Immune System Health

The benefits of chlorella that relate to immune health are also attributed these detoxification mechanisms, but there may be other things at play. A study in Nutrition Journal published in 2012 showed that taking chlorella supplements for 8 weeks could improve NK cell activity, which is a major immune system biomarker [6].

The NK stands for “natural killer” cell activity and researchers discovered that the immune system was bolstered with the help of chlorella. This is a different immune boosting effect than some other nootropics, such as rhodiola, curcumin, or nicotinamide riboside. It may also be helpful in bolstering the immune system during radiation treatment for chemotherapy.

In one two-year study, patients undergoing radiation therapy found that chlorella could protect the body against UV radiation treatments and remove the radioactive particles. This was specifically a result of the high chlorophyll content in a chlorella supplement [7].

Longevity and Anti-Aging

In recent years some of the most successful billionaires have invested heavily in anti-aging and longevity treatments. Larry Ellison (Oracle founder), Peter Thiel (PayPal co-founder), and Sergey Brin (Google co-founder) have all made bets to live longer [8].

Research is showing that some of the underlying mechanisms around aging is related to oxidative stress. In one Clinical Laboratory study, researchers found that chlorella could reduce oxidative stress in the body [9]. The conclusion was that because chlorella could increase vitamin A, C, and glutathione, it had a positive effect on oxidative stress markers and aging by extension.

Chlorella Side Effects: Anything to Worry About?

Just because chlorella is a plant and generally well-tolerated does not mean there are no risks or potential for harm. There are few chlorella side effects, but the people who do experience it usually like to know beforehand what the risks are.

Some people experience symptoms such as swelling of the face or tongue, sensitivity to sunlight, and upset stomach. The upset stomach is common for most of the supplement industry. Remember, you are usually taking a concentrated form of a plant, which means our stomachs are not going to be used to it.

Finally, for some people who are allergic to iodine, it might be useful to consult a doctor before taking chlorella. While the chlorella benefits are manifold, allergies can definitely interfere.

How to Take Chlorella

If you plan to buy chlorella online there are a couple of ways you can consume it. One option is to take it tablet form, which is the simplest and least time consuming. Usually people consume 3 – 6 tablets of chlorella (depending on the consistency).

Some people want to mega dose chlorella, but this isn’t necessary especially if you have spent any time focused on micronutrients in your diet in other ways.

For those who prefer to take supplements in a smoothie, chlorella has a strong taste. You do not want to add more than ½ teaspoon to a smoothie and it is always helpful to have banana, coconut, and other flavorful foods in the smoothie to mask the flavor.

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