• Sat. Jul 13th, 2024

Benefits, Side Effects, and Safety

Chlorella is a single-celled freshwater green algae that belongs to the Chlorellaceae family. It’s naturally found in aquatic environments and is also mass-produced for use in dietary supplements through large-scale cultivation methods.

Taking chlorella supplements has been shown to improve certain aspects of health, such as reducing low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol and hypertension (high blood pressure) and enhancing the body’s antioxidant defenses.

Certain health conditions, like elevated blood lipid (fat) levels and high blood pressure, can significantly increase your risk of developing heart disease. Heart disease is currently the leading cause of death worldwide. Taking measures to reduce your heart disease risk factors through diet and lifestyle can help protect your heart health in the long term.

Research has shown taking certain dietary supplements, like chlorella, may effectively lower heart disease risk factors like hypertension and high cholesterol.

A review of 19 studies that included 797 people found that when taken in doses higher than 4 grams (g) per day for eight weeks or longer, chlorella supplements significantly decreased LDL cholesterol, total cholesterol, and systolic and diastolic blood pressure in people without pre-existing health conditions and in people with elevated blood pressure and cholesterol levels.

The review also found that chlorella supplements effectively reduced fasting blood sugar, which may also benefit heart health.

Chlorella may reduce heart disease risk factors through several mechanisms. For example, chlorella contains the amino acid arginine. Arginine is required to produce nitric oxide (NO), a molecule that widens your blood vessels, allowing for increased blood flow and better blood pressure regulation.

The algae also contains substances that reduce cholesterol absorption in the digestive system, increase cholesterol excretion from the body, and reduce LDL-cholesterol, all of which can promote healthy blood lipid levels.

Chlorella is high in antioxidant compounds and is an especially good source of plant pigments called carotenoids.

Carotenoids concentrated in chlorella, such as lutein, β-carotene, and zeaxanthin, have powerful cellular-protective properties. Higher blood levels of these compounds may support overall health and protect against the development of several health conditions, such as breast cancer and age-related macular degeneration (ARMD), an eye disease that’s currently the leading cause of vision loss in older adults.

A small study that included 11 people without pre-existing conditions found that a single 6 g dose of chlorella significantly increased blood levels of the carotenoids beta-carotene, lutein, and zeaxanthin for three days after supplementation.

This suggests that taking chlorella supplements is an effective way to increase your body’s antioxidant defenses, at least temporarily.

Chlorella is a plant-based source of several nutrients that are often low in many people’s diets, including iron.

Iron is a mineral involved in cellular function, growth, and hormone production. It’s required to produce hemoglobin, a protein that carries oxygen throughout the body. Iron deficiency is very common, especially among people assigned female at birth.

A 2-teaspoon (tsp) serving of chlorella powder provides 12 milligrams (mg) of iron, which covers 67% of your daily needs. Studies show that chlorella may effectively boost iron levels in people with iron deficiency, such as pregnant people.

Chlorella can be especially beneficial for people following plant-based diets, such as vegan diets, as it’s entirely free from animal-derived ingredients and can provide a rich source of several nutrients that tend to be low in vegan diets, like iron.

In addition to iron, chlorella is also high in folate, vitamin A, and vitamin C, all of which play critical roles in health. Chlorella also contains omega-3 fats, which have powerful anti-inflammatory and cardio-protective properties.

Some evidence suggests that chlorella supplements may benefit exercise performance by improving oxygen intake and muscle endurance. Chlorella helps widen blood vessels, enhancing blood flow and oxygen delivery to the muscles during intensive workouts.

A small study that included 20 adults without pre-existing conditions found that supplementing with 6 g of chlorella for two days increased peak oxygen pulse, or the amount of oxygen consumed per heartbeat during exercise. It also decreased peak blood lactate concentration during exercise compared to a placebo. Peak blood lactate concentration is a measure used to determine endurance capacity during exercise.

While these findings suggest that taking chlorella supplements may be a natural way to enhance performance during physical activity, larger studies are needed to confirm this potential benefit.

Chlorella is available in several forms, including powders, liquids, and tablets.

You can take chlorella as a single supplement or in a multi-supplement. The algae is a common ingredient in products like greens powders, which typically contain other microalgae, like spirulina, as well as greens like kale and spinach.

Dosage

Chlorella dosing varies, but most studies have used doses ranging from 3-10 g daily for time periods of 2-3 months. Depending on the supplement, you may take chlorella in single or divided doses.

Dosing often depends on the product you’re supplementing with and your health goals. For this reason, it’s best to consult a trusted healthcare provider if you have specific questions related to chlorella dosing.

When taken as a supplement in appropriate doses, chlorella is generally considered safe for most people.

However, chlorella supplements may not be safe for everyone. For example, taking improperly processed chlorella supplements may lead to the growth of pathogenic bacteria in people with weaker immune systems.

Chlorella has also been shown to have immune-stimulating effects and may not be safe for people with autoimmune diseases, such as lupus.

Also, because chlorella supplements can contain iodine, they may cause an allergic reaction in people who are sensitive to iodine.

Potential Drug Interactions

Chlorella has the potential to interact with certain medications, such as:

  • Photosensitizing drugs: Chlorella may make your skin more sensitive to the effects of sunlight. Taking chlorella with other photosensitizing drugs can increase this effect.
  • Blood sugar lowering medications: Chlorella may reduce blood glucose (sugar), which may increase the effects of antidiabetic medications.
  • Blood thinners: Chlorella is high in vitamin K, which may reduce the effects of blood thinners like Coumadin (warfarin).

If you’re taking one or more medications, check with your healthcare provider before taking a chlorella supplement.

What To Look For

Chlorella supplements are available for purchase online and in grocery and health food stores.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) minimally regulates supplements, so experts recommend purchasing dietary supplements from companies that adhere to strict safety and quality standards.

When possible, choose chlorella supplements from companies that use third-party labs to test their products for quality and purity. Certain chlorella supplements are third-party tested for contaminants that tend to accumulate in microalgae, like mercury and other heavy metals.

Choosing supplements certified by organizations like U.S. Pharmacopeia and NSF International can increase your chances of purchasing a safe and high-quality supplement.

Chlorella is often combined with other ingredients in supplement products like greens powders. Read ingredient labels closely to ensure a supplement is safe and appropriate for your health needs.

Can You Take Too Much Chlorella?

It’s currently unclear if consuming very high doses of chlorella is harmful to health.

Chlorella is considered safe when taken in doses of up to 15 g per day. However, taking lower doses can help you avoid potential adverse side effects.

Though chlorella is generally well-tolerated, it can lead to a few side effects. The most common side effects related to taking chlorella supplements include:

  • Abdominal pain
  • Constipation
  • Diarrhea
  • Fatigue
  • Flatulence (gas)
  • Sun sensitivity
  • Discolored stool

While rare, chlorella could lead to more serious adverse effects, such as anaphylaxis, a life-threatening allergic reaction.

Chlorella is a freshwater green algae that’s commonly taken as a dietary supplement.

Chlorella supplements have been linked to several health benefits, such as improving heart disease risk factors and boosting blood levels of certain antioxidants and minerals.

While chlorella is generally safe, it’s not appropriate for everyone. Check with your healthcare provider before taking a chlorella supplement, especially if you’re currently prescribed one or more medications or have a health condition.

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