What is Chlorella?
Chlorella, more commonly known as chlorella, is a type of unicellular green microalgae. This alga has been the subject of interest in the scientific community for several years. Some researchers are interested in developing green energy while others are studying its therapeutic potential. Chlorella is considered as “Super Plants“.
Indeed, many health benefits are attributed to this micro-algae. Known for its antioxidant and detoxifying properties, it is also said to have hypotensive properties to regulate and stabilize blood pressure. Chlorella is also believed to be involved in the regulation of other biological functions such as sugar metabolism, lipid metabolism and the immune system. This is why this algae is more and more popular in phytotherapy to ensure the well-being of the organism.
Origin, habitat and culture
Discovered at the end of the 19th century by the famous microbiologist Martinus Willem Beijerinck, chlorella is present in many parts of the world.
These microalgae have the particularity of growing in both fresh and salt water.
Nevertheless, freshwater chlorella are often preferred for the formulation of food supplements.
Given the growing interest in these algae, they are now produced on a large scale.
Chlorella can be obtained by cultivation in closed or fermenting reactors, open ponds or photobioreactors.
The latter allow cultivation under glass tubes.
Appearance, composition and format
Chlorella contains a large amount of chlorophyll, which gives it a green colour.
Very popular in phytotherapy, this algae is available in different formats: capsule, tablet, powder or liquid.
Its therapeutic interest is linked to its exceptional nutritional composition.
It contains both macronutrients and micronutrients, some of which are essential to the proper functioning of the body.
The following active ingredients are among the main compounds of chlorella :
- Omega 3: Known for its cardiovascular health benefits, Omega 3s are fatty acids essential for the proper functioning of the body. Chlorella can contribute to an adequate intake of Omega 3.
- Vegetable proteins: This algae is an interesting source of vegetable proteins. These are involved in many physiological processes such as the immune response. Proteins also have a structural role in the body.
- Vitamins: Chlorella contains several vitamins from the B group: vitamin B9 (folic acid) and vitamin B12 (cobalamin). These two molecules participate in cell renewal. Vitamin B12 also plays a role in the formation of red blood cells. According to some researchers, this microalgae could also contain vitamin K and vitamin C.
- Minerals and trace elements: Chlorella is known for its iron composition. Essential for the formation and activity of red blood cells, this element is involved in various physiological processes such as energy metabolism, cognitive function and the immune system. According to some studies, green algae also contain potassium, magnesium and zinc.
- Natural pigments: Responsible for the green colour of the algae, chlorophyll is an essential pigment for the production of energy for many plants. Within the human body, this natural pigment has antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, anti-mutagenic and antimicrobial properties. In addition to chlorophyll, chlorella also contains other pigments: carotenoids. These are known to be powerful natural antioxidants.
- Antioxidant enzymes: Involved in various reactions, several antioxidant enzymes are present in chlorella. This is for example the case of catalase, ascorbate peroxidase and superoxide dismutase.
Properties and desired effects
Chlorella contains many antioxidant compounds. Their antioxidant activity is particularly interesting in combating oxidative stress and free radical damage. A scientific study has confirmed the value of chlorella supplementation to ensure an optimal supply of antioxidant nutrients. Conducted on male smokers, this study also revealed an improvement in the antioxidant activity of several enzymes including erythrocyte catalase and superoxide dismutase.
Beyond its natural antioxidant power, chlorella is known for its detoxifying action. This beneficial activity has been studied by many researchers around the world. Their work has shown that this algae promotes the normal activity of the liver. The liver plays a key role in detoxifying the body. Some studies suggest that microalgae may also be beneficial in combating the accumulation of heavy metals such as arsenic, mercury and chromium. Further studies are currently underway to confirm these findings.
Researchers attribute hypotensive properties to chlorella. According to their work, this algae could contribute to the regulation of blood pressure. This microalgae could thus prove beneficial in cases of high blood pressure. Positive results have also been obtained during supplementation with GABA, associated with chlorella, in hypertensive individuals.
Well-being of the body
The composition and properties of chlorella give it many health benefits. A natural source of proteins, vitamins and minerals, this algae contributes to the proper functioning of the body. This is why some researchers attribute a toning and anti-fatigue effect to it.
Immune system support
Once ingested, Chlorella could have benefits on the immune system. This is at least what a study carried out on specific antibodies suggests: IgA. These antibodies are mainly present in the mucous membranes and play an important role in protecting the body against infectious agents and toxins. The study shows that supplementation with chlorella could increase the level of these antibodies in the body, which would be a significant asset for the body’s natural defence.
Studies have shown that Chlorella could be an asset in the management of anemia, an abnormality characterized by a lack of hemoglobin in the blood. Involved in the transport of oxygen, hemoglobin requires iron during its synthesis. In this respect, microalgae can be interesting because of its iron content.
Protection of cognitive functions
Given its antioxidant power, Chlorella may help protect cognitive functions such as attention and memory. This is what a study conducted on the effects of this algae within the body reveals. By combating oxidative stress, the antioxidant compounds of this microalgae help to limit cellular aging. According to this study, Chlorella could thus be used to prevent cognitive decline.
Management of metabolic syndrome
Many research teams are working on the management of metabolic syndrome. It brings together a set of health risk factors such as overweight or obesity. These physiological signs notably increase the risk of developing type 2 diabetes or heart disease. This is why researchers around the world are studying this syndrome, which has become a real public health issue. As such, the oral administration of chlorella is one of the avenues being studied. In the long term, this supplementation would make it possible to reduce the rapid increase in blood glucose levels, serum cholesterol levels and the percentage of body fat. The study shows that Chlorella could also modify the expression of certain genes involved in the metabolism of fats and sugars. Studies are still ongoing to confirm these results.
Interest in case of fibromyalgia
Researchers have been interested in the use of chlorella to combat the symptoms of fribromyalgia. Fribromyalgia is a chronic musculoskeletal disorder characterized by intense generalized pain and fatigue. At the end of their work, the scientists revealed encouraging results for the treatment of fribromyalgia. These initial results must now be confirmed by further studies.
Contraindication, danger(s) and side effect(s)
In general, it is advisable to seek advice from a health professional before starting a chlorella treatment. This is particularly important for people with photosensitivity, for hypotensive patients and for people undergoing treatment that modulates the immune system.
Side effects: To date, short-term chlorella cures have not revealed any side effects. Nevertheless, taking this alga over long periods of time could lead to undesirable effects. In particular, health professionals have revealed the appearance of asthma or dermatological lesions by photosensitization. This is why it is advisable to favour cures of about 1 month maximum.
For vegetarians and vegans, chlorella supplementation can be particularly interesting. Indeed, this algae is a vegetable source of iron, an element found mainly in animal products.
Well-being of the organism: Other algae such as spirulina, can be beneficial to protect and tone the body.