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Why Is Chlorella Considered a Superfood?

Many are doing whatever they can to optimize their health, especially their heart health, so a new study from the journal Clinical Nutrition1 is encouraging and helpful, as it emphasizes how powerful natural compounds such as those found in chlorella are for different aspects of your well-being.

This systematic review revealed that chlorella, a nutrient-dense green alga that’s especially popular in Asian countries and is used to make medicine as well as nutritional supplements, is a powerful way to support your cardiovascular system, especially in terms of lowering your risk factors.

Researchers at Shahrekord University in Iran looked at 19 chlorella supplementation studies conducted prior to January 2017, focusing on those with thorough coverage on how chlorella influences blood pressure, fasting blood glucose, body mass index (BMI) and lipid profile, as these four factors often have a dramatic impact your cardiovascular disease risk.

While the effects of chlorella on BMI weren’t conclusive, the researchers noted that supplemental intake with natural antioxidants, lipid-lowering agents or drugs designed to lower glucose levels, should undergo further study to determine the value of combination therapy for cardiometabolic health.

Combined, the studies included 797 participants, mostly from Japan, but also some from Iran and Korea, with an array of health conditions. Some were borderline or mildly hypertensive, or hypercholesterolemic, while others were pregnant or smokers; some were healthy individuals. Food Science focused on the bioactive compounds in chlorella that can optimize metabolism of lipids. As reported by NutraIngredients:

“The water-soluble fibers, which are high in chlorella (13g/100g), bind to the digested fat and reduce the absorption of sterols (such as cholesterol) from the intestine; therefore, the amount of sterols in the feces increase … In addition, the analysis revealed that the consumption of chlorella had greater effect in unhealthy participants in contrast to their healthier counterparts. This is because it greatly enhanced indicators such as blood pressure and total cholesterol.”2

For two months, researchers at Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond gave chlorella supplements to individuals suffering from fibromyalgia (10 grams of Sun Chlorella tablets and 100 mL of a more concentrated liquid chlorella supplement daily). Afterward, tests indicated that the pain experienced by the study subjects had decreased by an average of 22 percent.3

Chlorella: What It Is and What It Can Do for You

So why might chlorella be given superfood status? Food Science notes it provides many of the most important nutrients, including the antioxidants lutein and beta-carotene, enzymes, amino acids, proteins, minerals, fiber and vitamins C and E. But perhaps it’s what those nutrients do for you that ushers chlorella into the annals of healthier-than-the-average, nutrient-dense foods.

A type of green alga with more chlorophyll than any other plant,4 chlorella also helps clean your blood, protect your liver, cleanse your intestines and improve your digestive system due to presence of such digestive enzymes as chlorophyllase and pepsin. Food Science observes:

“Packed with nutrients and promotes good health. This green algae grows in freshwater ponds and is common in South East Asia. It was discovered by a Dutch microbiologist in 1890 and was examined as a possible source of protein by German scientists.

However, it was only globally studied after the Second World War in an attempt to feed people cheaply, but it was found to be uneconomic. Later on, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) assessed it to be an ideal food for astronauts … To be used as a supplement, chlorella must be dried to a paste, crushed to a fine powder, and turned to tablets.”5

According to Medical News Today, one little-known advantage is that the protein in chlorella can be absorbed quite well, making it an excellent protein source for vegans.6 Additionally, a 2015 study7 found that:

“B-12 taken from chlorella helped to improve the health markers of 17 vegans and vegetarians between the ages of 26 to 57 years old with a history of B-12 deficiency. This result suggests that the body effectively absorbs the B-12 found in chlorella, making the alga a useful option for vegans and vegetarians with vitamin B-12 deficiency.”

How Chlorella Benefits Your Body

There are many more functions, however. For example, chlorella can:

Help boost your immunity, especially in healthy people, and have “a positive effect on immunity-related cell activity.”8 Because it contains anti-inflammatory properties, it can help your body resist infection.9 In fact, studies have shown that it reduced cancer cells in animal studies, and may even kill cancer cells that already exist in a process known as apoptosis or programmed cell death.10

Increase energy; one case in point is a study that showed how chlorella decreased fatigue in breast cancer patients (as well as improving skin health).11 Another study indicated that effects of chlorella included “increased vitality and decreased levels of fatigue.

Boost your metabolism, which can help your body resist weight gain via complete nourishment. Your body may help you feel satisfied after meals and keep cravings at bay. In addition, participants in one study revealed a reduction in the percentage of body fat.12 Another study found it may also inhibit the growth of fat cells to help fight obesity.13

Along the same lines, chlorella may also help manage blood sugar levels, as a 2013 study also found that ingesting it prevented fat cell growth and blood fat levels, which improved glucose tolerance and insulin sensitivity.14

Promote the proliferation of beneficial intestinal bacteria and otherwise improve gut health and intestinal flora to reduce diarrhea . This premise was supported by a recent study in France, which found that chlorella may have the potential to treat mild indigestion and similar disorders, possibly by stimulating digestive enzyme activity.15

Improve brain function. Because chlorella contains vitamin B12 (and is in fact one of the few plant-based sources16), magnesium and amino acids, brain function is also positively impacted. This not only may prevent the oxidative stress that can bring about age-related cognitive decline, but may also reduce memory loss, another study indicated.17

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