Many people tout the health benefits of “green” drinks and smoothies that look more like a Halloween or St. Patrick’s Day concoction. But what exactly are in these? Read the labels when buying to be sure but if one of the ingredients is Chlorella then you’ll know it is good for you. Why?
Chlorella is a simple green freshwater alga rich in protein, vitamins, amino acids. Often found as an ingredient in many “greens” powders and drinks, it has more chlorophyll than alfalfa or its chief rival, spirulina. Chlorella pyrenoidosa, the variety used for best results, packs in a true cornucopia of nutrients for such a tiny organism, containing Vitamins B1, B2, B3, B6, C, E, pantothenic acid, folic acid, biotin, PABA, and inositol.
Additionally, just 10 grams of chlorella contains about 12.5 micrograms of B12 and over 5500 IU of vitamin A, 7 mg of zinc, 13 mg of iron, 22 mg of calcium, 31.5 mg of magnesium, 60 mg of iodine, and 99 mg of phosphorus. Nutritionists often recommend 5-10 g of chlorella daily and with all its nutritional value it is no wonder. Perhaps not so surprising for a single-celled organism that has been here on Earth unchanged for a couple billion years.
The health benefits of chlorella have been known for many years, recommended for treatment of fibromyalgia, heavy metal toxicity and obesity. Recently, a meta-analysis of existing research was undertaken to determine chlorella’s effect on cardiovascular risk factors, and the conclusion showed some very positive results for heart health. Specifically, supplementing with chlorella improved levels of total cholesterol, LDL-C, systolic blood pressure, diastolic blood pressure, and fasting blood glucose in test subjects.
The meta-analysis utilized nineteen randomized controlled trials (RCTs) of 797 subjects (primarily from Japan) culled from five different databases and the overall effect for each outcome was calculated using a random effects model. Although the results showed definite health benefits for cardio-metabolic health, there were no significant changes in levels of HDL-C, triglycerides or BMI (body mass index).
The best results were seen in the least healthy people for studies greater than 8 weeks of duration and supplementing more than 4 g of chlorella daily. Although the meta-analysis showed improvement in LDL-C, blood pressure and blood glucose levels, the researchers recommend more RCTs on participants at different levels of health status to clarify the effect of chlorella supplementation on cardiovascular risk factors.