The green, freshwater algae from Asia known as chlorella has gained a reputation as a supplement with high levels of nutrients, and it has been promoted as a remedy to combat a wide range of conditions. However, does current research back these claims?
What is chlorella?
This simple organism is also known as sun chlorella and green algae. It is noted for its high levels of chlorophyll, which is responsible for giving plants their green colour. This chemical is also abundant in the green leafy vegetables that health experts say are important in our diets.
As it has a rapid growth rate and a high concentration of protein, chlorella was investigated after the Second World War as a possible food source. Many claims have been made about chlorella's health benefits, especially in Japan where it is a popular food and used for a number of health conditions.
Is chlorella available in the UK?
Chlorella is sold as a supplement in the UK, in tablet form or as a powder, sometimes combined with spirulina, another seaweed. Suppliers of the supplements make various claims that chlorella is a natural source of a broad spectrum of vitamins, protein and minerals as well as chlorella growth factor, which "bolsters our natural defences against disease".
What claims are made about chlorella?
Chlorella contains carotenoids and vitamin C, which are both antioxidants that block the cell-damaging actions of free radicals inside our bodies. It is also claimed that chlorella has high levels of iron and the B vitamins.
Advocates of the supplement say that chlorella can cleanse the body of toxins and heavy metals. They claim chlorella can kill cancer, fight infection, lower blood pressure and cholesterol levels and help the immune system. It is also claimed that chlorella can increase our level of albumin, a protein normally found in the bloodstream, which can protect against diseases.