Chlorella is a unicellular, microscopic, freshwater green algae that grows most rapidly in areas with plenty of sunlight and fresh water. It was one of the first lifeforms to exist three-and-a-half million years ago. Chlorella is widely distributed in fresh water all over the world It has efficient nutrient uptake mechanisms and through photosynthesis reproduces rapidly, requiring only carbon dioxide, water, sunlight and a small amount of minerals. Most commercial sources of chlorella are cultivated in vats or ponds, usually with nutrients added to the water.
Chlorella was discovered in 1890 by Martinus Beijerinck, a Dutch microbiologist who became the first person to culture chlorclla in a laboratory. Chlorella derives from the Greek words chloros (green) and ella (small). At the end of the 1930s, a German researcher, Dr Lidner, reported that chlorella contained good-quality protein, which triggered worldwide research into its potential as a future food source.
After WWII, Japan began large-scale research into chlorella as a solution to food insecurity and developed the technology for commercial production. Around the same time, the US and the then USSR also began to cultivate chlorella and investigate its use as a space food. This interest in chlorella gradually declined, however, due to its low harvesting efficiency and high cost.
By the mid-1960s chlorella attracted attention again as its health benefits were recognised and it entered the world market
as a healthfood, becoming popular in the 1970s. The widespread use of chlorella had previously been hindered by its tough outer cell wall, which made the nutrients inside the cell difficult to absorb. However, in the late 1970s, a Japanese company developed a process to break down the cell wall and since then it has become the most popular supplement in Japan and grown in popularity in the worldwide healthfood market.
A NUTRITIOUS WHOLEFOOD
Chlorella is a wholefood consisting of approximately 60 per cent protein and is a rich source of amino acids, including all the essential amino acids. It contains what has been termed CGF or chlorella growth factor, a complex of nucleic and amino acids. CGF helps to repair damaged tissue and heal wounds by supporting cellular renewal, growth and repair and through enhancing the immune system.
Chlorellas bright-green colour is derived from its exceptionally high chlorophyll content – the highest level by weight of any plant. Chlorophyll plays an important role in reducing acidity within the body and assisting with metabolic function. The large quantity of chlorophyll renders it very effective in assisting with detoxification processes. Its also rich in many phytonutrients and antioxidants that help protect against free radical damage and environmental and dietary toxins.
Chlorellas high dietary fibre content is due to its tough cell wall. Other nutrients include betacarotene, all the B vitamins (including B12), iodine, iron, zinc, potassium, magnesium, calcium, phosphorus, vitamins C, D and E and other trace minerals.
Chlorella has a unique ability to bind with heavy metals such as dioxins, cadmium, mercury and lead, and it has become increasingly popular in preventing the accumulation of heavy metals within the body. Studies have indicated that chlorella has a superior ability to draw out these toxic metals from the gut and intestinal tract.
A study carried out in 2005 showed that chlorella inhibits the absorption of dioxins from food and prevents the reabsorption of dioxins stored in the intestinal tract In 2008, research was undertaken on the effect of chlorella on cadmium-induced liver toxicity It was found that chlorella protected against liver toxicity by reducing the accumulation of cadmium in the liver and stimulating the expression of a protein known as metallothionein II, which binds to heavy metals.
In 2010, the Journal of Applied Phycology published results from a study of the effect of chlorella in protecting against cellular damage in the kidney following mercury exposure. The study showed that chlorella helps to protect against oxidative stress and mercury toxicity. It was proposed that this was primarily due to the action of antioxidants such as alpha-tocopherol, carotenoids, chlorophyll, ascorbic acid and other vitamins.
The free-radical-scavenging action of the carotenoids plays a particularly important role in helping to protect against oxidative stress. The high dietary fibre content in chlorella also helps to inhibit the absorption of mercury and other heavy metals from the digestive tract and promotes their excretion.
As well as its role in detoxification, chlorella has also been demonstrated to enhance cardiovascular and immune health. Studies have shown it reduces high blood pressure, improving vascular function and lowering serum cholesterol levels. It also assists with immune function by helping to accelerate wound healing and via its antibacterial and antiviral actions.
The recommended dose for an adult varies from 15 to 30 tablets a day, depending on whether specific health problems are being addressed. About 15 tablets a day is recommended for general health maintenance. Start with a lower dose for the initial few days of taking chlorella and increase the dose gradually over a period of a couple of weeks. Take the daily recommended dosage in divided doses throughout the day, at least twice a day. Chlorella can be taken with at least one glass of any liquid per 15 tablets. If you are prone to bloating and constipation start with three to four tablets daily for the first couple of days and assess any initial reactions.