Microalgae are the lowest level of the aquatic food chain and they supply oxygen for several species of aquatic life (1). Chlorella is a unicellular green alga which is found in fresh water. Its name originated from two words, “Chloros” meaning green and “ella” meaning small. Chlorella vulgaris is endowed with biological and pharmacological properties which play an important role in improving human health (2).
Every year huge amounts of Chlorella in the form of powder and tablets are sold widely in many countries such as United States, Taiwan, Japan, Indonesia and China as nutraceuticals and dietary supplements (3).
10 Health benefits of Chlorella
- Chlorella is nutrient dense
It is a rich source of protein. Chlorella is comprised of 60 % protein which contains all the essential amino acids and the protein is highly digestible because it is of low molecular weight. It is a major source of chlorophyll which has a very similar structure to that of hemoglobin (1).
Chlorella is a good source of vitamins alpha-carotene, beta-carotene and fair source of many B vitamins. It also contains calcium, selenium, magnesium and phosphorus (1). Chlorella is made up of functional nutrients that include proteins, omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids, polysaccharides, vitamins and minerals (2).
- May boost immune system
Immunity is the ability of our body to fight against or get rid of foreign organisms or abnormal cells or substances that have the potential to cause harm to us. In a human study conducted chlorella supplementation exhibit beneficial immunostimulatory effect (4).
- Anti-oxidant activity
Antioxidants have the ability to prevent chronic degenerative diseases such as atherosclerosis and cancer. Chlorella is a good source of dietary antioxidants such as lutein, alpha and beta carotene, vitamin C and tocopherol (5).
- Cholesterol lowering effect
A study concluded that supplementation with Chlorella improved the lipid profile by reducing total cholesterol and triglycerides in subjects with mild hypercholesterolemia. It was also observed that this action was related to carotenoid intake (6).
Chlorellin extracted from Chlorella demonstrated antimicrobial activity against bacteria (7). The crude bioactive constituents extracted from Chlorella vulgaris have been examined and found to have antibacterial properties against both grams negative and gram-positive pathogens except for Klebsiella (8).
Consumption of foods and dietary supplements that have antimicrobial effect would be a safe way to defend against these microbes.
Our immune system’s first response to the intrusion by an irritant is inflammation. The inflammation starts from the time the pathogen enters the body.
The protein pigment complex from chlorella has favorable anti-inflammatory action and it could be used to treat acute inflammation (9). The major carotenoid of chlorella violaxanthin may have the potential to be anti-inflammatory agent for either therapeutic or functional adjuvant purposes (10). And it is natural and safe.
- Reduces risk of anemia
Chlorella is a source of folate, vitamin B 12 and iron all of which are required for red blood cell production. Because of these nutrients present in chlorella supplementation with it may decrease the risk of anemia (11, 12).
- Probably reduces the risk of high blood pressure
Gamma amino butyric acid (GABA) rich chlorella was observed to significantly decrease high-normal blood pressure and borderline hypertension. It may be a useful dietary supplement for prevention of the onset of hypertension (13).
Hypertension or elevated levels of blood pressure is a major risk factor for developing cardiovascular diseases (CVDs).
- May help in managing diabetes
It was observed in a study conducted on mice that chlorella increased insulin sensitivity (14). The green alga seems to inhibit certain enzymes which have a role to play in developing diabetes. The antioxidant property and the metal chelating ability of chlorella may be the underlying mechanism by which the antidiabetic activity occurs.
- May help in reducing the risk of cancer
In a study on rats it was observed that oral administration of chlorella reduced the incidence, multiplicity, and volume of breast tumors when compared to the control group. The protective effect may be due to the antioxidant and pro-apoptotic properties of Chlorella (15).
In another study Chlorella vulgaris extract was seen to have dual inhibitions to lung cancer cell growth and migration ability. That means chlorella may be beneficial in inhibiting lung cancer metastasis (16).
Chlorella is a microalga which is nutrient dense and rich in bioactive substances. It can be consumed as a dietary supplement which provides us with nutrients and at the same time helps us to maintain good health.
- Rani, K., Sandal, N., & Sahoo, P. K. (2018). A comprehensive review on chlorella-its composition, health benefits, market and regulatory scenario. The Pharma Innovation Journal, 7(7), 584-589.
- Panahi, Y., Darvishi, B., Jowzi, N., Beiraghdar, F., & Sahebkar, A. (2016). Chlorella vulgaris: a multifunctional dietary supplement with diverse medicinal properties. Current pharmaceutical design, 22(2), 164-173.
- Jalilian, N., Najafpour, G. D. and Khajouei, M. (2019) Enhanced Vitamin B12 Production using Chlorella vulgaris, International Journal of Engineering. Vol. 32(1).
- Kwak, J. H., Baek, S. H., Woo, Y., Han, J. K., Kim, B. G., Kim, O. Y. and Lee, J. H. (2012) Beneficial immunostimulatory effect of short-term Chlorella supplementation: enhancement of natural killer cell activity and early inflammatory response (randomized, double-blinded, placebo-controlled trial), Nutrition journal. Vol. 11(53). https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3511195/
- Shibata, S., Natori, Y., Nishihara, T., Tomisaka, K., Matsumoto, K., Sansawa, H. and Nguyen, V. C. (2003) Antioxidant and anti-cataract effects of Chlorella on rats with streptozotocin-induced diabetes, Journal of nutritional science and vitaminology. Vol. 49(5).
- Ryu, N. H., Lim, Y., Park, J. E., Kim, J., Kim, J. Y., Kwon, S. W. and Kwon, O. (2014) Impact of daily Chlorella consumption on serum lipid and carotenoid profiles in mildly hypercholesterolemic adults: a double-blinded, randomized, placebo-controlled study, Nutrition journal. Vol. 13(1).
- Acurio, L. P., Salazar, D. M., Valencia, A. F., Robalino, D. R., Barona, A. C., Alvarez, F. C. and Rodriguez, C. A. (2018) Antimicrobial potential of Chlorella algae isolated from stacked waters of the Andean Region of Ecuador, In IOP Conference Series: Earth and Environmental Science. Vol. 151(1).
- Hussein, H. J., Naji, S. S. and Al-Khafaji, N. M. S. (2018) Antibacterial properties of the Chlorella vulgaris isolated from polluted water in Iraq, Journal of Pharmaceutical Sciences and Research. Vol. 10(10).
- Zhang, R., Chen, J., Mao, X., Qi, P. and Zhang, X. (2019) Anti-Inflammatory and Anti-Aging Evaluation of Pigment–Protein Complex Extracted from Chlorella Pyrenoidosa, Marine Drugs. Vol. 17(10).
- Soontornchaiboon, W., Joo, S. S. and Kim, S. M. (2012) Anti-inflammatory effects of violaxanthin isolated from microalga Chlorella ellipsoidea in RAW 264.7 macrophages, Biological and Pharmaceutical Bulletin. Vol. 35(7).
- Nakano, S., Takekoshi, H. and Nakano, M. (2010) Chlorella pyrenoidosa supplementation reduces the risk of anemia, proteinuria and edema in pregnant women, Plant foods for human nutrition. Vol. 65(1).
- Tang, G. and Suter, P. M. (2011) Vitamin A, nutrition, and health values of algae: Spirulina, Chlorella, and Dunaliella, Journal of Pharmacy and Nutrition Sciences. Vol. 1(2).
- Shimada, M., Hasegawa, T., Nishimura, C., Kan, H., Kanno, T., Nakamura, T. and Matsubayashi, T. (2009) Anti-hypertensive effect of γ-aminobutyric acid (GABA)-rich Chlorella on high-normal blood pressure and borderline hypertension in placebo-controlled double blind study, Clinical and experimental hypertension. Vol. 31(4).
- Jong-Yuh, C. and Mei-Fen, S. (2005) Potential hypoglycemic effects of Chlorella in streptozotocin-induced diabetic mice, Life sciences. Vol. 77(9).
- Amin, A. (2008) Chlorella protects against induced-breast cancer in rats, American Association for Cancer Research. Vol. 68 (9).
- Wang, H. M., Pan, J. L., Chen, C. Y., Chiu, C. C., Yang, M. H., Chang, H. W. and Chang, J. S. (2010) Identification of anti-lung cancer extract from Chlorella vulgaris CC by antioxidant property using supercritical carbon dioxide extraction, Process Biochemistry. Vol. 45(12).
- Syed, S., Arasu, A. and Ponnuswamy, I. (2015) The uses of Chlorella vulgaris as antimicrobial agent and as a diet: the presence of bio-active compounds which caters the vitamins, minerals in general, International Journal of Bio-Science and Bio-Technology. Vol. 7(1).