Eat Your Algae: 9 Health Benefits of Chlorella
By Kerri-Ann Jennings
Move over spirulina, there's a new algae in town—chlorella. This nutrient-dense algae has been receiving a lot of buzz for its health benefits.
Furthermore, as a supplement, it has shown promise in improving cholesterol levels and ridding the body of toxins.
This article tells you all you need to know about chlorella, including what it is, the research behind its health claims and how to take it as a supplement.
What Is Chlorella?
Chlorella is a single-celled, green freshwater algae (1).
There are more than 30 different species, but two types—Chlorella vulgaris and Chlorella pyrenoidosa—are most commonly used in research (2).
Because chlorella has a hard cell wall that humans cannot digest, you must take it as a supplement to reap its benefits (3).
It's available in capsule, tablet, powder and extract form (3).
In addition to being used as a nutritional supplement, chlorella is also used as a biodiesel fuel (4).
Interestingly, studies indicate it can have many health benefits. Here are nine of them.
1. Very Nutritious
Chlorella's impressive nutritional profile has led some to call it a "superfood."
While its exact nutrient content depends on growing conditions, the species used and how supplements are processed, it's clear it packs several beneficial nutrients.
- Protein: Chlorella is 50–60 percent protein. What's more, it's a complete protein source, meaning it contains all nine essential amino acids (3, 5).
- Vitamin B12: It's also a great source of vitamin B12. An analysis of one chlorella variety found each gram contained more than 50 percent of an adult's daily need (6).
- Iron and vitamin C: Chlorella can be a good source of iron. Depending on the supplement, it may provide anywhere from 6–40 percent of your daily need. It's also an excellent source of vitamin C, which helps you absorb iron (1, 3, 7).
- Beta-carotene: It's an excellent source of beta-carotene, meeting anywhere from 30–60 percent of the recommended daily intake (6).
- Other antioxidants: In addition to beta-carotene and vitamin C, these tiny green cells provide a wide range of antioxidants (1, 3).
- Other vitamins and minerals: Chlorella provides small amounts of magnesium, zinc, copper, potassium, calcium, folic acid and other B vitamins (1, 3, 6).
- Omega-3s: As with other algae, chlorella contains some omega-3s. Just 3 grams of chlorella delivers 100 mg of omega-3s (6).
- Fiber: In large quantities, chlorella can be a good source of fiber. However, most supplements don't provide even 1 gram of fiber per dose (1, 6).
Summary: Chlorella contains many nutrients, including vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and omega-3 fats. Exact quantities may differ among brands.
2. Binds to Heavy Metals, Aiding Detox
Chlorella has gotten some buzz for its ability to help the body "detox."
Heavy metals include some elements that are essential in small amounts, such as iron and copper, but these and other heavy metals like cadmium and lead can be toxic in larger amounts.
While it's rare for people to have dangerous levels of heavy metals in their system, people can get exposed to heavy metals through pollution or certain jobs such as mining (11).
In animals, algae, including chlorella, has been found to weaken the heavy metal toxicity of the liver, brain and kidneys (12).
One way it does this is through its chlorophyll and vitamin B12 content. These nutrients help produce glutathione, a compound that acts as an antioxidant, protecting the body against toxicity and disease (1, 13, 14, 15).
Furthermore, chlorella has been shown to help lower the amount of other harmful chemicals that are sometimes found in food. One of these is dioxin, a hormone disruptor that can contaminate animals in the food supply (16, 17).
Based on this evidence, it seems that chlorella could help enhance your body's natural ability to clear toxins.
Summary: Chlorella may help the body detox by binding to heavy metals and other toxins.
3. Could Enhance Your Immune System
Your immune system helps keep you healthy by fighting off infections.
It's a complex system made up of multiple mechanisms and cells that get into gear when an invader enters your body.
Chlorella has been found to enhance the immune response in both animal and human studies, although the evidence so far is limited.
In one small study, men produced more antibodies when taking chlorella than when they took a placebo. Antibodies help fight foreign invaders in your body, meaning this finding is quite promising (18).
In another small, eight-week study, healthy adults who took chlorella showed markers of increased immune activity (19).
Nevertheless, findings have been mixed, with some studies showing little to no effect.
For instance, one study found that chlorella supplements enhanced immune function in participants aged 50–55, but not those over 55 (20).
So it's possible that chlorella may have immune-boosting effects in some populations and age groups, but not in all. More and larger-scale studies are needed.
Summary: Chlorella may bolster immune function by increasing the activity of various parts of the immune system.
4. May Help Improve Cholesterol
Specifically, several studies have shown that taking 5–10 grams of chlorella daily lowered total and LDL cholesterol and triglycerides in people with high blood pressure and/or slightly elevated cholesterol (5, 21).
Chlorella's content of the following may help improve blood lipid levels:
- Antioxidants: Help prevent the oxidation of LDL cholesterol, which is known to contribute to heart disease (27).
Summary: The nutrients found in chlorella, including niacin, fiber, carotenoids and antioxidants, may help lower your cholesterol levels.
5. Acts as an Antioxidant
These antioxidants can help fight many chronic diseases (28).
Although much of this research is promising, it is still preliminary.
Summary: Chlorella's antioxidant content may provide some protection against chronic disease, but more human studies are needed to confirm this.
6. Helps Keep Blood Pressure in Check
Chlorella supplements could help promote heart and kidney health, which is essential for normal blood pressure.
In one study, people with mildly high blood pressure took four grams of chlorella daily for 12 weeks.
By the end, these people had lower blood pressure readings than participants who took the placebo (33).
Another small study in healthy men showed that taking chlorella supplements was linked to less stiffness of the arteries, a factor that affects blood pressure (34).
Summary: Some research on chlorella has pointed to a blood pressure-lowering effect. Many of its nutrients have been shown to prevent arteries from hardening.
7. Could Improve Blood Sugar Levels
One study found that taking chlorella for 12 weeks lowered fasting blood sugar levels in both healthy individuals and those at high risk of lifestyle-related diseases (22).
There isn't enough research yet to say that you should take chlorella to manage blood sugar, but it may help when combined with other therapies.
Summary: Taking chlorella supplements may help lower blood sugar levels and increase insulin sensitivity.
8. May Help Manage Respiratory Diseases
One study found that chlorella supplements improved antioxidant status in COPD patients, but that didn't translate into any improvements in breathing capability (42).
More studies are needed to determine its true effect on respiratory conditions, but chlorella might help with inflammation.
Summary: The antioxidants in chlorella may have anti-inflammatory effects, which can possibly improve asthma and other respiratory diseases.
9. May Enhance Aerobic Endurance
Only one study has looked at chlorella's effect on aerobic endurance, but it showed a positive effect.
Researchers gave a group of young adults six grams of chlorella or a placebo daily for four weeks.
At the end of the study, the chlorella group showed a significantly improved ability to saturate their lungs with oxygen, which is a measure of endurance. The placebo group did not experience any changes in endurance (43).
This effect may be due to chlorella's branched-chain amino acid content.
Summary: Chlorella may improve your aerobic performance, although scientific support for this benefit is limited.
Other Potential Benefits
Many other possible benefits have been proposed, but there's little research to support these claims.
Here are some of the main health claims, along with any reasoning to support them:
- Promotes eye health: Chlorella contains lutein and zeaxanthin, two carotenoids that protect the eye and lower the risk of macular degeneration (46, 47, 48).
- Increased energy levels: This proposed benefit is likely related to chlorella's vitamin B12 content, though B12 supplements typically only increase energy when people are deficient in it (49).
- Supports liver health: Chlorella supplements have been shown to improve markers of liver health in people with liver disease. However, it's not clear whether there's a benefit for healthy people (36, 37, 38, 50).
- Improved digestion: Many sources claim chlorella eases digestion, reduces bloating and acts like a probiotic. However, no studies have assessed these proposed benefits.
- Relieves PMS: Anecdotal evidence says that chlorella can relieve symptoms of premenstrual syndrome (PMS). It could be a stretch, but chlorella contains calcium and B-vitamins, both of which have been shown to reduce PMS (51, 52).
While there's no specific research to back up these claims, chlorella's nutrient content could, in theory, have these benefits (53).
Summary: Chlorella has been claimed to improve energy levels, liver health, digestion and symptoms of PMS. Nevertheless, scientific evidence is currently lacking to directly support these claims.
However, there are a few things to keep in mind when considering chlorella supplements:
- Possible side effects: Some people have experienced nausea and abdominal discomfort (55).
- Lack of regulation: Some countries, including the U.S., do not regulate supplements and you can't be sure you're getting what the label says.
- Inconsistent products: The nutrition content of chlorella supplements may vary, depending on the algae species, growing conditions and processing (56, 57).
- Immune effects: Since chlorella affects the immune system, it may not be appropriate for people with immunodeficiency or on immune system medications.
Furthermore, it's important to keep in mind that dietary supplements may interact with some medications.
While chlorella is generally recognized as safe and few side effects have been reported, it might not be appropriate for everyone.
Summary: For most people, taking chlorella supplements doesn't seem to pose any serious risks.
How to Supplement With Chlorella
The current scientific literature on chlorella doesn't specify a specific dosage.
This is because there's insufficient evidence to determine the amount needed to see therapeutic effects (1).
Most supplements indicate a daily dosage of 2–3 grams, which seems about right considering the research.
Moreover, it's important to find a quality supplement. The best way to do this is to look for one that has a quality assurance seal from third-party testing.
Additionally, some product descriptions mention testing for quality assurance, as well as the source and growing conditions of the chlorella.
Try to find chlorella supplements from a supplement brand you trust.
Summary: Look for a quality assurance seal to ensure you're getting what you pay for. The dose of 2–3 grams indicated by most supplements seems appropriate, given the doses used in studies.
The Bottom Line
Chlorella is a type of algae that packs a big nutrient punch, as it's a good source of several vitamins, minerals and antioxidants.
In fact, emerging research shows that it could help shuttle toxins out of your body and improve cholesterol and blood sugar levels, among other health benefits.
For now, there doesn't seem to be any harm in taking chlorella supplements and they could support your health.
Reposted with permission from our media associate Authority Nutrition.
After decades on the political periphery, the climate movement is entering the mainstream in 2020, with young leaders at the fore. The Sunrise Movement now includes more than 400 local groups educating and advocating for political action on climate change. Countless students around the world have clearly communicated what's at stake for their futures, notably Swedish activist Greta Thunberg, who just finished her yearlong school strike for climate. Youth activists have been praised for their flexible, big-picture thinking and ability to harness social media to deliver political wins, as Sunrise recently did for U.S. Sen. Ed Markey's primary campaign. They necessarily challenge the status quo.
A Convergence of Issues<p>The unequal impacts of a changing climate have become extremely clear in 2020, so equity has come to the fore of climate conversations in every corner of the country. A global deadly pandemic continues to rage out of control in the U.S., heat waves are setting new temperature records, wildfires are scorching American Western states, and the hurricane season has already made it to the end of the alphabet for naming storms. In all cases, low-income, Black, Latinx, and Indigenous communities are bearing a disproportionate amount of the impacts.</p><p>"Today, the scab is off, the ugly reality of injustice is hitting us up close and personal, made more realistic by this COVID pandemic," Bullard says.</p><p>This year the decidedly youthful focus on intersectionality is a big part of what defines the transformation of the climate movement. Climate is not just an environmental issue, according to youth activists. It's also a racial justice issue, an economic issue, and an access-to-health care issue.</p><p>"Environmental justice is really seeing the intersection of these issues," says Alex Rodriguez, a community organizer with the Connecticut League of Conservation Voters, which aims to make environmental issues a priority for the state's elected leaders. The group is now focusing their efforts on the coming election and recently succeeded in persuading the state to allow absentee voting in November. "We want people to be safe when casting their vote," says Rodriguez, 26, whose fellow grassroots committee members range from age 16 to 60.</p><p>Rodriguez, who also serves on the equity and environmental justice working group for the Governor's Council on Climate Change, says, "We see our programmatic work as a way to help lawmakers see what they can do to improve the dignity of those suffering from environmental racism, systematic racism, and economic oppression."</p><p>Seeing the overlap and bringing these issues together is a strength that Bullard says was missing from the civil rights organizing he was involved with in the 1960s. He says 2020 is unique in many ways.</p><p>"The number of marchers is unprecedented, from different economic, ethnic, and racial groups—an awakening unlike any that I've seen on this Earth in over 70 years," Bullard says. "Today, the different movements are converging, and I think that convergence makes for greater potential for success."</p>
Young and Old<p>But young people are one essential demographic among many when it comes to climate action. With all that's on the line for climate in the coming elections, up and down the ballot, collaboration becomes key. Bullard says previous generations of climate activists can now play the critical role of mentoring, assisting, and supporting. Standing with, not in front of, youth.</p><p>"Youth are leading us and taking on frontline activity," says Jayce Chiblow, the community engagement lead for Indigenous Climate Action, a Canadian organization that works for Indigenous-led climate justice solutions. But in doing so, she says many young Indigenous activists are experiencing the trauma of violence, getting arrested, and being taken away from their land. "All of our older people are supporting those youth: Elders, mentors, people trained in nonviolent action," Chiblow says. "The youth aren't alone."</p><p>That support can go a long way. "There's a lot of anger and a lot of fear, and that's understandable," says Wazer of Sunrise Connecticut. "I definitely feel those things, too, just considering the ways that our future has been threatened and kind of trashed by older generations."</p><p>Under the Trump administration, the number of environmental rollbacks alone can be disheartening, not to mention new <a href="https://www.yesmagazine.org/video/arctic-national-wildlife-refuge/" target="_blank">drilling permits in the Alaska National Wildlife Refuge going up for auction</a>.</p><p>Wazer is frank about the risks of burnout, depression, and anxiety from the stress of it all, but draws inspiration from the example of the late U.S. representative and lifelong civil rights activist John Lewis. "That forgiveness and that ability to keep fighting and stay motivated … I think that that is something really powerful to learn from older generations."</p><p>An intergenerational approach can leverage the individual strengths of youth and older people in all their diversity.</p><p>"The elders hold our stories," says Chiblow, who is Anishinaabe from Garden River First Nation, Ontario. Those stories include lived experiences, culture, history, and generations of adapting to changes in climate. Such collective experience continues to inform Indigenous knowledge and connections to the land, as well as how people manage and govern themselves in relation to it. This knowledge is passed on through relationship-building and storytelling.</p><p>"Every time you hear that story, you're at a different point in your life, and you'll pick up something else … something new," Chiblow says.</p><p>Changes in perspectives that come with time and experience are among the reasons why intergenerational learning and coalitions are critical to the climate movement. To combine that living and learning is to expand the reach and meaning of the message exponentially. As part of her research for her master's degree, Chiblow brought together youth, community leaders, and knowledge keepers in her community to workshop climate action. "Those relationships are vital to keep that movement going," Chiblow says.</p>
The Unique Value Proposition of Elders<p>Older activists bring unique strengths to the table, according to gerontologist Mick Smyer, who designs strategies to move people from anxiety to action on climate. He calls himself "the aging whisperer to climate groups" and "the climate whisperer to aging groups." He is quick to point out that the learning can go in both directions.</p><p>"I think older adults are untapped resources," Smyer says. "Older adults bring several resources, one of which is their circles of influence. Just by virtue of having lived longer, older adults are going to have denser and richer networks," Smyer says. "The second is, when it comes to voting and civic engagement, older adults, as an age group, outperform all other age groups."</p><p>He uses the 2016 presidential election to illustrate his point: "The older age groups, 70% of them voted. Nobody [else] came close." He is cautious about making sweeping statements about older people broadly, but he says that ageism is alive and well. And that can deter the kind of collaboration that would beget necessary progress on climate action.</p><p>As the twin global patterns of an aging population and a changing climate continue arm in arm, Smyer says a good place for starting this work is within one's family.</p><p>"We each have that power to use in our circles of influence, particularly in our families, and we don't realize it," Smyer says. Whether it's via Zoom or FaceTime or a phone call or a chat in the living room, Smyer says, family members have a superpower: They will listen to each other, and they'll at least start the conversation.</p><p> "Intergenerational collaboration around climate issues, particularly in this election season, starts at home, and then goes to the polling booth," he says.</p>
Speaking the Same Language<p>As an individual's network of family, friends, and connections becomes wider and more diverse, the more work will need to be done to have them all working toward the same goals. That is equally true for the climate movement at large.</p><p>In bridging the gaps among baby boomers, Gen Xers, and millennials, Bullard says, "Each generation will have some idiosyncrasy and uniqueness about it that another generation will not understand or comprehend."</p><p>If everybody in a group or institution is similar, then there's no need to explain a lot, Bullard says. There's usually a fair amount of shared knowledge and values. But the more diverse that group gets, in age, race, gender, or culture, he says, the greater the potential for making mistakes, stepping on people's culture, and causing pain. But the potential for learning also increases exponentially.</p><p>Chiblow says successful collaboration comes down to being able to speak in shared concepts. The term "justice," for example, is an English word that's hard to translate into the Anishinaabe language. Chiblow says that because her community sees itself as belonging to the land, and being part of the land, the Anishinaabe worldview, and therefore their understanding of justice, is necessarily more holistic than the mainstream.</p><p>"Indigenous people have been feeling [the effects of climate change] for so long," Chiblow says. Today, as wildfires rage across the West, the mantra of "I can't breathe" is being driven home on a grand scale. For better and worse, climate justice is finally a front-page story.</p><p>"It's affecting the broader society," Chiblow says. "We're finally at the turning point where we could start to make real change because … people are really starting to feel that urgency."</p><p>The urgency will be tantamount in the coming election. A lot is at stake, says Chiblow: "Incentives, funding, all-around agreement, and also the way we're able to manage our lands and ourselves as people."</p><p>Bullard, too, is insistent on urgency. "This election is one of the most important elections of a generation, because there's so many things at stake," he says. "We can't wait another 40 years on climate. We don't have that much time. We don't have 40 years to get justice."</p><p>Issues of climate justice will be on the ballot in state and local elections this fall, such as Nevada's proposed renewable energy standards and Louisiana's proposed disaster funding. And the topic has finally made it onto the national stage. Joe Biden called Trump a "climate arsonist" for not acting on or even admitting that the wildfires in California are clearly climate-related. The frequency and intensity of such disasters is indisputable.</p><p>"Hurricanes don't swerve to avoid red states or blue states. Wildfires don't skip towns that voted a certain way," Biden <a href="https://abcnews.go.com/Politics/biden-address-west-coast-fires-confront-growing-threat/story?id=73000218" target="_blank">said in a speech on Sept. 14</a>. "The impacts of climate change don't pick and choose. That's because it's not a partisan phenomenon."</p><p>In many ways, the results of the upcoming elections will reflect the ways youth activists and older activists are able come to a common understanding of what climate justice means and what they want the future world to look like. </p><p>"There's a lot of knowledge built up in experience, and there's a lot of energy that's stored in young people," Bullard says. "When you put those two together, you have … an excellent recipe for potential success."</p>
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By Simon Montlake
For more than a decade, Susan Jane Brown has been battling to stop a natural gas pipeline and export terminal from being built in the backcountry of Oregon. As an attorney at the nonprofit Western Environmental Law Center, she has repeatedly argued that the project's environmental, social, and health costs are too high.
All that was before this month's deadly wildfires in Oregon shrouded the skies above her home office in Portland. "It puts a fine point on it. These fossil fuel projects are contributing to global climate change," she says.
Moderates Feeling the Heat<p>If elected, Mr. Biden has vowed to stop new drilling for oil and gas on federal land and in federal waters and to rejoin the 2015 Paris climate accord that President Donald Trump gave notice of quitting. He would reinstate Obama-era regulations of greenhouse gas emissions, including methane, the largest component of natural gas.</p><p>The Biden climate platform also states that all federal infrastructure investments and federal permits would need to be assessed for their climate impacts. Analysts say such a test could impede future LNG plants and pipelines, though not those that already have federal approval. </p><p>Climate change activists who pushed for that language say much depends on who would have oversight of federal agencies that regulate the industry. Some are wary of Biden's reliance on advice from Obama-era officials, including former Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz, who is now on the board of Southern Company, a utility, and a former Obama environmental aide, Heather Zichal, who has served on the board of Cheniere Energy, an LNG exporter. </p>
The Push for U.S. Fuel Exports<p>As vice president, Biden was part of an administration that pushed hard for global climate action while also promoting U.S. oil and gas exports to its allies and trading partners. As fracking boomed, Obama ended a 40-year ban on crude oil exports. In Europe, LNG was touted both as an alternative to coal and as strategic competition with Russian pipelines.</p><p>That much, at least, continued with President Trump. Under Energy Secretary Rick Perry, the agency referred to liquified U.S. hydrocarbons as "<a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2019/05/29/us/freedom-gas-energy-department.html" target="_blank">freedom gas</a>."</p><p>Mr. Trump has also championed the interests of coal, oil, and gas while denigrating the findings of government climate scientists. He rejected the Paris accord as unfair to the U.S. and detrimental to its economy, but has offered no alternative path to emissions cuts. </p><p>Still, Trump's foreign policy has not always served the LNG industry: Tariffs on foreign steel drove up pipeline costs, and a trade war with China stayed the hand of Chinese LNG importers wary of reliance on U.S. suppliers. </p><p>Even his regulatory rollbacks could be a double-edged sword. By relaxing curbs last month on methane leaks, the U.S. has ceded ground to European regulators who are drafting emissions standards that LNG producers are watching closely. "That's a precursor of fights that will be fought in all the rest of the developed world," says Mr. Hutchison. </p><p>Indeed, some oil-and-gas exporters had urged the Trump administration not to abandon the tougher rules, since they undercut their claim to offer a cleaner-burning way of producing heat and electricity. "U.S. LNG is not going to be able to compete in a world that's focused on methane emissions and intensity," says Erin Blanton, a senior research scholar at the Center on Global Energy Policy at Columbia University. </p>
Stepping on the Gas<p>In July, the Department of Energy issued an export license to Jordan Cove's developer, Canada's Pembina Pipeline Corp. In a statement, Energy Secretary Dan Brouillette said the project would provide "reliable, affordable, and cleaner-burning natural gas to our allies around the world."</p><p>As a West Coast terminal, Jordan Cove offers a faster route to Asia where its capacity of 7.8 million tons of LNG a year could serve to heat more than 15 million homes. At its peak, its construction would also create 6,000 jobs, the company says, in a stagnant corner of Oregon.</p><p>But the project still lacks multiple local and state permits, and its biggest asset – a Pacific port – has become its biggest handicap, says Ms. Blanton. "They are putting infrastructure in a state where there's no political support for the pipeline or the terminal, unlike in Louisiana or Texas," she says. </p><p>Ms. Brown, the environmental lawyer, says she wants to see Jordan Cove buried, not just mothballed until natural gas prices recover. But she knows that it's only one among many LNG projects and that others will likely get built, even if Biden is elected in November, despite growing evidence of the harm caused by methane emissions. </p>
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