Blue-green algae is touted as a superfood that can do everything from relieve allergy symptoms to control blood sugar in diabetics. Very preliminary research suggests that a type of blue-green algae known as chlorella may be of assistance in weight loss, too, but the research is not definitive. Before you start adding it to smoothies or downing it by the tablespoon, understand the possible side effects and efficacy in helping you achieve your body-weight goals.
A single-celled, freshwater alga, chlorella is found in health food stores in powder, tablet or capsule form. Chlorella supplies magnesium, vitamin C and carotenoids, antioxidants that can protect your body against inflammation. It's also a source of protein, vitamin B-12 and a phytonutrient called chlorophyll. Holistic health practitioners recommend chlorophyll to cleanse and oxygenate the blood.
Research on Weight Loss
A few studies show that chlorella may help with weight management and loss of body fat. In 2004, "Phytotherapy Research" published a study that showed a hot water extract of chlorella suppressed weight gain in rats whose ovaries had been removed, suggesting it may have an application for post-menopausal women. A later study, published in the "Journal of Medicinal Food" in 2008, tested chlorella on 34 people, half of whom were at high risk for lifestyle-related diseases, such as Type 2 diabetes. Over 16 weeks, the Japanese researchers recorded a noticeable loss in body fat, cholesterol levels and blood sugar levels. The researchers were associated with a chlorella supplement company, though.
How It Works
Chlorella's ability to positively affect insulin activation and blood sugar levels may play a role in its effect on weight. Randall Merchant, professor of neurosurgery and anatomy at Virginia Commonwealth University, told "The Telegraph" in 2009 that chlorella has an effect on the genes that control insulin and thus may help patients with metabolic syndrome, a collection of symptoms that predispose a person to Type 2 diabetes. He warned that chlorella alone is not a way to manage weight or cure this syndrome, but it may be a valuable part of a complete treatment plan. A 2014 study in "Health Promotion Perspectives" confirmed this hypothesis by treating patients with fatty liver disease with chlorella. The researchers found that the patients experienced a significant decrease in weight as well as improvements in the measurements of their liver enzymes, fasting blood sugar and lipid profile.
How to Use Chlorella
Always consult your physician before adding a supplement to your diet. Dosing depends on your needs, age, size and health. You may dissolve the green powder in water or blend it into a green smoothie. Opt for a tablet or capsule if you prefer. Research the brand you choose carefully because some types of chlorella harvested from natural settings may be contaminated by bacteria, liver poisons and heavy metals. Look for products that note they've been tested and declared free of toxins.
- Medline Plus: Blue Green Algae
- Phytotherapy Research: A Hot Water Extract of Chlorella Pyrenoidosa Reduces Body Weight and Serum Lipids in Ovariectomized Rats
- Health Promotion Perspectives: The Effect of Chlorella Vulgaris Supplementation on Liver Enzymes, Serum Glucose and Lipid Profile in Patients With Non-Alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease
- The Telegraph: Chlorella: The Superfood That Helps Fight Disease
- American Cancer Society: Chlorella
- Vega Community: You Asked: What Is Chlorella?
- American Holistic Health Association: Amazing Power of Live Green Foods
- Journal of Medicinal Food: Nutrigenomic Studies of Effects of Chlorella on Subjects With High-Risk Factors for Lifestyle-Related Disease