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When it comes to Chlorella, the green fresh-water algae powerhouse, it's all about digestibility, bioavailability, absorption or whatever you want to call it.   For it to do any good its nutrients have to get into the bloodstream and to do that the algae cell wall has to be broken.

Breaking the Membrane

It turns out that chlorella's cellular membrane is impervious to the digestive juices of our gastro-intestinal system.  So, much like a chicken egg, the wall (or shell) has to be broken to get to the good stuff inside.

Actually, the egg analogy is a pretty good one.   Just as heat can denature the proteins inside an egg, heat (and light) can damage the nutrients inside the algae's cell.   Breaking the cell wall, known as milling, is tricky business and has to be done in the absence of light and heat.

Dr. Joseph Mercola showed a chart in one of his daily blogs comparing the digestibility of three types of chlorella available on the market.  

According to the bar chart, after 5 hours, only 32% of untreated whole product was absorbed; about 43% of the heat-treated version was absorbed and 83% of the broken-cell wall type was digested.     

The point is that when buying the product, be sure it is the broken-cell wall variety.  For all the health benefits that this remarkable green alga bestows, whatever the price, it's worth it.  The link to buy is shown below, click and go.

Pure Planet Chlorella Tablets, 600 count

But why should we use Chlorella as a daily supplement?  So glad you asked, read on.


At the top of the list is detoxification which is extremely important to health.  Common sense and laws of physics tell us that two things can't occupy the same space at the same time.  

So if our intestines, liver, kidneys and fat have a load of toxins stored up, it makes sense that nutrients can't come in and do their job until the toxins vacate the space.  That is where this specific green algae comes in.  

In the environment we live in today, we are surrounded by chemicals, heavy metals, pharmaceutical residue in our water supply and a host of gaseous pollutants that we breathe in.   In time our toxic load builds up to very unhealthy and dangerous levels.  Chlorella binds particularly well to the heavy metal toxins such as mercury, cadmium and lead.

It's the Chlorophyll

What is it that makes it so good at cleansing and detoxifying?  Without a doubt, its high content of chlorophyll plays a major role. 

Photo:  Chlorella shown under epifluoresence microscopy where red color is indicative of chlorophyll

Under epifluoresence microscopy with red color indicative of chlorophyll: courtesy of Barry H. Rosen, USGS

In the process of photosynthesis, chlorophyll transforms carbon dioxide and water into sugars and oxygen.  Without photosynthesis, we humans and other oxygen breathing creatures would last about as long as we can hold our breath.  So the secret to chlorophyll's ability to cleanse and detox gets back to photosynthesis. 

In the process of creating oxygen, it gives up an electron to effect the conversion of carbon dioxide and the missing electron makes it easy to accept an electron from another molecule such as a heavy metal or other toxin; thus the binding.

The reason we brought up the broken-cell wall requirement early on is because it is the fiber in the cell wall that does the binding.  It is best if the binding occurs in the intestine before the toxins can be absorbed and taken into the blood stream.  

Once the intestine is cleared of toxins and the blood stream is clean, waste build-up from the organs, fat and other body tissue can more readily migrate to the intestine where they will be eliminated.

The term detoxification is very broad based and when it is occurring, its benefits include cleaner blood which in turn increases the efficiency of processing oxygen.  Normalized blood pressure is a side benefit of clearing out toxins as is improved liver, kidney and colon function.

Diabetes and Insulin Resistance

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High fructose corn syrup and even plain old fructose have been shown to be a major cause if not the number one cause of insulin resistance and type 2 diabetes. 

The qualifier is usually "excessive" consumption of these sugars but how does one avoid excessive consumption when they are found everywhere.   Without a heroic effort to avoid them it is almost impossible not to avoid excessive consumption.

In animal studies done on lab rats, it was shown that chlorella can be beneficial in improving insulin sensitivity due to fructose.

The methodology was to give the rats high levels of fructose with their feed for a month until they displayed high levels of glucose-insulin.  Then they were given chlorella for a week after which their high glucose-insulin levels returned to normal. 

The researchers stopped short of saying that chlorella could cure insulin resistance but did say that the indications showed that it could be a good concurrent therapy along with traditional approaches to treating insulin resistance.

Blood Pressure

A double-blind placebo controlled study showed that chlorella could reduce blood pressure on the high side of normal and borderline hypertension. 

The researchers concluded that dietary supplements of the algae could be a logical first effort in preventing hypertension given that there are no side-effects to worry about.

Chlorella Growth Factor

The green alga contains something called Chlorella Growth Factor, or CGF, which is a powerful tool in building up the immune system, helping to repair cancer-damaged DNA and a host of other health benefits. 

Those include supporting the repair of nerves which makes it a good supplement for assisting in the treatment of degenerative brain or nerve conditions.  It does this by increasing macrophage activity, kicking both the immune T-cells and B-cells into high gear which is thought to be why it has been shown to have anti-tumor properties.

These immune enhancing functions are well described in two books, Healing with Whole Foods by Paul Pitchford and Herbal Medicine, Healing Cancer by Donald Yancy. 

"Factor" is defined as something that contributes to a process or result.  Chlorella definitely contributes to growth but the growth refers to its own ability to quadruple its cells in 24 hours or less. But, yes it supports our growth as well.

Photo:  Light microscopy image of chlorella in culture; numerous daughter cells are indicative of radid growth: courtesy Barry H. Rosen, USGS

Cultured chlorella under light microscopy showing numerous daughter cells indicative of the cells rapid growth: courtesy of Barry H. Rosen, USGS

CGF isn't just one thing.  Contained in its 45% protein, 20% fat, 20% carbohydrate, 5% fiber, and 10% vitamins and minerals is a rich collection of nucleic acids.  In humans, indeed in all living things, those nucleic acids are our DNA and RNA which is why they are called deoxyribonucleic acid and ribonucleic acid respectively.  

We need those nucleic acids along with an assortment of proteins to build the carbohydrates, fats (lipids), other proteins and nucleic acids our bodies require.   It is the DNA and RNA that makes us who we are in that they enable the encoding of genetic information as well as its transmission and expression. 

Genetic expression can be likened to interpreting a building blueprint so the structure can be built.  It transforms our genetic plan into the physical manifestation of "us", our phenotype.       

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Side Effects, Reactions and Quality

In spite of its glowing reports of health successes, quite a few instances of violent episodes of vomiting and food-poisoning-like symptoms have been reported within several hours of taking the supplement. 

The presence or absence of a reaction and its severity seems to be brand specific.  Some brands have no reports of such adverse side effects while others do.  The lesson here seems to be, "know your source". 

Knowing the source starts with the product label.  Look for the manufacturer’s telephone number and website on the label.  Make sure it is a "broken cell wall" product as discussed above.   If online research into the company or brand name doesn't yield the right answers, call the company.  

Find out if they adhere to Good Manufacturing Practices, or GMPs.  Do they test for consistency of product and how often?   Ask them to supply a Certificate of Analysis which lists all the tests that are performed on the product.   Find out where it is grown and how such as are the ponds artificial and in unpolluted areas?

Does the manufacturer test for heavy metal contamination since, as we discussed, chlorella binds to heavy metals.  Very important is to find a product that is certified organic.  Even if going through all this and being satisfied that it is a pure, high quality product, start slowly. 

Just beginning the process of detoxifying can trigger some unpleasant reactions when all those toxins start emerging from organs, tissue and fat.  Such reactions have been referred to as a cleansing crisis and very often cause people to stop using the product before the cleansing is complete.

How Much to Take?

Recommendations vary but one that seems to have some authority behind it is Mike Adams, publisher of the book, "Superfoods for Optimal Health: Chlorella and Spirulina". He has posted a series of articles online in his Natural News that would be good to read through before buying your first product.

For a disease fighting dose he recommends 10 grams/day and a maintenance dose of 5 grams/day.  His cautionary advice is to start slowly as was mentioned above and "monitor your stools".   The “why” is because if you are taking enough, it will turn your stools green.  Just what we all want, right?

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