Chlorella – The Facts
Chlorella was the first of the algae to interest scientists in the 1960s. It is one of the green algae and possesses a hard cellulose cell wall typical of plants. In order for the nutritional value of Chlorella to be realized, it is necessary to break down the cell wall to make it digestible. There are question marks over the final quality of its nutritional content when Chlorella is processed in any way. Large scale production of Chorella as a food therefore has given way to its production as a nutritional supplement and attention has been focused on other perceived or claimed health benefits.
Nutritional Content and Possible Health Benefits
Its impressive nutritional content excited much interest. It too has a high protein content of around 58%, but not as high as the 60 – 70% of Spirulina. It too is a complete protein. It has been used as a nutritional supplement for animals, as well as more recently as a health supplement.
- Chlorella contains high levels of calcium and iron, magnesium, phosphorus and zinc and traces of iodine.
- It also contains GLA (Gamma linoleic acid) and other essential fatty acids.
- It contains vitamins B1, B2, B6 and B12, C and E, folic acid, inositol, niacin and pantothenic acid.
- It is also the richest source of chlorophyll yet known ,which is useful in ridding the body of toxins, including heavy metals (like mercury in dental fillings), cleansing of the bowel, liver and bloodstream. All green leafy vegetables contain chlorophyll, but none as much as Chlorella, gram for gram.
- Research has also been conducted on the use of Chlorella to improve cold and flu symptoms and to boost the immune system. There is some evidence that it can help in wound healing and in reducing high blood pressure.
- In addition scientists have claimed to have found something called ‘Chlorella growth factor’ which is produced during the very rapid growth of the algae. It is made up of nucleic acid derivatives and 10% RNA and 3% DNA have been found within Chlorella. The suggestion is that these nucleic acids once digested and absorbed by the human body can encourage repair of human genetic material and therefore slow down the aging process.
Chlorella and Spirulina Together
Chlorella was the first green algae to be cultivated commercially and was the first large scale attempt at growing algae for food. In the early days, it proved to be much more expensive and complex than originally thought.
There are still some disadvantages of Chlorella production over Spirulina production. Chlorella grows in waters where other so called ‘weed’ algae thrive and the crop may be more easily contaminated. It also requires more sophisticated equipment to harvest and process, because of its tiny size.
Spirulina, on the other hand grows in highly alkaline waters where few other organisms can flourish. There is less likelihood therefore of contamination and relatively simple equipment and procedures can be used to effectively grow, harvest and process the crop.
Nowadays, Chlorella is grown as a nutritional supplement and much more emphasis is being placed on its potential to detoxify and heal the body. Chlorella and Spirulina can often be found together in the same product, though they can be found separately as well.