By: Roman Sasik, Ph.D.
Chlorella is a genus of unicellular aquatic organisms that recently acquired a “superfood” status, in part because of its complete amino acid profile and a high omega-3 DHA and EPA fatty acid content. It has also been reported to lower blood pressure in humans, lower serum cholesterol, boost immunity, and even fight cancer.
It appears the superfood status of Chlorella is richly deserved. Even though Chlorella as an organism has been around for billions of years, for obvious reasons it could not have been a significant part of human diet and therefore it should be considerd an industrial-era food and should be treated with caution for this reason alone. It wasn’t until recently that we understood how Chlorella does its magic. In a 2002 paper, Armstrong et al.  discovered a lipopolysaccharide (LPS) in the cellular wall of Chlorella. LPS is an endotoxin found on the surface of all gram-negative bacteria such as E. coli or Salmonella and is a potent immune system activator. When LPS binds to receptors on the surface of macrophages (phagocytic cells of the innate immune system), it activates them and induces them to release pro-inflammatory cytokines IL-1β, tumor necrosis factor TNFα, and nuclear factor-kappa B (NF-κB) . Chlorella, in effect, puts our innate immunity on high alert via LPS, an endotoxin it happens to share with some lethal bacteria. Too much LPS leads to sepsis, which we would be well advised to avoid, but even low doses of Chlorella may be ill advised if they are chronic. While activated immune system may be beneficial in situations such as during an infectious disease outbreak, one must ask what happens to us when we make chlorella a regular part of diet, indeed, a food. Chronic exposure to LPS leads to chronic systemic inflammation, which is not a desirable state of affairs, as the readers of this blog know. Specifically, systemic LPS-activated macrophages in the brain have been implicated in progressive degeneration of dopaminergic neurons and are responsible for Parkinson’s disease . But wait! Isn’t Chlorella at the bottom of the aquatic food chain? Some hapless organism must be eating it, so why can’t we? It turns out that animals that eat algae in general, such as the horseshoe crab or shrimp, have evolved a mechanism, a unique protein, to bind and neutralize LPS. We have not. In the case of Chlorella we see another manifestation of a well-known evolutionary story, that of grains and birds that eat them, and people who eat the birds. People, unlike birds, do not do well when eating grains directly. It is the same with Chlorella, shrimp that eat it, and people who eat the shrimp.
If this were not enough to dissuade you from using Chlorella as food, there is also potential for contamination with viruses. Giant ones . Normally, a virus contains genetic information of a handful of viral proteins. Chlorella viruses have more than three hundred genes, most of which encode proteins of unknown function. The potential for harmful interaction of these proteins with normal functioning of human cells is real. If the history of another fallen superfood of the recent past, that of Klamath Lake cyanobacteria, is any guide, I expect to hear a lot more about Chlorella viruses in the future. As the use of Chlorella for food increases under pressure from industrial producers and distributors, the likelihood of viral contamination increases as well. We would do well to stick to time-tested superfoods with a complete amino acid profile and high content of DHA and EPA – fish.
People who for whatever reason refuse to get their DHA and EPA from animal sources would do well if they supplemented their diet with Chlorella-derived omega-3 fatty acids rather than by eating whole Chlorella. This is assuming that Chlorella fatty acid extracts are free of LPS and other toxic substances.
 Armstrong PB, Armstrong MT, Pardy RL, Child A, Wainwright N., Immunohistochemical demonstration of a lipopolysaccharide in the cell wall of a eukaryote, the green alga, Chlorella, Biol Bull. 2002 Oct;203(2):203-4.
 Hsu HY, Jeyashoke N, Yeh CH, Song YJ, Hua KF, Chao LK, Immunostimulatory bioactivity of algal polysaccharides from Chlorella pyrenoidosa activates macrophages via Toll-like receptor 4, J Agric Food Chem. 2010 Jan 27;58(2):927-36.
 Qin L, Wu X, Block ML, Liu Y, Breese GR, Hong JS, Knapp DJ, Crews FT, Systemic LPS causes chronic neuroinflammation and progressive neurodegeneration, Glia. 2007 Apr 1;55(5):453-62.
 Van Etten JL, Unusual life style of giant chlorella viruses, Annu Rev Genet. 2003;37:153-95.
So, I have a good friend with multiple allergies who wants to try out a paleo-type diet to see if reduces her overall inflammatory response. But with allergies to eggs, nuts, and fish (and I mean life-threatening allergies, not a bit of tummy upset) is it even possible for her to get enough Omega 3 to reap the anti-inflammatory benefit of such a diet? If you absolutely cannot eat fish, what can you do? Risk the potential increase in inflammation from Chlorella-sourced Omega 3? Wouldn’t that just cancel itself out?
Roman Sasik says
As I say at the end of the article, you can still get DHA+EPA from chlorella-derived supplements, but I warn against eating whole chlorella regularly as food, which some people seem to be doing.
Jay Ogg says
There is no real requirement to supplement or increase Omega3s in a healthy, well-balanced diet. Obviously fish are healthy for most of us, but if you had an allergenic reaction to it, you have no choice but to avoid that source of food. That being said, Omega-3s occur naturally in a lot of foods. If the food is from a good source (pastured, grass-fed, antibiotic-free beef; pastured, vegetarian supplemented soy-free antibiotic free poultry and eggs), then you’ll be consuming a healthy ratio of Omega6:Omega3 and there really isn’t much cause for finding a higher dose omega3. Those that do supplement/seek Omega3 copiously and see benefits, generally consume an imbalance of omegas (read, too much omega6 from refined oils, grain-fed beef, high consumption of some nuts and seeds).
While I’m absolutely not suggesting that some of us Paleo folks won’t do well to supplement some anti-inflammatory omega3s occasionally, I would be so bold as to make the statement: I do not feel as though omega3 supplementation is necessary in a well-balanced diet (even a fish-free one).
Roman Sasik says
I agree. We do not have to eat fish to get enough DHA+EPA. I would point out pork brains as an excellent source of long-chain omega-3’s, if you can get them. Asian stores in the West Coast sometimes carry frozen pork brains. The Neanderthal people did not eat fish very much. They had other problems, namely lack of vitamin D due to cloudy skies, and I don’t think a lack of fish in their diet is what brought them down.
With Omega3 it’s the proportion to Omega6 that matters most. If your friend cannot eat fish and eggs, he must be having a serious problem, and if he’s having a serious problem then he should take it seriously: grass-fed beef, and butter – both rich in Omega3, and reduced Omega6: nuts, seeds, grains.
Also, flax seed and flax seed oil is rich in Omega3, even if, as Robb is always pointing out, it’s not as easily absorbed as from animal sources.
But grass-fed meats and limited Omega6 should do.
Kelsey Brennan says
I heard that portion thing is not quite true. I think it was from Chris Kresser. Too much omega 6 is not good, but I think you still need omega 3 even if you are avoiding industrial seed oils. Not sure but I think I heard that in a podcast
Andrea / True Nourishment says
Sounds like a perfect candidate for GAPS diet. Those allergies, if they are not anaphylactic, can be healed.
sounds like you’re trying to sell something…?
Andrea, I was thinking the same thing! Then again I just have GAPS on the brain right now (ha). I’ve read amazing things can be healed with the GAPS protocal. What a bunch of cross over there is in this community. 🙂 I’ve had enormous healing from doing Paleo these last 11 months but I’m looking forward to kicking it up a notch with GAPS. Unfortunately for this person it sounds like they do have severe allergies, probably anaphylactic(?). Who knows, though. Might be worth looking into.
Kelly, you’re friend could definitely do Paleo without eating eggs, nuts and fish. It might be helpful for him/her to talk to a Paleo nutritionist for meals plans.
Best of luck to her.
Thanks for all the replies. FWIW, K does have anaphylactic reactions to fish and tree nuts (including coconut), asthmatic reactions to animals, and skin problems from dairy, soy, eggs and wheat. (We became friends partly because I am celiac and intolerant of dairy and soy. She had never met anyone else whose diet was so restricted.) I came to the whole Paleo diet through a roundabout way-followed a link on a blog for celiacs-but essentially started it because it has a strong anti-inflammatory element. My friend is extremely interested, but concerned about her lack of options in terms of food. It is rather daunting! She is already rather thin, and is concerned about losing weight. But I might be able to convince her to give it a shot for a limited amount of time, and see if it helps her.
Anyway, a separate issue is that we live in Germany (I am not German), and supplements are hard to come by. I order them online from the States, but sometimes they go through customs, and if anything falls under the Pharmacy-law (Aphotheken Pflicht) it gets confiscated and destroyed. Not to mention the outrageous cost of shipping. I wanted to ask about the veg Omega 3’s because it’s a big risk and PITA to order them, particularly if they are not helpful/harmful!
I am also not sure about finding a Paleo nutritionist here. I actually haven’t looked much for German-language info (though I can speak some German). I will take a look. She is privately insured and might actually be able to get it covered…
Well, I’m not sure what to tell you about supplements except that you can probably find it over there if you look. Germany, from my experience, has lots of stuff and lots of people are quite active in forums I’ve been on. So don’t give up hope. Keep looking online and get on forums. Leave your questions and hope for some neighborly advice.
Lots of nutritionist will do email/Skype consults. I think you could get help through the RDs on this site as well. They are the best and could hopefully help your friend find a balanced and healthful way to implement/try Paleo with her dietary restrictions. At the least I bet they could point you in the right direction.
Tell her to look into hemp seed for protein.
Ian Goldsmid says
Wow! Thank you, this is really useful information. What about Spirulina?
Roman Sasik says
Polysaccharides from Spirulina definitely activate macrophages:
so I will steer clear of it as “food”. I just don’t think we should eat it regularly like some folks do (and others happily sell it to us on a regular basis). It may be beneficial on a short-term basis during an infectious outbreak if you are immunodeficient, I think that is clear. But to suggest that you will benefit from eating it regularly I think is a dangerous extrapolation.
I was a bit disappointed about your reaction on the Spirulina activates macrophages, and the link of the article. Further down in your responses, you carefully digest the papers presented to you and point out that chlorella and extracts from chlorella are not the same.
Yet in the article you link, they did not use Spirulina, but Immulina, a polysaccharides extract derived from Spirulina, in mice. this non human study is to prove the effectiveness of Immulina on activating your immune system, it is sold as an immune booster. Whether it really has any benefit is a different story, but it does not prove Spirulina itself has any immune activating or macrophage activating properties. Pointing to the 2010 Chlorella paper http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20943052, which has also been linked by others, provides evidence for an anti-inflamitory peptide present in chlorella that could block LPS activation. the presense of LPS found in the 2002 paper linked in your article does not address actual immune activation. The 2010 paper you link in your article uses something similar to the Immulina paper, a polysaccharides extract, not the whole organism. The Chlorella-11 peptide paper clearly shows that the presence of an immune activating compound on an organism does not automatically mean it will activate your immune system.
So far very little sound research is done on whole Chlorella and Spirulina consumption and immune modulation, and that which has been done, also linked here by others, suggests low intake will actually reduce inflammation.
Also, the scientific literature is still not conclusive on the need for DHA and EPA in your diet, as ALA conversion rates differ wildly between publications, and may not even be easy to measure in human subjects.
Wow, very interesting, and very discouraging, too. Chlorella supposedly binds to heavy metals and detoxes the body of them, which would make it a great supplement to detox from radiation exposure, heavy metal vaccine adjuvants, etc.But now that I’ve read this, I’m having second thoughts about my plan to give my new puppy organic Chlorella after she received a vaccination from the breeder.
Roman Sasik says
The article is about dangers of Chlorella when it is ingested regularly as food. There may be legitimate reasons for its use on a short-term basis, as I stated in the article. The article warns about eating chlorella as food in order to get your DHA+EPA.
Dear Roman, If you have injested daily amounts of chlorella, is there a way to detox from the lps?
try these links to downregulate proinflammatory cytokines of TNFa and NF-kb etc. http://www.greenmedinfo.com/pharmacological-action/neuroprotective-agents
mad dog skullcap (laterifolia) and agrimony have a history regarding brain inflammation.
Try using Thuja 30 with your puppy after the vaccination.
Sorry for the second post, but what are your thoughts on Spirulina?
Steven Zavalney says
Cool post…. awesome information!
What about the so called “broken cell wall ” Chlorella widely touted as a detoxification supplement? I see this advertised a lot and was wondering if the same LPS was present in this form, or if iot applies only to a “whole” form of the algae?
Roman Sasik says
The polysaccharide in Clorella is located in the cell wall, so eating chopped-up Chlorella on a regular basis as food is not a good idea. Short-term, maybe.
Very interesting! Two questions come to my mind:
1. Could Chlorella still be effective against bacterial infections?
2. What about Spirulina?
Roman Sasik says
1) Yes if you are unable to mount a robust immune response for whatever reason, Chlorella can help. The evidence seems to be there. 2) Don’t know yet. Will respond.
Chase Saunders says
Isn’t Chlorella a form of so-called blue-green aglae (actually, cyanobacteria)? If so, there may be another really good reason to avoid it… avoiding Lou Gherig’s disease and Parkinsons:
Roman Sasik says
No, Chlorella is a separate genus.
Roman Sasik says
…but Chlorella may be using the same mechanism that leads these researchers to suspect that cyanobacteria may have something to do with neurodegeneration. Remember, activated macrophages in the brain (microglia) can engulf and kill healthy neurons if they have nothing else to do.
Will Jefferies says
What say ye?
Paul Chek talks about Inuit who would cut open the intestines of seals and eat the partially digested (fermented?) sea vegetables. I was at a Matt Lalonde talk at CF Balboa and he talks about the fermentation process neutralizing many of the ill effects of neo-foods. Could that be the case here?
Roman Sasik says
I don’t think seals eat unicellular algae much; I’d think they eat leafy vegetables (kelp), which is an entirely different story. But yes, fermentation helps with many Neolithic foods, such as milk and grains. Not that I recommend eating fermented grains, but fermentation does help break down the toxic, hard-to-digest proteins in grains.
Luke Terry says
Great literature review.
Seeing that LPS temporarily stimulates immunity, it may still have therapeutic value.
In the light of the information you presented, it makes sense to limit the chlorella exposure to brief periods of time, before the law of diminishing returns kicks in.
As a health practitioner who has used and recommended chlorella in the past and used it personally, (never long term, but more out of inconvenience than anything else) I can attest to seeing short bursts of energy and better immune competence in individuals with chronic infections. It’s also been shown in the literature since the 1970’s to be able to pick up mercury, cadmium, and others, which both makes it clinically useful in detoxification work, and also a cause for careful sourcing.
As far as the viral threat go, there are viruses everywhere, we are constantly exposed to them. I need more info on that before I toss this plant to the curb. I will have a look at the paper you cited on the topic, however.
And with your view on evolutionary adaptation to plants goes, there are thousands of plants that we are just now figuring out how to use medicinally. Just because a plant hasn’t been historically used doesn’t mean we can’t figure out how to use it safely. This extends, in my book to chlorella and other single-celled organisms.
Roman Sasik says
I agree with virtually everything you say. My emphasis is against Chlorella as a food source. Even hemlock has medicinal uses, right? As far as viruses go, we are constantly exposed to viruses infecting humans, and we know what to do with them, for the most part. The viruses I am talking about in the article infect only Chlorella, and eating infected Chlorella would expose us to their protein products, of which 60% have functions as yet unknown to science. Much like eating GMO plants, only this time we would have to deal with hundreds of foreign proteins, not just one or two. So it is exposure to unknown viral proteins in food that I warn against, not viruses as such. That, of course, would only matter if industrially-produced Chlorella got contaminated with these viruses, which may never happen (we may hope), but like I said, the Klamath Lake cyanobacteria did get infected, so I am not holding my breath.
Stories like this keep me thinking that soylent green, blue, red, and yellow are just around the corner.
Instead of eating real food, we’ll eat little processed wafers, and only God will really know what they’re made out of.
People…Soylent Green is people…
Isn’t Chlorella just a fancy name for pond scum?
I can hear it now. Soylent Chlorella is pond scum.
Best Program For Fitness says
Useful post and great responses. Interesting, clear and precise. Thank you for the info Chris.
Neato! Take that Mercola!
stone temple paleo says
Dammit … I use both Cglorella and Spirulina fairly regularly for last fewmonths.
More goo reason to stick to real food (which both of those are always touted as)
As with any study we can find what we are looking for, hence the Key’s studies. So before we throw the baby out with the bath water do a little more research and ask a few more question. Don’t be led by one study or by what one person say’s. Is this chlorella farmed or naturally grown. Is there another compound in the Chlorella that may counter the LPS or if it is combined with another chemical can there be a benificial effect. What is wrong with building up the innate immune system. How do we know that the viruses in chorella aren’t fighting cancer?
I am not saying we should be eating this stuff by the plate full but there are some huge health benefits to supplementing this product. Don’t forget some vegetables grown in certain parts of the country contain more heavy metal than in other parts of the country so I am sure the same goes for chlorrela
Roman Sasik says
Sure, let’s do more research. I am not throwing out any babies, just some suspicious-looking bathwater. If you read the article carefully, I state that Chlorella stimulates the innate immune system, hence my warning against using it as food. As in breakfast, every day. It should properly be called a drug, not a superfood, but then you might have trouble selling enough of it for profit. And sorry, there really is a compound that counters LPS, and it’s called Limulus LPS binding factor. Limulus is the Latin name of the horseshoe crab, but many species of shrimp and other algae-eating animals produce this protein as their natural adaptation to eating Chlorella as food. People do not. I have a few ideas as to why…
If you want to know whether viruses in Chlorella are fighting cancer, start with cell culture and proceed with animal models, then human volunteers. I protest marketing this stuff to people who just want to be healthy and think they can achieve it by eating a “superfood”. I do not think there are huge benefits to “supplementing” with Chlorella, if that implies eating it every day. If you are implying that farmed Chlorella is somehow better than wild Chlorella, then go ahead, do a controlled study, but I won’t be part of it. The article is a warning of dangers of use of Chlorella as food. Food, as in everyday food. I freely admit that I would take Chlorella if I were on a cruise ship during a bacterial meningitis outbreak. It’s good for that. But I would steer clear of it as “food.” Once again, profiteers are subjecting a whole generation to an experimental drug under the cover of a “food” label. I won’t be part of it.
Might I ask about another new claimed superfood? Any thought on Moringa? Thanks so much!
Roman Sasik says
Moringa is great for cattle, or maybe in a salad, but I never had it, so I don’t know how it tastes or what it does for you in terms of texture. The leaves contain all essential aminoacids, like other foods out there, for example meat or eggs.
Thanks Roman. I have some friends that are consuming Moringa daily as a supplement. Any negative effects in humans?
Roman Sasik says
I do not know, but it is likely just another kind of salad. Obviously, meringa is not as toxic as Oleander leaves – your friends are a living proof of that.
Indeed they are. Sadly, they’re claiming that it’s giving them tons of results, detoxifying their bodies and providing weight loss. My guess is that they’re using the Moringa drink (A moringa powder drink called zija) as a meal replacement. Thanks for all your help Roman. You rock! If you or Robb get a chance to do a full write up on Moringa, I think it would be very informative for everybody and very appreciated by me. No info out there and it appears it’s being exploited as a superfood.
Any thoughts on chlorophyll supplements? (same section at GNC so makes me wonder …). Thanks!
Roman Sasik says
Chlorophyll is in every green plant. Almost any green plant looks more appetizing to me than some dry powder. I like my salads fresh.
Soylent Green is supposed to be better. I’m waiting for that…
“Soylent Green: You are what you eat!”
That would become “You are what they ate.”
I’m slowly getting it: Genetically engineered service humanoids will only need to consume cheap genetically engineered phude – they will be matched for each other, like plants that don’t mind glyphosate. As the life cycle winds down, young humanoids will consume the fading humanoids “soylent green”, making them even cheaper to maintain. Now that’s recycling! As well as a number of other horrifying and now potentially realistic scenarios.
Spirulina and Chlorella actually have in-built protections to counteract the effects of LPS:
Roman Sasik says
Thank you, good work. I am aware of this research. They are saying that LPS, if you get a lot of it at one time, causes acute injury to neural progenitor cells, which is to say, a lot of damage. So don’t eat a lot of Chlorella (or gram-negative bacteria) in one sitting, people! That just makes sense. What they find is that chronic low dose of Chlorella protects progenitor cells against acute LPS poisoning. To me it sounds a lot like pre-conditioning your body against acute poisoning with small doses of the same poison. Stories of this abound in nature. So if you know you are about to get acutely poisoned with LPS, it makes sense to condition yourself against it. I mentioned a scenario of cruise ship with a bacterial meningitis outbreak, that would be one situation. I do have to stress however, that chronically activated macrophages (from a chronic low dose of LPS) do scavenge (eat) healthy adult neurons, which contributes to or exacerbates conditions such as Alzheimer’s. While you have a lot of functioning neurons to spare (while you are young), this may not affect your mental performance, but I do not want to find out what happens after a prolonged chronic use of LPS on myself. I do believe that this neuronal death due to chronically activated macrophages from chronic Spirulina ingestion in tapwater is the mechanism that is the suspected link between tapwater and Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s that one other poster here brought to our attention. All the more reasons to steer clear of Chlorella as a food source.
Roman Sasik says
In other words, the built-in protection against acute LPS poisoning in Chlorella is the hair of the dog.
I always thought Chlorella was beneficial for removing heavy metals from the body. In this case, I would assume the benefits of consuming Chlorella for a detox would outweigh the cons.
With this in mind, does anyone know of a proven “program” for detoxing from vaccines? I have to receive mandatory vaccines in the U.S. Army and would love to be able to rid my body of mercury, aluminum, etc.
Roman Sasik says
I do not know much about this subject, but a short-term course of Chlorella might work. You can use it as a drug, but I warn against using it as food.
Activated charcoal and bentonite clay [drinks and baths] (Note: Livingclay brand is good, I believe) are both famous detox ingredients. Activated charcoal [NOT THE BARBECUE STUFF, LOL] you can get in capsules at your health food store, is great for food poisoning. They use it in emergency rooms. You can buy it in bulk on the net. Hope this helps.
Bentonite clay baths are used successfully for autistic children.
perfect timing! I had a vegan patient in yesterday touting how much chlorella he eats!
Roman Sasik says
Watch for inflamed gums and loose teeth… it’s good to see that evolutionary perspective is alive and well in dentistry.
I sent this article to Integrated Supplements because I use their “Green Detox”. I’m not paid by or affiliated with them at all. Here’s the reply:
Thanks for the article link. It’s always good to find people researching the products they use, and asking intelligent questions about them.
The presence of lipopolysaccharide structures in chlorella doesn’t necessarily mean that consuming chlorella will impart the effects of lipopolysaccharides.
Though, in the broadest sense, lipopolysaccharides and chlorella can both be said to “stimulate” the immune system, there are many lines of evidence often showing that their effects are polar opposites of one another.
In other words, chlorella has actually been shown to counter the known effects of lipopolysaccharide in numerous studies.
For example, Chlorella has been shown to have an anti-histaminic effect:
Study – Inhibition of mast cells by algae.
Components of chlorella have been shown to have a direct anti-LPS effect:
Study – Beneficial effects of Chlorella-11 peptide on blocking LPS-induced macrophage activation and alleviating thermal injury-induced inflammation in rats.
Extracts of chlorella have been shown to inhibit NO production and iNOS expression (both of which are increased by LPS):
Study – Chlorella dichloromethane extract ameliorates NO production and iNOS expression through the down-regulation of NFκB activity mediated by suppressed oxidative stress in RAW 264.7 macrophages.
Oral Chlorella extracts have been shown to inhibit IgE production:
Study – Oral administration of hot water extracts of Chlorella vulgaris reduces IgE production against milk casein in mice.
Chlorella has been shown to protect liver function against toxins, which certainly isn’t likely if Chlorella’s LPS have any practical significance whatsoever:
Study Link – Protective effect of Chlorella on the hepatic damage induced by ethionine in rats.
More practical studies on chlorella consumption in humans show promise in relation to systemic inflammatory disorders such as fibromyalgia and ulcerative colitis:
If the effects of chlorella were in any way similar to the effects of LPS, these findings would be highly unlikely.
It’s important to assess chlorella (or any food for that matter) on the basis of all it’s constituent parts, and try to figure out which of these parts have potential benefits, and which have potential detriments. It’s then important to then put the positives and negatives in perspective, and to then assess whether the good is likely to outweigh the bad or vice versa.
Though chlorella may contain some LPS polysaccharides (which, some research notes, are nearly ubiquitous, by the way), it also contains polysaccharides which are very likely to foster a more beneficial bacterial environment in the intestines. If this is the case, chlorella consumption could easily have a net positive effect with respect to LPS (the “bad” intestinal bacteria being a major source of them).
Remember, too, that large doses of chlorella have been studied in humans, and have been found to impart no ill effects (aside from the sort of stomach upset which is found when high doses of prebiotic fiber are consumed). Several decades ago, chlorella was thought by some scientists to be a potential answer to world hunger, and large amounts of it were often administered in clinical trials. If chlorella posed the threat of lipopolysaccharide toxicity, such threats likely would have been at least hinted at in studies which employed 10 grams to hundreds of grams of chlorella per day. No such toxicity ever manifested, however. As a frame of reference, the dose of chlorella found in a day’s supply of our Green Detox is 1 gram. Given the existing research, we feel confident that this dose is suitable for everyday use.
As for the potential viral contamination the article references, chlorella fit for human consumption is grown under controlled conditions – it’s not “harvested” from the ecosystem (like spirulina often is, for example). As such, any possible contaminants can be strictly controlled. In fact, contamination will likely be less of an issue with properly-produced chlorella versus other green food products and ingredients.
Roman Sasik says
Rob, thank you for taking this to the manufacturer. Their letter is long and thoughtful and deserves a detailed analysis. Please watch this space for my response.
Roman Sasik says
Well, well. Let me take on the industry’s response in order of appearance:
To use the term coined by Stephen Colbert, the statement “chlorella has actually been shown to counter the known effects of lipopolysaccharide in numerous studies” has certain air of truthiness to it, but it is flat out false. Certain extracts from chlorella do, but whole Chlorella does not. For instance, a methanolic extract from Chlorella does have inhibitory effect on mast cells. I should point out however that polysaccharides are insoluble in methanol, so it is safe to assume that this extract did not contain the macrophage-activating polysaccharide from Chlorella at all. A whole Chlorella supplement, does contain it. Next, a certain Chlorella-derived peptide does have an inhibitory effect on macrophage activation by LPS and does alleviate inflammation. However, this is a peptide (short protein) extracted from Chlorella. Again, it is not whole, ground-up Chlorella. Virtues of whole Chlorella supplementation, its ability to “boost” your immune system, are derived squarely from its ability to activate macrophages. This means that whatever inhibitory ability this peptide has, it is trounced by the polysaccharide that comes with the whole Chlorella (broken wall or not). The same is true of the dichloromethane extract that reduces NO production (inflammatory signaling) in activated macrophages. Whatever this extract contains, it does not prevent activation of macrophages by whole-cell Chlorella, which is what this company is selling (I doubt very strongly that they are selling a dichloromethane extract in capsule form, because dichlormethane is a toxic solvent banned for human consumption). And so it goes. Whole Chlorella supplementation has been shown (in studies with rats) to be useful for reducing the rate of absorption of metals into tissues, so it looks like drinking water poisoned with metals with chlorella added to it is better than drinking poisoned water without chlorella, so yes, it appears that Chlorella does have the ability to protect the liver against toxins. However, it is a giant stretch to imply that Chlorella supplementation can detoxify the liver that has metals already absorbed in it. Detoxification by Chlorella may be a mirage after all. Further, any detox regimen would surely be a short-term affair (otherwise its efficacy would be in question) and would not involve eating Chlorella for breakfast for months and years on end. The effects of “Chlorella” on colitis and fibromyalgia was only indicated using a water-soluble Chlorella extract, not whole Chlorella. This extract cannot contain the polysaccharide – you get my drift by now. It is possible that these extracts have medicinal value, as drugs, not as food. As far as recommending these extracts (even without the LPS) as a food supplement, I have to say no. These drugs may be beneficial when there is an abnormal disease state in the body, but taking drugs when we are healthy is foolhardy. Just think, would you take an antibiotic or an NSAID (which are certainly anti-inflammatory just like these various Chlorella extracts claim to be) when you are not ill? Every day? Do you feel lucky? The industry’s response states that Chlorella supplementation is safe, yet they do not provide any long-term safety studies. Does Chlorella cause or worsen symptoms of Alzheimer’s in the elderly? Does Chlorella cause or accelerate neurodegeneration? These are legitimate, unanswered questions.
Finally, let’s see what may happen at the molecular level if one were to use Chlorella as food: Cheng et al., http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15298760 looked at the effect that chlorella powder (that is, whole cell, broken-wall chlorella, not an extract) has on the expression of a handful of human genes. They find that Chlorella potently inhibits protein tyrosine phosphatases (PTPs) and matrix metalloproteinases (MMPs). What are PTPs and MMPs? We do not know much about PTPs, because they were discovered not so long ago, but we do know that these proteins are tightly regulated, which means that during normal disease-free life of an individual, there is a very good reason to keep these proteins at stable levels. Chlorella changes all that. MMPs on the other hand are well-known proteins that are responsible for degradation of extracellular matrix and are implicated, among other things, in cancer metastasis. Downregulation of MMPs sounds like a good idea if one has cancer, even though man-made MMP inhibitors have by and large failed to provide benefit in clinical trials. Chlorella may be more successful, but do you want to downregulate MMPs when you do not have cancer? I do not. There is also this extra wrinkle in the MMP story: according to Cheng et al., the MMP that is most susceptible to Chlorella downregulation is MMP7. This particular MMP has an important role during embryogenesis and development. It is also expressed in the uterus. I don’t think it is wise to mess with this particular MMP if you are pregnant or when you are considering becoming pregnant. “Don’t mess with it if it ain’t broke” used to be common sense. People these days are so eager to regain or keep their good health that they are willing to ignore this advice when something is labeled a “superfood.” And someone else is laughing all the way to the bank.
I’m not for or against chlorella. But I just found this review regarding LPS in cyanobacteria versus LPS in gram negative bacteria. They seem to be different.
What are your thoughts?
sindre svanes says
would be cool if you could reply to this
Roman Sasik says
The article http://www.ehjournal.net/content/5/1/7/ is a really nice one, thank you for that reference. It is quite clear from clinical experience that Spirulina ingestion looks nothing like E. coli ingestion. There is even variation in lethality of LPS derived from various Cyanobacteria. I also learned that LPS by itself is not directly toxic, because the toxicity depends on the cell type that it acts upon. Specifically, cells that express the CD14 protein are vulnerable to it. The toxicity also depends on the three-dimensional structure of LPS – the conical shape of lipid A monomer is much more endotoxic than others. The structure of LPS from Chlorella is not known. The LPS from Spirulina platensis (a popular supplement) is toxic at the level of LD100 = 425 mg/kg (mouse). The consensus is that LPS from Spirulina is a weak toxin compared to LPS derived from bacteria. There was only one proven case of hepatotoxicity of Spirulina. Even though the paper does not mention Chlorella, it is likely that its LPS is also a weak toxin compared to bacterial LPS, which is probably the source of its documented effects on the human immune system (hormesis). Long-term effects of Chlorella use are unknown. However, its proven ability to activate macrophages is an indication against continuous use as a food.
Robb Wolf says
GREAT find! thanks.
Hello, Roman. This is very interesting post and comments are atleast as interesting to read. I haven’t ever been eating chlorella or other algae supplements and I’m not planning to do so. They look disgusting and taste (as I’ve heard) doesn’t get any better. I’ve been studying LPS and it’s role in inflammatory disease for some time and I’d like to understand where your ideas come from. If systemic LPS has some role in chronic inflammatory diseases like alzheimer, type 2 diabetes etc. what makes you believe that eating food that has tiny amount of some form of LPS will lead to the development or worsening of these diseases? Or do you believe so?
Thats interesting! Im really gonna look into this 🙂
Since the 1960’s my mother has done her own laymen research and I was wondering if you’ve ever looked into the aluminum pan syndrome?
My mother had aluminum poisoning from working in the aircraft, and then after she got well,she was told to stay clear of anything made with aluminum. Also, my aunt got Alzheimer’s disease later in her life and all she used was alluminum frying pans and of course had a horrid diet.
I brought this up because you mentioned why some people may get Alzheimer’s disease. We give my aunt 4 tablets of Sun Chlorella a day. Seems to help!
When I asked my doctor what supplement can he recommend that would detoxify my body he told me to take this: http://products.mercola.com/chlorella/. And since this is just a supplement which is not against eating whole chlorella regularly as food which makes it potential contamination with viruses, I was relieved. I thought I’ve made a wrong decision. Thank God I did not!
Does anyone have a response to Roman’s last post? Lets keep the debate going here
Roman – have you discovered anything further in your research?
How long does it take for the LPS induced inflammation to go down after stopping Chlorella? This would be the amount of time we would need to follow to cycle Chlorella
100,000 studies on algae and no negative side effects. Been eaten for 50 years world wide and no negative side effects. Hmmmmmm.
I been taking 20 grams of chlorella dived into four, five-gram doses per day along with 30 grams of spirulina as sources of vegan protein and have never looked or felt better in my life. I started taking both in 1988 as past of an Army study. I am an ER RN. I top off my protein with bee pollen, hemp and chia seeds, nuts, and what’s found in fruits and vegetables. I do extensive labs on myself every four months to make sure everything is fine. I have never seen in abnormal labs.
since the birth of my son now two years old taking 5 tablets of chlorella daily!!!is that any danger in that, i had the impression according to the data that is helpful for his grow???
There are a lot of ifs and maybes in the original article, but no real evidence of any proven adverse effects. It is said to be the most used supplement in Japan with 10 million consumers, if there were any deleterious effects from chlorella consumption I think it would have shown up by now.
Anyone eating fish is most likely going to have mercury issues, chlorella is one of the better heavy metal chelators and is worth consuming for that alone, let alone for its outstanding nutrient profile.
I think Paleo is best served by emphasizing its own strengths rather than attempted witch-hunting anything not Paleo.
robin d gill says
While no paleo, i have brought the eating practice of other animals into the conversation in the context of a chapter on what is natural eating in an iconoclastic book written in Japanese first published in 1984 to example my problem with misplaced wholism such as insisting that eating a whole bean is more natural ergo better for us than eating part of it. I noted how various mammals ate parts of leaves or parts of their animal prey, etc.. I must admit to personal interest as I have never been good at digesting and/or absorbing fats and can no longer enjoy the normally low fat silk(kinu) tofu — made after one press of the beans rather than repeated presses needed for the firm cotton (momen) tofu — a result of that mistaken way of thinking where “whole” means “good.” In Japan, the skin of the beans are left to those raising pigs.
I googled here as my short term memory could be better so i am considering algal dha as I guess it might be more easily absorbed than fish oil but, now, seeing what Robb writes . . . advice?
Roman Sasik says
DHA is a fatty acid, so whether you get it from Chlorella or butter, you still have to digest the fat, I think. Perhaps taking a fish oil capsule with a digestive enzyme might work for you. You should not go without DHA in your diet as it appears that people no longer have the ability to synthetize enough of it from ALA. Your brain desperately needs DHA, so what should you do? I can only say what I would do: If the suggested supplementation failed, or if I just had to be a vegan for whatever reason, then I’d try Chlorella on an intermittent basis, to see how I feel.
David Roth says
OnHilarious! Either Roman Sasik is purposely trying to mislead us, or else he needs to go back and get a PhD from somewhere besides an online university.
First he tries to tell us that Chlorella contains harmful LPS like Gram-negative-bacteria using a 10 year old study.
Then, when someone points out that newer studies found that cyanobacterial LPS is different from and not even toxic compared to LPS in Gram-negatve-bacteria, i.e. that the toxicity of LPS appears unique to that in Gram-negative-bacteria, and further that Chlorella contains a peptide, Chlorella 11, that actually inhibits inflammation caused by Gram-negative-bacteria, Roman Sasik rushes to find some other rationalization for his initial warning.
Now, suddenly Roman is on a campaign to save pregnant woman and womam hoping to become pregnant from the invented danger of Chlorella of “messing with” particular “MMPs.”
David Roth says
TO THE MODERATOR:
My post this morning was sort of written in anger. I was actually going to calm it down a bit but hit send by accident before i was finished. (i was posting by phone.) Anyway sorry about that, and i am sure i can come up with a less insulting way of saying what i want to say.
David Roth says
Too late? Haha it just got posted.
David Martin Zeegen Roth says
Please accept my apology for my post this morning. It was written somewhat in anger, and I was planning to clean it up, but hit “add comment” by accident before I was finished. (I was posting by phone.)
Allow me to clarify my point, which I will do without calling Roman Sasik’s doctorate degree into question.
It seems to me that Roman Sasik wrote the original article for the sole purpose of misleading and scaring people out of consuming Chlorella. If Mr. Sasik’s research was genuine, wouldn’t he have accounted for the more recent 2006 study ( http://www.ehjournal.net/content/5/1/7/ ) that found that cyanobacterial LPS is substantially different from the LPS in gram-negative bacteria, especially in being relatively nontoxic?
Yes, we know that Chlorella is not a cyanobacteria. But Mr. Sasik’s article tries to paint a picture of the effects of Chlorella LPS based on the assumption that Lipopolysaccharides have the same toxic properties regardless of their source. So that while Mr. Sasik wrote the article in a scientific style, his main point was disproved and made irrelevant six years before he wrote it.
That is not the only research Mr. Sasik ignored. A 2010 study ( http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/m/pubmed/20943052 ) found that Chlorella contains a peptide, “Chlorella-11,” that actually inhibits the toxic effect of LPS from gram-negative bacteria. Since Mr. Sasik wrote his article based on the incorrect assumption that Chlorella LPS is the same as the LPS in gram-negative bacteria, wouldn’t this 2010 study be particularly important for Mr. Sasik to mention?
It is enlightening to see how Mr. Sasik responds in the comments section after his attention is brought to the above 2010 study. According to Mr. Sasik, “whatever inhibitory ability this peptide has, it is trounced by the polysaccharide that comes with the whole Chlorella (broken wall or not.)” That is quite a determination! It sounds like Mr. Sasik was one of the researchers himself. Where Mr. Sasik gets his super ability to draw scientific conclusions without observing any phenomena is beyond us. Perhaps Mr. Sasik should email his conclusion to the original researchers so he can be the laughingstock of a room full of people somewhere, but in the context in which he puts it forth here his conclusion is tantamount to the worst fear-mongering.
The ugliest part of it all is how Mr. Sasik reaches, digs, and grabs for the nearest thing when realize he’s been fighting with a broken weapon. Tell us, Mr. Sasik, do you really know enough, and are you really qualified, to be issuing warnings to pregnant women and women planning on becoming pregnant that they shouldn’t “mess with their MMPs?” It’s funny, the study you mention ( http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15298760 ) makes no mention of any negative effects whatsoever associated with the mechanisms through which Chlorella works. Perhaps you should email those researchers your conclusion too.
By the way, Mr. Sasik, did you hear the joke about the 2010 study in Japan ( http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20013055 ) that found that Chlorella supplementation reduced the risk of anemia, proteinura and edema in pregnant women?
Didn’t think so.
Roman Sasik says
I see there has been some activity here after my last response, so let me respond to Mr. Roth:
Science is a struggle for the truth, not a personal war for dominance. You seem to have trouble understanding that, as you leave your mark everywhere you appear:
In the study with pregnant women that you bring up, http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20013055, the Chlorella-taking group had a significantly lower incidence of pregnancy anemia, proteinuria and edema (no observed effect on hypertention). It is important to note, however, that the control group was advised to take no supplements of any kind. While the study did not monitor the micronutrient content of the subjects’ diet (a major limitation), the authors do mention that on average, modern Japanese women have less than half of the recommended intake of iron and much less than the recommended intake of folate. The researchers acknowledge that the Chlorella effect is probably due to a high content of iron, folate, and vitamin B-12 in the product, Sun Chlorella A. The benefits of all three nutrients for pregnant women are well known and need not be questioned. It is very likely that Chlorella-supplemented nutrient-poor diet is preferable to nutrient-poor diet alone. I still think that, in the light of this study and other studies on Chlorella, a nutrient-rich diet such as any variant of the Paleo or Primal diets, is much preferable to Chlorella-supplemented nutrient-poor diet. That, by the way, holds true for a vegan diet as well, which happens to be virtually devoid of B-12, Mr. Roth. Anytime.
the above japanese study says the women ate 6g of Chlorella everyday and that the only side-effect was GREEN POO…that’s exactly what’s been coming out of Roman Sasik’s mouth, lol.
I have taken Chlorella for 6 years now, between 5-16 gr daily and had no ill effects- i feel healthier and stronger etc… if anything.
Therefore I had no tests done to check if I have underlying illness developing as I feel fine so can’t say for sure if Chlorella is corrupting my health but it surely doesn’t feel like it!
If chlorella is not a healthy choice , may I know what u recommend ?
How about brown sea weed?
Fucoidan = brown seed weed.
Doctors in Singapore highly recommend this to their cancer patients .,
Chlorella n Fucoidan are they not same family ?
Like to hear your view about brown sea weeds …
If chlorella is not good for us what alternative suggestion do you have ?
David Roth says
Actually, Chlorella is good for you. Roman Sasik was just trying to scare and mislead you out of comsuming it.
Roman Sasik says
The question is, what do I recommend instead of Chlorella for what? If you use Chlorella as some kind of a healthy salad, I recommend eating an actual salad instead. If you use Chlorella as a source of DHA, I recommend fish, pastured butter, and brains. If you use Clorella as a source of a complete protein, eat meat, fish, and eggs. If you are using Chlorella as medicine, ask your doctor.
Miss Cellany says
Would just like to say: eating the brains of animals carries risk too, CJD (human version of mad cow disease) came from eating meat contaminated with brains or spinal fluid/tissue of BSE infected cows.
Since that whole food scare I havent eaten any processed meats and I certainly wouldn’t advise eating brains! I feel a lot safer eating plants because plant pathogens cannot attack animal tissues for the most part (though some plant pathogens can produce toxins inside the plant that when consumed can make humans sick). That said I’m not vegan or vegetarian as I believe balanced omnivorous diets are far more healthy (we evolved to eat a varied diet that includes meat and our stomachs are not well adapted to a pure herbivorous diet). But meat sources should be chosen VERY carefully and free range organic is generally the safer option.
Roman Sasik says
Of course. Do not eat sick animals, that goes without saying.
Miss Cellany says
I find it HIGHLY unlikely that a virus that infects algae/plants would be able to attack humans. The idea just sounds utterly ridiculous to me. Its rare to get viruses from other animals let alone plants! Has ANYONE ever heard of a human contracting a virus from eating plants before??? Add to this the fact that the chlorella will have been processed and the virus will have been without a living host (most viruses cannot survive long like this) for god knows how long while the supplement sits on a shelf somewhere and you start to think that the worries about viruses are just fear mongering or sabotage of the chlorella market. I wouldn’t be put off by the viruses that chlorella MIGHT contain, however if it activates the immune system and keeps it on “high alert” then it’s not a good idea to take it every day, especially if you suffer from allergies or an autoimmune disease. Perhaps just take it occasionally as a detox and preventative measure (at the start of the flu season maybe) or whenever you’re feeling a bit low.
Roman Sasik says
If you read my article carefully you will realize that I specifically said that the viral proteins may be toxic to people, that is, ingesting them and digesting them may be bad for your health, just like eating oleander leaves, wheat germ or other toxic proteins. I never suggested that we might get infected by these viruses. That connection happened in your head. Please!
Roman Sasik says
It is now confirmed that Chlorella viruses can and do infect people after all. See this new paper (2014): “Chlorovirus ATCV-1 is part of the human oropharyngeal virome and is associated with changes in cognitive functions in humans and mice”, http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25349393. This particular one is definitely not something you want. Even though I was only warning about ingesting their proteins, it is now clear that an infection is a possibility too.
1. Is it known, if the virus can infect humans through dried chlorella powder or pills?
2. Could it be, that Chlorella makes you on the one hand physically feel good but on the other hand if you get the virus it slows down your mental agility like it says in the the abstract “modest but statistically significant decrease in the performance on cognitive assessments of visual processing and visual motor speed”, http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25349393. ?
3. How could you test, if you have this virus?
4. How could you get rid of it :)?
@Andy I have the exact same questions about this chlorella virus. Any new hints about it?
I guess the question I am wondering, maybe I missed it, but at what point is it considered food quantity and not a supplement? For example, would you consider 6 grams a day for 4 weeks a supplemental dose?
Thank you for your thorough investigation and presentation of this matter.
Roman Sasik says
Willy, I think that regular consumption of a physiologically active amount of Chlorella is toxic to people. Occasional consumption is just an immune system activator and an irritant, for which we typically have no need. I do not consider Chlorella to be a supplement as it supplements nothing of value to a varied diet. I even doubt that anyone who eats a diet high in saturated fat and very low in PUFA (of both n-6 and n-3 kinds) needs to supplement with DHA or any other n-3 fatty acids. My views on DHA have evolved based on new research that shows that supplementation of baby formula with DHA leads to slowed verbal development in children. Your example of taking 6 grams a day for 4 weeks is probably harmless, but I would not repeat this “treatment” again.
Luis Perez says
Can you please share the link or reference to the study where adding DHA to infant formula impairs verbal development?
Hello, Dr. Roman Sasik. This is very interesting post and comments are atleast as interesting to read. I haven’t even tasted chlorella or any other algae supplements and I’m not planning to do so. They look disgusting and taste (as I’ve heard) doesn’t get any better. I’ve been studying LPS and it’s role in inflammatory disease for some time and I’d like to understand where your ideas come from. If systemic LPS has some role in chronic inflammatory diseases like alzheimer, type 2 diabetes etc. what makes you believe that eating food that has tiny amount of some form of LPS will lead to the development or worsening of these diseases?
Roman Sasik says
Pasi, what makes me believe that eating a tiny amount (it would be helpful if you defined tiny) of some form of LPS will lead to health problems in general is experimental evidence. Proponents of Chlorella like to mention that Chlorella in physiological amounts stimulates the immune system, and I gave references that specifically show that this is achieved via activation of macrophages. Activated macrophages are part of a non-specific inflammatory response. In other words, regular Chlorella ingestion contributes to chronic inflammation, and we now know that chronic inflammation is a major risk factor in many diseases of civilization. A statement like this would not be a very good marketing tool, would it. So they prefer to say that Chlorella stimulates your immunity, which sounds a lot better. A lot of plant toxins have a similar effect, but responsible herbalists know which plants should not be used over a prolonged time period. I think Chlorella should be on that list. The so-called proven safety record of Chlorella is based on a bunch of unrelated short-term studies, which suggest that Chlorella does not kill you right away. But a longitudinal study of a large cohort of people taking Chlorella for many years (and a control group that does not) is lacking.
“Chlorella stimulates the immune system, via activation of macrophages. Activated macrophages are part of a non-specific inflammatory response. In other words, regular Chlorella ingestion contributes to chronic inflammation.”
Does that mean that eating food or drinking water with higher content of macrophage activating microbial components regularly will lead to chronic inflammation and modern diseases too? Didn’t people get more macrophage activating substances (via food, water and living environment) before modern style of living?
Some foods contain macrophage activators as well. Oats, mushrooms, barley and yeast contain beta glucan.
I have autoimmune m.e. and have taken chlorella for years. I’ve noticed no ill effect and it has been great for gut health. Because of the m.e. I have a constant feeling of intracranial pressure which varies with my level of immune activity. The grass powders (barley, wheat, alfalfa) do worsen the feeling of pressure, but algae powders do not. Echinacea, supplemental beta glucan, and food grade peroxide which do activate macrophages, also make it worse. I’ve noticed no harm from fermented oats.
Maybe chlorella is more of an immunomodulator than an activator?
I have recently replaced my daily intake of Sun Chlorella broken cell wall chlorella (3g), with Oceans Alive marine phytoplankton. I was wondering if phytoplankton has similar toxic elements of Chlorella. Oceans Alive phytoplankton is grown in a controlled environment in sealed glass tubes away from possible naturally occurring environmental contaminants and toxins. Any insight would be greatly appreciated.
If chlorella caused as much inflammation as Roman suggests I do not think there would be as many dramatic improvements in Irritable Bowel Syndrome as are reported.
Young Henry says
I am taking five 2 grams chlorella twice daily since June, 2012. I haven’t experience any improvement in the way I feel, I was feeling fine before taking chlorella. However I have noticed a greenish color on my face cloth, and dark color in the area of my forehead. I wonder if this is toxins being eliminated through my skin. Has anyone out there experience the same ?
Surprising article to say the least – I’ve read nothing but good about chlorella for so long!
I must ask though: You warn against eating whole chlorella regularly for food. Can you please define what you mean “for food”?
I mix a small amount (6g) of Chlorella powder into my morning berry shake. I would consider that more a supplement than a food. Do you think that I should keep that practice to short term bursts for detox reasons, or is such low doses outside the scope of what you are talking about?
Hi, I have been consuming chlorella for 6 years now and I have recovered from a very severe health problem as well as completely eliminated the need for my high dose medications that were apparently keeping me alive.
I have had only strong regenative effects, increased muscle mass, balanced weight and increased stamina due to the chlorella. It is a whole food source as well as a mild detoxifier that has been used for many, many years. It is both safe and healthy for consumption.
I am not a health nut and do take medication when needed however I can not stand when viable sources of health are knocked and chlorella is one hell of great food for health. No one will die from chlorella while many do die from medications and aside from some mild loose movements (which if you do get, will subside) there are no real side effects……its food, not a herbal remedy or some potion, just food.
Look it up, do some thorough research and make your own conclusion but please, do some research first.
….By the way, I consume about a pound (454gm) a month, for six years. I have no heart problems, normal levels of blood sugar, no cancers – I just had a full series of tests on all these things due to my original illness and I am clean and clear of disease.
Chlorella feeds and detoxes at the same time.
I fully agree with Steve. I stopped reading these comments about halfway through because frankly this is ridiculous.
Chlorella is amazing. I am using it to detox mercury, I keep (slowly) losing weight on it and frankly advising to ‘eat fish’ is poor advice (the last thing I’m doing is adding any fish that could have mercury in it).
But to anyone reading this…
I want this author to address how millions of Japanese eat chlorella daily – as food – and are in general much healthier then we are.
I make sure to buy quality chlorella, from Taiwan, so I know I’m starting with the cleanest source.
The concerns about the lipopolysaccharides may be overstated, as chlorella also contains a compound that turns them off:
However, more recent studies have found that the lipopolysaccharides in organisms other than gram-negative-bacteria, for example in cyanobacteria, are considerably different from the lipopolysaccharides in gram-negative bacteria. A 2010 study found that Chlorella contains a peptide, known as Chlorella-11, that actually inhibits the inflammation caused by lipopolysaccharides from gram-negative-bacteria.
^ Stewart, Ian; Schluter, Philip J; Shaw, Glen R (2006). Environmental Health: A Global Access Science Source 5: 7. doi:10.1186/1476-069X-5-7.
^ Cherng, JY; Liu, CC; Shen, CR; Lin, HH; Shih, MF (2010). “Beneficial effects of Chlorella-11 peptide on blocking LPS-induced macrophage activation and alleviating thermal injury-induced inflammation in rats”. International journal of immunopathology and pharmacology 23 (3): 811–20. PMID 20943052.
This study does bot promote chlorella for food, but:
J Oleo Sci. 2013;62(10):773-779.
Chlorella is an Effective Dietary Source of Lutein for Human Erythrocytes.
Miyazawa T, Nakagawa K, Kimura F, Nakashima Y, Maruyama I, Higuchi O, Miyazawa T.
Food and Biodynamic Chemistry Laboratory, Graduate School of Agricultural Science, Tohoku University.
Chlorella contains a high amount of carotenoids, especially lutein, and has received attention as a possible dietary source for improving carotenoid levels in human blood. In the present study, we performed a 2-month single arm human study, and investigated the efficacy of Chlorella supplementation (9 g Chlorella/day; equivalent to 32 mg lutein/day) on lutein and other carotenoid concentrations in plasma as well as erythrocytes of 12 healthy subjects. Following Chlorella supplementation, lutein was the predominant carotenoid in erythrocytes, showing a 4-fold increase (from 14 to 54 pmol/mL packed cells). After the one month without Chlorella ingestion, erythrocyte lutein then decreased to a basal level (17 pmol/mL packed cells). Erythrocyte carotenoid (lutein, zeaxanthin, α-carotene, and β-carotene) levels were proportional to plasma carotenoid levels. The results suggest the transfer of Chlorella carotenoids, especially lutein, from plasma lipoprotein particles to the erythrocyte membrane. Chlorella intake would be effective for improving and maintaining lutein concentrations in human erythrocytes.
PMID: 24088514 [PubMed – as supplied by publisher]
Tjeerd Geerts says
“regular Chlorella ingestion contributes to chronic inflammation”
Can you back this up with research than?
I would like to weigh in here, stating that I HAVE had an averse reaction to ingesting 2 tablespoons of chlorella in water in an attempt to ‘detox’. This led to two days of irritable bowels, passing of frequent stool, total body fatigue, light headedness, lack of focus, fuzzy head, depressed, weak joints…I feel like I’m sick all over. It feels like an autoimmune response. Why this happened after I was ok taking maybe one teaspoon in water before, 3 years ago, I cannot say. I would guess the large dose in a desperate attempt to rid myself of a perceived toxin was the culprit. Either that, or the container I had went bad, and I suffered the toxic effects of that. I don’t know for sure. But I do know that I will not take this Yaeyama Chlorella product anymore. There are quite a few averse reactions reported in web forums to Yaeyama Chlorella, or other chlorellas. I am gluten intolerant and grew up with asthma (no longer have it) and had immunity issues as a child and young adult, but got over them after kicking gluten. It activated my immune system. I wonder if this is a similar problem? My body is attacking the chlorella, after taking too much? It says it ‘stimulates’ the immune system…more like pummels it! I cannot stress how much I am against this product. I also don’t know what the long-term consequences on my health are. From being in general good health and now to this…it’s very very discouraging.
All the symptoms you listed are common reactions to a detoxify agent working in the beginning stages. It is common to start with a lower dose and work your way up as you gain a tolerance. The Chlorella was likely doing what you purchased it to do.
A 2002 study showed that Chlorella cell walls contain lipopolysaccharides, an endotoxin found in gram-negative bacteria that affects the immune system and may cause inflammation. However, more recent studies have found that the lipopolysaccharides in organisms other than gram-negative-bacteria, for example in cyanobacteria, are considerably different from the lipopolysaccharides in gram-negative bacteria. A 2010 study found that Chlorella contains a peptide, known as Chlorella-11, that actually inhibits the inflammation caused by lipopolysaccharides from gram-negative-bacteria.
jesus Land Tidd says
i been eating Spirulina and Chlorella 3-4 TBSP every day for last 25 years and i am 66 feeling like 18 years old!! NEVER been sick since!!
I used to eat a lot of Chlorella. I got used to the taste and would just chew them up. Been off it for a while and thinking of reintroducing it to my diet. One thing I am concerned with is the residue it leaves on the teeth and gums. Some websites claim that this can help with dental issues, but I’m not so sure about that. Do I have anything to worry about?
Surely Chlorella should be avoided if it sensitises skin to the sun?
Great discussion thanks.
But I am still not sure if chlorella is really that bad. Anything consumed in large doses may have some sort of harmful effect on the human body but if consumed in small does would probably have no effect. I have recently started taking chlorella/spirulina as a supplement (2g each per day) and I have noticed positive effects.
Also, two research articles published recently found a correlation between high omega-3 fish oils and prostate cancer!!! Even flax seeds, containing parental omega-3, has been linked to prostate cancer. So what do we do now? stop eating fish? Look at aspirins, it was given to heart attack patients, now the NHS is about to do U turn because it may cause strokes.
In other words: moderation and balance….
Very interesting article and subsequent discussion. It is very difficult to find objective information on this subject. Like me, many people want to be believers, i.e. want to believe that there is a miracle ‘superfood’ out there without any side effects. I want to read positive things about Chlorella. That is why I made it all the way to the bottom of this page. It is disappointing to read that, substantiated with research, yet again the holy grail of health has not been found yet.
victor bracken says
i have been eating chlorella an spirulina as my only food both together an separatly since the 70s . the longest on chlorella only was 12months. mixed with organic apple juice or organic carrot juice taken when ever i feel the need which might 6 to 10 times a day . powder ,tablets its all the same . in between the green shake i drink ionised water with celtic sea salt with seaweed or himalayan rock salt. a meal in its self. my usual dosage is 200g a day max of chlorella,spirulina an cgf depending on how i feel . what work out ive done on the day etc. my wieght is 100kg. im a touch under 6″. fat about 8% i work out once a day 5 days only . fast on sundays. no food no water 24hrs. i might go 3 months like this then on a saturday i might have a hangi meal or fish an chips or what ever. only on saturdays as i will fast sunday to get the system clean. then back to the green food monday. an cant wait. i feel great . im told i look good for 60.im never sick. touch wood. ive had lots of injuries doing all sorts of silly things but my body heals very quickly. i dont have bad breath , body oder, . i once went on an adventure where icouldnt get access to the green stuff i thought it would be good to see how the body handled it anyway. i was up on the aquater for 4yrs it took 2yrs for the effects of the green juice to leave my body . the remaining 2 yrs were tough . after one week back on the green juice the body started to rejuvinate. normally in the bush i just chew the tabs. as a survival food its the best. the bottom line is i eat chlorella an spirulina every day except sundays. oh i do mix cayenne, termeric,garlic,ginger all organic with green shakes. used to grow an eat wheat grass for yrs which is excellent but not a patch on chlorella an spirulina.
if you want to know anything about these foods the guys to talk to are bob mccaully an mike adams. the masters.
I had all my silver dental amalgams removed after discovering these were responsible for my debilitating migraines (so severe I was suicidal) migraines got noticeably worse in the past after hepatitis and flu jabs. I would like to reduce my Mercury levels and stop the migraines – but how? Seaweed (kelp) and fish are now contaminated with Mercury so Ive been taking chlorella but I don’t want to add Parkinson’s to my problems! It would be nice if Robb Wolf could suggest some safe alternative to reduce Mercury levels? How about it Robb?
Roman, thanks for doing so much research in your responses. I think this whole thread is emblematic of the problems facing a consumer when trying to winnow fact from fiction. We all have friends (or total strangers on the internet) who swear by whatever – “been using xxx for 6 years, by gum, and I’m healthy as ever” – but those are in no way representative of safety studies or genuine research, and, in the absence of time or inclination to do the work themselves, most people go with the strongest marketing thrust. “Food” for thought.
Bradley Vredeveld says
I took chlorella for a about one month and I got noticable swelling in my feet ankles and hands. As soon as I stopped taking it the swelling went away.
Can I take Chlorella if I have one tooth implant? I ask as I’ve heard that Chlorrella is suppoosed to attach itself to heavy metals in your body and I just scared that Chlorella will start to “eat” my implant. Sorry if I sound a bit silly I just would like to know if anyone heard anything about it? Many thanks for any respond. Amy
Ok so it stimulates the immune system…this is the first time I’ve seen that framed as if that’s something bad. You know what else causes inflammation (not to mention glycation)? Animal products! lol. Considering the mountain of benefits that chlorella exhibits, this is a pretty weaksauce attempted takedown.
Dale A. Lanier says
I am wondering if Roman Sasik has in interest in the Paleo Solution income?
Your conclusions about broken cell wall Chlorella may be more associated with the fact that the process used to break the cell wall is high heat. This process is more harmful than good – in my opinion. You say that LPS leads to sepsis with no scientific proof. You have incompatible conclusions about LPS, one that it causes sepsis and another that it leads to Parkinson”s disease. You give us no connection between macrophages and sepsis. (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/9387805)
Do you know what country has the highest use of Chlorella, in case you do not, it is Japan.
You can see by the above stats that Japan is not even listed as the highest amount of Pardinson”s disease.
The above information leads me to conclude that you are a fraud and you must have some financial interest in debunking Chlorella.
Do you even know about Chlorella Vulgaris, with a soft cell wall?
Robb Wolf says
You are shitting me about LPS? right??
And yea, big sweet potato is paying me off to promote anti-chlorela propoganda.
check wikipedia for later study. conclusion: NO PROBLEM such as the first study from 2002 indicated. enjoy your chlorella !
I am one of the several people who have had violent reactions (severe projectile vomiting and diahrrea from taking chlorella.). Has anyone come up with an explanation of why some people get so violently ill from taking this?
Dale A. Lanier says
Margie it is called contamination.
Most Chlorella products that are produced overseas has some type of contamination and normally that is what causes the reaction that you indicate.
What company did you purchase your chlorella from? Let me know and I will research.
In some very cases there could be something in the chemical make up of Chlorella that you are reacting to. If so you will react to anything that contains the specific item that you are react to.
For example it may be chlorophyll, or it could be potassium etc.
Let’s use common sense people. Everyone has their own unique metabolic type and biochemistry. This will further be modified by conditions, imbalances, genetic mutations, allergies, etc. Thus, everyone will react differently to a specific food: will be beneficial or harmful. My personal story: I take spirulina and chlorella in my morning smoothie every day. I had some sort of joint disease in my fingers (inflammation, pain and stiffness) and that went away and was fully cured after 2 weeks of spirulina. I am not aware of any negative effects and I feel great, have plenty of energy, never get sick, etc.
So many of these research tests are inadequate, imbalanced and draw illogical conclusions. Testing on mice and other animals will never be accurate. The only tests that matter are comprehensive, controlled tests on humans with comprehensive bio-metric testing before, during and after. And all of the conditions of the tests must be properly thought out and include all the specifics. And humans should be divided up into categories for the testing by metabolic types, genetic types and mutations, health conditions, etc.
The problem is that people like Roman can write an article and it can sound logical and truthful, yet we don’t know if it truly is or isn’t due to the flaws in the testing, biases, etc.
Our only hope is exhaustive clinical testing done from all angles on a specific food or supplement to hopefully get the truth on the matter.
Trust your body; that’s the key. Studies can be useful but they’re often flawed. If you’ve been taking Chlorella for 6 years and you feel amazing keep on treating it like a food and don’t let it worry you. If you have an adverse reaction to even the cleanest Chlorella (do make sure it’s good quality) then move on regardless of how good people tell you it is for you. No Dr or guru knows more than your body!
catharine arnston says
Andy is right. And in fact his insights are even more powerful when you realize that before you buy-in to a study like this, that flies in the face of virtually 99.9% of the 40,000 studies about the health and athletic benefits of chlorella, you need to understand three things: 1) what was the QUALITY and PURITY of the product being evaluated/studied (in this case chlorella). If the source of chlorella was a lake (like Klamath Lake) or from ANY other wild source, OF COURSE there are going to be toxins in it. Algae absorbs whatever is in the water, so you are using a contaminated source of algae for your study (ie. NOT from a reputable source of algae that grows it under ISO-9000, GMP conditions) there will be LOTS of things found in it that could cause problems with your health. 2) WHAT was the purpose of the study and WHO funded it. Very often you will find results from a study that was done by a highly qualified, PhD or scientific expert that flies in the face of the tens of thousands of other studies that suggest a totally opposite opinion (as this study appears to do). That’s when you need to see WHO funded the study and WHAT they were trying to prove. There is a lot of research that might be quietly funded by large organizations that have a vested interest in scarring people so they would use the product) 3) WHAT is the frequency of the occurance found in the study? Is it 1 in a billion? If so, I would suggest that you ignore the findings and listen to your OWN body as Andy suggests. There is absolutely nothing in this world that is 100% guaranteed. Nothing – not air, not water and so you need to use your own judgement and research thoroughly to determine if some research like this that ignores the hundreds of health benefits that are PROVEN in tens of thousands of studies are sufficient to stop taking chlorella or not even try it, just because there is a 1 in billion chance that you MIGHT find your immune system overstimulated and this is even before you take into account, you don’t know the quality of the chlorella that was used in the study (maybe it came from the researchers swimming pool and was just pond scum) and you don’t even know who funded the study and if their goal was to find any kind of random thing wrong with chlorella. I would suggest that before anyone decides that chlorella is a BAD thing, that perhaps they read the thousands of studies that are available, some even from NIH that endorse and support the use of chlorella for building the immune system, removing toxins of any kind and even helping people who have radiation poisoning or lead poisoning or mercury poisoning or who simply want to stop having colds every year or would like to recover from sports faster since chlorella pulls out lactic acid too! The MOUNTAIN of research that strongly supports the use of chlorella, not to mention the FIFTY years of safe use of it (primarily in Asia but also in the USA and globally) and NOT ONE single death from it (unlike virtually every drug on the market) suggests that perhaps the findings presented in this study and indeed this blog do not tell the full story which is – if you t evaluate anything, including chlorella using a contaminated source, you will always find something wrong with it. If nothing else, all this study and blog post really does is reconfirm the NEED for everyone to purchase their chlorella and spirulina algae from a VERY reputable source that can guarantee its purity and safety and I can pretty much assure you that you will not find high quality, clean, safe and pure algae if you purchase it from a cheap source. If you or anyone would like to ask me any questions regarding this post or indeed my company ENERGYbits.com I would be more than delighted to share research with you that will help you see that reports like this do not really help – they simply foster fear and prevent an important product like chlorella and spirulina algae from being properly understood so they can do all the great things for peoples health – which have been proven in tens of thousands of studies. But as this report accurately does point out, the algae you purchase and the quality/safety of it is ONLY as good as the company you purchase it from – but that can be said about almost everything. Thank you for giving me the chance to comment on this since it was just brought to my attention. Kind regards, Catharine Arnston, Founder/CEO ENERGYbits Inc.
I’ve read Chlorella helps cure Menengitis, however if Chlorella causes inflammation then I’d imagine it’d be the last thing you’d want to add to your diet. Can you please share your view on this? Thank you.
I am taking Chlorella daily (8gr a day) since 10 years, ie the exact thing you advise against.
So far I haven’t noticed any adverse reactions and am almost never sick in those times when everyone else has the flu or a cold in winter and also don’t get ill or sick otherwise. I feel it keeps me fit and healthy and possibly keeps age related stuff like wrinkles at bay and so on.
Everett Wilkinson says
Nice post. I learn something totally new and challenging on blogs I stumbleupon everyday.
It’s always useful to read content from other authors and practice a little something from their
Thank you for writing this article. I was taking chlorella supplements (about 4 per day) in December 2012 and at the end of Jan 2013, I was rushed to hospital with Blood Pressure of 210 /130 and feeling absolutely awful. My WBC’s were elevated as were my Uric Acid levels.Over the next few years I had thyroid issues, tinnitus, chronic fatigue, Gout, swollen lymph nodes, white coated tongue, digestive issues (intestinal cramps, soft stool, acid reflux, abdominal pains), chemical sensitivities, brain fog, skin and sleep issues (awake ALL night until sunrise on occasions) arthritis issues and muscle tension, (particularly in the neck which used to crack frequently) and more besides. All these symptoms appeared after my hospitalisation and I blame the Chlorella I was taking as the catalyst. I am still a long way from health but I can honestly say that I haven’t touched Chlorella since and won’t be taking it ever again.
I would be very interested in any tests or recommendations you could make that would lead to a restoration of health?
Show me any study that says X and I will show you another that says the opposite. If you are a health fanatic like me, I bet you have come to the conclusion that it is hard who to trust. SOme say drin 2 gallons of water a day, other say it is harmful. Some say brocolli is terrible and some others say its the perfect food. And the list can go on forever. I literally have become my own guinea pig since I do not know who to trust, everyone lies, everyone. I can sy however that I am a BIG fan of chlorella and have been taking it for about 5 years evryday between 3-5 grams. My imune system is incredibly well and havent had a cold in years. So far I can say that chlorella is my #1 favourite supplement/food
MARK ALMAN says
There are more than 20 species of chlorella being produced for public consumption. Each species is different in its production method, composition and health effects. Well-known common species of Chlorella include C. vulgaris, C. ellipsoidea, C. saccharophila, C. pyrenoidosa, and C. regularis. Just like in the world of probiotics, within each species of chlorella are strains. It’s important that if you are going to report or comment on chlorella or probiotics that you make a distinction as to the the composition of constituents of the species and strain you are investigating. It would not be fair, accurate or scientifically sound practice to generalize your findings or opinion on a particular species or strain to be common to all chlorellas (or probiotics).
Most of the Chlorella cultivated and produced for consumption in the US are C. vulgaris, which is predominantly made in Japan, and C. pyrenoidosa, which is made in Taiwan. If you refer back to the single piece of research being cited for the basis of this opinion piece you will find that the chlorella strain that was investigated, Chlorella Variabilis strain NC64A, has never been commercialized or produced for public consumption. Good science does not allow the author of the research or this article to attribute his finding for this particular species and strain to ALL chlorellas. Neither should you the reader.
Your responsibility is to determine to what extent the research this article is based upon has had to do with the species and strains that are being commercially produced and made available for sale to the public or what you are personally consuming. In my case…none.
I am a consumer of both C. vulgaris and C. pyrenoidosa.