Introduction to Chlorella
Chlorella vulgaris (chlorophyta) is a unicellular plant that can be grown on fresh and marine waters.(1) Chlorella has been used as a food source for centuries and continues to grow as a valuable product in various industrial sectors.
The chlorella species contains a high protein content. Dried Chlorella has about 45% of its content protein, 20% fat, 20% carbohydrates, 5% fiber, and 10% minerals and vitamins.(2) Chlorella is rich in carotenoids, magnesium, and chlorophyll. The range of carotenoids from chlorella offer a richer and bioavailable source for humans than just supplementing with synthetic beta-carotene as a single carotenoid. Cholesterol, once in an oxidized state, clogs arterial pathways. Chlorella prevents the oxidation of cholesterol and therefore protecting the arterial pathways from plaque. (3) Magnesium is a necessary mineral and is used by every cell in the human body. Most Americans do not have a sufficient intake of magnesium in their diet. Chlorella offers a rich bioavailable source of magnesium. Chlorophyll detoxifies the body of heavy metals and toxins. Chlorella has sufficiently removed cadmium and uranium by oral supplementation. (3)
Also, chlorella is often sourced for fatty acids and carbohydrates. (5) Chlorella’s lipid profile has a strong content of alpha-linolenic acid. “Chlorella species (Chlorophyceae) showed high proportions of short-chain PUFA…” (2)
Chlorella’s industrial uses
A renewable source for natural pigment is in demand for the industrial business sector. Chlorella sp. has the greatest yield for chlorophyll as natural pigment. (6) Chlorella has been used in the cosmetic industry as an added ingredient for pigmentation. (7) Many personal care products use chlorophyll for skin care creams, lotions and hair care products. (7)
Lutein is valued as a pigment. The lutein from Chlorella can “be isolated and purified up to 98%”(2) Once isolated, this pigment is added to feed supplements.(2)
Chlorella is valuable for an added animal supplement feed and as in fish feed. Another industrial use for chlorella is an added supplement for animal feed. It is commonly added for domestic and farm animals because of the valuable minerals and vitamins for the animals immune system and overall health. (7) Chlorella also meet the specific standards for algae biomass to be selected for aquaculture feed. There are not many strands that meet the standards for feed additives but Chlorella has been used safely with beneficial health results for fish.(7)
Chlorella is a rich source of polysaccharides such as beta 1,3 glucan. Beta 1,3 glucan is stored and accumulated in chlorella cells.(7) Polysaccharides are used as milk stabilizers in food and drink supplements. (1)
Other uses for Chlorella include being used in waste water clean up and as alternative fuel. Chlorella has the capability to remove nitrogen and phosphorus from municipal waste water. This method for clean up has shown successful in research studies.(8) Also, algae has the interest of the growing alternative fuel industry. Chlorella pro. species is promising as alternative fuel for tractor diesel engines.(9)
Chlorella’s health benefits
Chlorella is one of the popular marine nutraceutical from algae (10). Health aspects that have been studied demonstrate that chlorella can lower blood sugar levels, increase hemoglobin concentrations, and lower cholesterol. (1) Recent studies have shown that chlorella reduces arterial stiffness when consumed as a dietary supplement. (11)
Chlorella also shows a strong antioxidant status compared to other algal biomass. (12) In a recent study, Chlorella marina was compared to two other algal species, D. Salina and Navicula clavata. Chlorella consistently showed the best results in all categories. Chlorella has the highest phenolic content, antioxidant activity, DPPH radical scavenging ability, hydrogen peroxide radical scavenging and nitric oxide scavenging. (12)
Chlorella contributes by enhancing the immune system, lowering free radical activity, and can lower blood lipid levels.(7) Also, chlorella benefits digestion by reducing gastric ulcers and relieve constipation.(7) Chlorella aids in the ease of digestion when combined with fiber. Chlorella contributes by “The prebiotic action of the soluble fiber is reported to stimulate enzyme activity in the colon, thereby promoting hydrolysis of the chlorella wall, releasing antioxidant ingredients.” (13)
Chlorella also contains polysaccharides that have immune supportive properties. (1) One mechanism for this action is chlorella promoting the creation of superoxide, a free radical scavenger. (1) Chlorella does not directly have any effects on E-coli. However, it does offer a protective effect from promoting superoxide generation and chemogenesis by increasing polymorphonuclear leucocytes. (1)
1. Posten, Clemens Walter, Christian. Microalgal Biotechnology: Integration and Economy. Muchen:Walter de Gruyter, 2012.
2. Barrow, Colin James. Nutraceutical Science and Technology, Volume 7 : Marine Nutraceuticals and Functional Foods. Boca Raton:CRC Press.2007.
3 Venugopal, Vazhiyil. Functional Foods and Nutraceuticals : Marine Products for Healthcare : Functional and Bioactive Nutraceutical Compounds from the Ocean. Boca Raton:CRC Press.2008.
4.Webb, Geoffrey P. Dietary Supplements and Functional Foods (2nd Edition).Somerset:Wiley-Blackwell.2011.
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6.Al-lwayzy S, Yusaf T. Chlorella protothecoides Microalgae as an Alternative Fuel for Tractor Diesel Engines. Energies (19961073) [serial online]. February 2013;6(2):766-783. Available from: Academic Search Complete, Ipswich, MA. Accessed December 9, 2013.
7.Richman A. The New Age of MARINE NUTRACEUTICALS. Nutraceuticals World [serial online]. November 2013;16(9):40-48. Available from: Food Science Source, Ipswich, MA. Accessed December 9, 2013.
8.Hemalatha A, Girija K, Parthiban C, Saranya C, Anantharaman P. Antioxidant properties and total phenolic content of a marine diatom, Navicula clavata and green microalgae, Chlorella marina and Dunaliella salina. Advances In Applied Science Research [serial online]. 2013;4(5):151-157. Available from: CAB Abstracts, Ipswich, MA. Accessed December 9, 2013.
9.Otsuki T, Shimizu K, Iemitsu M, Kono I. Multicomponent supplement containing Chlorella decreases arterial stiffness in healthy young men. Journal Of Clinical Biochemistry And Nutrition [serial online]. 2013;53(3):166-169. Available from: CAB Abstracts, Ipswich, MA. Accessed December 9, 2013.
10.Miazek K, Ledakowicz S. Chlorophyll extraction from leaves, needles and microalgae: A kinetic approach. International Journal Of Agricultural & Biological Engineering [serial online]. June 2013;6(2):107-115. Available from: Food Science Source, Ipswich, MA. Accessed December 9, 2013.
11.Wang C, Yu X, Lv H, Yang J. Nitrogen and phosphorus removal from municipal wastewater by the green alga Chlorella sp. Journal Of Environmental Biology [serial online]. n.d.;34(2):421-425. Available from: Science Citation Index, Ipswich, MA. Accessed December 9, 2013.
12. Posten, Clemens Walter, Christian. Microalgal Biotechnology: Potential and Production. Muchen:Walter de Gruyter.2012.
13. Crayhon R. Chlorella. Total Health [serial online]. August 1996;18(4):27. Available from: Academic Search Complete, Ipswich, MA. Accessed December 13, 2013.