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Is chlorella good for you?

Chlorella does not have the toxins which may be present in blue-green algae supplements and spirulina.

September 29, 2009 |
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Transcript

What about chlorella sold as a dietary supplement? Harmful, harmless or helpful? There was a report in the journal of veterinary pathology of a golden retriever killed by chlorella and invaded her body by eating its way up to her brain. This is showing the algae creep up her spinal chord, but this is only if you dip an open wound into a scummy pond or something. The chlorella that's in the health-food store is dried and dead.

There have been reports of adverse reactions, for example, here an 11 year old was hospitalized for kidney failure which went away when he stopped chlorella. But this was thought to be an allergic reaction. Similarly there are reports of sun sensitive rashes and asthma triggered by breathing the stuff in, but again, they don't appear to be caused by a toxin like you might find in blue-green algae supplements or spirulina, but much more rare reactions in sensitive individuals. For the vast majority of people, chlorella can be considered helpful. Packed with tons of nutrients, like tiny little dark green leafys. Kinda tastes like you're drinking your lawn though and kale is cheaper.

To see any graphs, charts, graphics, images, and quotes to which Dr. Greger may be referring watch the above video. This is just an approximation of the audio contributed by veganmontreal.

To help out on the site please email volunteer@nutritionfacts.org

Dr. Michael Greger

Doctor's Note

There are also videos on spirulina and blue-green algae supplements. Please feel free to leave any questions below and I'd be delighted to answer them.

For some context, please check out my associated blog post: The Best Foods: test your nutrition knowledge.

  • http://nutritionfacts.org/members/mgreger/ Michael Greger M.D.

    There are also videos on spirulina and blue-green algae supplements. Please feel free to leave any questions below and I’d be delighted to answer them.

  • http://nutritionfacts.org/members/mgreger/ Michael Greger M.D.

    I am forever indebted to The Healthy Librarian (check out her excellent blog Happy Healthy Long Life) for correcting my confusion of chlorella phylogeny. I had mistakenly lumped chlorella in with blue-green algae, and they’re not even in the same biological kingdom! Unlike cyanobacteria (spirulina and blue-green algae such as Klamath Lake Aphanizomenon flos-aquae), chlorella does not appear to produce muscle, nerve, or liver toxicity.

  • http://nutritionfacts.org/members/LachicaveganaComefrutas/ Lachicavegana Comefrutas

    It isn’t playing for me right now.
    But it did still take over that dog’s body, right?

    • http://nutritionfacts.org/members/mgreger/ Michael Greger M.D.

      Are you still having problems viewing the video? Live chlorella can indeed infect humans and animals, but what we buy in stores is dried and dead and therefore harmless (but you still might not want to take dips in scummy ponds with open wounds).

  • http://nutritionfacts.org/members/toxins/ Toxins

    Doesn’t the Chlorella Growth Factor call for some concern in humans? Wouldnt this be similar to IGF, promoting unnecessary growth of our bodies?

    • http://nutritionfacts.org/members/mgreger/ Michael Greger M.D.

      I’ve never even heard of that! Do you know if that’s just some marketing ploy or a real entity? I couldn’t find anything in the National Library of Medicine database under that name. But if you can find out what it’s really called (if it indeed even exists) I’d be happy to hunt down info about it.

      • Bob

        IGF – Insulin-like Growth Factor, very popular among the bodybuilding industry

        • b00mer

          Hi Bob, I think he was asking about the “Chlorella Growth Factor”. Dr. Greger has definitely heard of IGF!

    • elsie blanche

      You have raised an interesting possibility. Have you come to any conclusions or obvious reasons to avoid ingesting chlorella, in regards to IGF similarities? I have always had some concerns with chlorella, and would not be surprised to see a study in the future showing negative attributes, yet many vegans just adore and have gratitude for the product.

  • http://nutritionfacts.org/members/toxins/ Toxins

    Maybe it is just made up by the marketers. their selling point was that it quadruples in size everyday so it would aid in tissue repair.

  • http://nutritionfacts.org/members/aramis/ Aramis

    Dr. Greger,
    I am currently going through a Detox therapy due to some heavy metals contamination (G.I. Tract, etc – mainly Hg – Mercury). Chlorella was prescribed by my M.D./Biochemist Nutritionist/and Nutritionist both Ph.D). I was surprise to see on your DVD #5 that your recommendation was to stay away from it due to BMAA bacteria. In my research some companies test to ensure their product is BMAA tested. Do you still recommend to stay away from it. My levels of Hg are coming down and I haven’t even started to do DMPS yet.
    Thank You!
    Aramis Ortiz
    San Diego, CA

    • http://nutritionfacts.org/members/mgreger/ Michael Greger M.D.

      As I note in the subtitle above, chlorella does not have the toxins which may be present in blue-green algae supplements (http://nutritionfacts.org/topics/blue-green-algae/) and spirulina (http://nutritionfacts.org/topics/spirulina/).

      • Kartoffelmao

        In this video on spirulina; http://nutritionfacts.org/video/update-on-spirulina-2/ you say that chlorella has brain toxins… care to elaborate on this?

        • http://nutritionfacts.org/ Michael Greger M.D.

          I added a note to that video–no brain toxins in chlorella (I meant to say blue-green algae). I’m going to re-record the video to correct the error–thank you so much for pointing that out!

    • Gary Birch

      Gary Birch-Spain
      Have you checked facebook on the Detox Agency, or maybe even pernilledamore.com, you could even look at the Gerson Therapy web site for detox information and guidance.
      Regards
      Gary
      Spain

  • http://nutritionfacts.org/members/aramis/ Aramis

    Note: In the analysis done it showed that I have Mercury, Aluminum, Lead, and Arsenic. Natural chelation with Chlorella and cilantro is one process. Synthetic aminoacid such as DMPS and DMSA is another method. I also did a one week Sauna Detox.
    Again Thank You!
    Aramis Ortiz
    San Diego, CA

  • Jazzie

    If any algae is grown hydroponically do you still have to worry about toxins? If spiralina is grown hydroponically can I take it along with chlorella?
    Thank you in advance for your advice.

    • Toxins

      The issue is not with how the spirulina is grown but what byproducts are produced by it. Therefore it shouldn’t matter how the spirulina is grown.

  • Michael Greger M.D.

    For some context, please check out my associated blog post The Best Foods: Test Your Nutrition Knowledge!

  • Javier

    Hello,
    Recently I have read an article that have create on me confusion about cholorella. This article, which source is natural news, was explaning that most of the cholorella that we consume comes from China, Japan and Korea has a very high concentration of Aluminiun. Have you heard something about it? Do you have some information, research that prove this fact or clarify a litlle bit this issue. Wre live in World that we do not know who we trust even brands that they are bio they are doing funny things and at the end they get money through or most precious give our health. I would appreciate all the information you can share with us.
    Thank you.

  • Eric P

    Does Chlorella have enough iodine to meet a person’s daily requirement? I am taking .5-1 tablespoon of chlorella a day.

  • barbarabrussels

    Dear Dr Greger,
    Thanks for all your hard work. Blue-green algae are out, but how are we to know the colour of the algae in vegan omega 3 supplements ? Would you happen to know if they are safe here in Europe, i.e. toxin-free? Thank you.
    Ps Your work deserves international recognition, the whole world should benefit from it. A suggestion: I have a degree in translation, say I were to translate one of your transcripts into Dutch, would you be able to use it in any way? Or is it too soon for such a leap?
    Gratefully yours,
    Barbara

  • Lyndia

    Spirulina is not known to have any toxins or to affect the liver…. that is AFA from Klamath Lake…. they are not the same.. US grown Spirulina is always clean… not so if it comes from China (Chlorella has the same issue of toxins when it comes from China) Dr. Christopher Hills (the father of Spirulina) was the primary researcher of Chlorella for 12 years (he had the Chlorella International Union) along with his partner Dr. Hiroshi Nakumara… they shifted their research & promotion to Spirulina when it was found to be much more compatible with the human body…. and to have more nutrition to boot. I have been marketing, studying & taking Spirulina for 32 years… I can’t say enough about what it does for the human body. Now with Fukushima, it is imperative that we get it out to as many people as possible…. it is one of the few algae’s that have medical research/practice on the positive effects it has on people who have radiation exposure.

  • priscilla

    I started taking some chlorella from china which was supposed to be grown and purified in a lab. Everything was fine for about 5 weeks then I noticed after about 2 hours of taking it, I would vomit. This happened 3 times, about a week apart, while I backed off taking the chlorella in the days between. The last time I was pretty sick. I haven’t taken it since. The literature said if something like that happened that a person taking the chlorella should increase the dose, even though it didn’t seem logical—their comments,not mine. It said the body was detoxifying and finally getting rid of stuff. I wasn’t under a doctor’s supervision and felt if I took it anymore, I didn’t know what would happen. Any thoughts about reactions to this product?