Chlorella The Superfood That Helps Fight Disease

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wouldn’t exactly call chlorella an overnight success. The health
benefits of the green algae that grows in freshwater ponds in the
Far East have so far been limited to those in the know, and its
progress to British medicine cabinets has been slow. Since it became
available in tablet form in the UK three years ago, it has achieved
an almost cultish appreciation as a superfood, but now scientific
research could catapult it into the mainstream.

New research
from Japan suggests that this green algae could be effective in
fighting major lifestyle diseases. It has been shown to reduce body-fat
percentage and blood-glucose levels and help those suffering from
Type 2 diabetes, obesity or heart disease. Its benefits include
boosting energy, aiding digestion and fighting depression.

What excited
the scientists, including the notable Carnegie Institute in Washington
DC, was that this green algae proved to be almost a dream food.
It is packed with protein – twice as much as spinach –
and about 38 times the quantity of soybeans, and 55 times that of
rice. It also contains nine essential amino acids, as well as vitamins
and minerals.

These are the
latest in a long line of health claims – ranging from boosting
the immune system in cancer patients to improving the symptoms of
irritable bowel syndrome.

Chlorella is
a tiny, unicellular green algae, three to eight micrometres in diameter,
which when grown in large quantities in South East Asia and Australia
gives lakes and rivers a green tint. Before being used as a supplement,
it must be gathered, dried to a paste, crushed to a fine emerald
green powder, and converted to tiny, soft, crumbly tablets, which
smell vaguely of the sea.

Although chlorella
was discovered by a Dutch microbiologist in 1890 and studied as
a potential protein source by German scientists, it wasn’t until
after the Second World War that the reality of food shortages, combined
with the expectation of a population boom, led to bureaucrats globally
examining chlorella in the hope that it could be used to feed the
masses cheaply – this proved uneconomic. Later, NASA studied
it with a view to feeding it to astronauts, and perhaps growing
it on space stations.

It is currently
being used in the UK to help cancer patients. Nadia Brydon, senior
therapist in complementary medicine at Breast Cancer Haven, the
charity that supplies integrated health care to support women with
breast cancer, is convinced it is an important food source with
many health benefits.

"So many
of us eat a calorie-dense, nutrionally-deficient diet that it is
no wonder we’re all getting sick and tired all the time," she

Nadia says
chlorella is a great way of taking on magnesium, which can be found
in green vegetables. “Magnesium is one of nature’s antidepressants
and helps us cope with stress. One of our best sources is from chlorophyll
in green plants — and chlorella is bursting with that,” she says.

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22, 2009

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