“Overhyped” Chlorophyll Benefits and Claims?
You may have heard many great stories about chlorophyll and its many benefits.
Here are some of them. Chlorophyll is effective in increasing oxygen in the blood, cleansing the liver and bowels, removing toxins from blood tissues, bones and the intestines, and deodorizing body odors.
It is also claimed to be effective for health conditions such as gastric ulcers, sinusitis, anemia, arteriosclerosis and even depression!
Does chlorophyll really provide all these benefits?
Let’s find out.
Chlorophyll Benefits #1: Green Blood?
This is the most overhyped chlorophyll benefits; and this is how it all started.
Structure and Function
Yes, chlorophyll does have an affinity with heme
(a subunit in hemoglobin) in our red blood cells.
Like heme, it has a ring-shaped chemical structure but with a magnesium ion in the center; heme has iron.
And their function is also, in a way, similar.
To keep it simple …
Chlorophyll in plant cells absorbs sunlight and carbon dioxide to produce useful energy while releasing oxygen.
Hemoglobin carries oxygen needed for energy production while releasing carbon dioxide.
- Chlorophyll can be instantly converted into fresh blood because its molecular structure is almost identical to that of human blood.
- Chlorophyll can be used instead of blood for transfusions.
- Chlorophyll can be changed to hemoglobin by swapping its magnesium atom to iron.
Subsequently, more wrong views arose:
- Chlorophyll can help carry oxygen around the body and to the brain.
- Chlorophyll carries oxygen which rapidly improves blood oxygenation and helps cleanse the body.
Swapping of ions between chlorophyll and heme does not occur the way we think it does. Switching ions would render the activities of both molecules inactive.
Besides, chlorphyll's phytol ‘tail’ structure (not present in heme) would prevent it being taken up by the hemoglobin proteins to form a functional enzyme.
If you want your cells to be healthy, take more alkaline-forming food, i.e. food that produces “alkaline ash” after the process of digestion; acidic-forming food produces “acidic ash.”
A well-balanced acid/alkaline food intake (20/80) will keep the body's pH at a slightly alkaline level. In this state, all systems including your colon can work more efficiently.
Healthy body systems promotes growth of healthy cells―this is one of the ways to get your blood cleansed!
Unfortunately, our modern day diets which consist mainly of unhealthy fats, high sugar, and dairy; and lacking in whole grains, fruits and vegetables often resulted in an over-acidic body.
But isn’t magnesium in chlorophyll, alkaline?
Yes, you’re right. When chlorophyll is degraded, the magnesium ion is released. Most dietary magnesium comes not only from dark green, leafy vegetables which are rich in chlorophyll, but also from tofu, seeds, nuts and whole grains.
Now that this is clear, shouldn’t we give credit where credit due? It’s not just chlorophyll that benefits us here, the whole alkaline-forming food plays an important role as well. (I will touch the main chlorophyll benefits below – Fact 4.)
All the green food supplements recommended here are highly alkaline.
Below are a bunch of happy and energized red blood cells, all spaced out evenly. The two blue blobs in the center―the 'thorns' among the red ‘roses’―are neutrophils, one of our white blood cells.
And here are the unhealthy lethargic red blood cells clumping together.
Very little or no chlorophyll is absorbed through our digestive wall, and into the bloodstream. Chlorophyll is broken down to different end products before it can even see the light of day, let alone convert into fresh blood!
During the breaking down of chlorophyll, part of its structure, the phytol tail, is freed. Only about 1% of the ingested chlorophyll phytol is absorbed by humans.
The study also indicated little of the non-phytol portion of the chlorophyll molecule is absorbed. (link) (link)
Being a fat-soluble pigment may also account for its poor absorbency in the body.
What about liquid chlorophyll?
The ‘chlorophyll’ in liquid products is not natural chlorophyll but a semi-synthetic chlorophyll derivative, called chlorophyllin. (More about chlorophyllin below.)
The end products of chlorophyll are either expelled with the rest of the waste, or … this next point is important.
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Chlorophyll Benefits #2: Detoxifier?
If you want to take chlorophyll, this is the benefit you should be seeking.
Diets high in red meat and low in green vegetables have always been associated with increased colon cancer risk. So what is it in the greens that could lower this risk?
It's chlorophyll, what else.
Interestingly, the main reason why chlorophyll can benefit us here is because it is poorly absorbed by our body! (Remember the phytol tail mentioned above?)
In a 9-year Netherlands Cohort Study on 120,852 subjects ages 55 to 69 years, researchers concluded that the risk of colon cancer in men elevates with increasing intake of heme iron (found in red meat), and decreasing intake of chlorophyll.
Why only men?
They hypothesized that “as women need more iron due to menstrual losses and as heme iron is more easily absorbed compared with non-heme iron, relatively more iron from heme is absorbed in women, so that less heme is available during lifetime up to menopause to form the cytotoxic factor in the bowel.”
This is what happens.
When dietary heme iron is metabolized, toxic carcinogenic substances are formed. They can cause oxidative reactions which can damage lipids, proteins, DNA and other nucleic acids and various components of biological systems.
By adding chlorophyll to a heme diet, this reactive formation can be blocked.
Chlorophyll’s phytol tail is able to "sandwich" heme, hence putting the brakes on the activity of heme in the production of damaging free radicals and toxic carcinogens. (link, full text)
NOTE: The liquid chlorophyll that you see in the market is chlorophyllin. This chlorophyll derivative does not have this 'tail', thus making it water-soluble. Tail-less, it has no ability to "trap" dietary heme in our gut. (link)
Can we consider chlorophyll as an antioxidant?
While chlorophyll benefits our health by blocking heme-induced free radicals, its promotion to the rank of an antioxidant is still not official.
In July 2009, another small study has shown that both chlorophyll (and chlorophyllin) may inhibit the bio-availability of ingested aflatoxin B1 in humans, as they do in animal models.
Aflatoxins are naturally occurring mycotoxins that are produced by many species of Aspergillus, a fungus. They are toxic and among the most carcinogenic substances known.
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Chlorophyll Benefits #3: Alleviate Anemia?
- Chlorophyll is effective against anemia. It stimulates the production of red blood cells in the body.
In a recent study published in the Plant Foods for Human Nutrition Vol.65 (1), chlorella supplementation has shown to reduce the risk of anemia, proteinuria and leg edema. The subjects were recruited from pregnant women who visited Saiseikai Nara Hospital, Japan.
At Koriyama Womens College, Japan, another study has shown that anemic rats fed with 5% and 10% chlorella recovered rapidly, while the recovery of the rats fed with less iron content diet (1% chlorella) was delayed. Rats fed with iron deficient diet showed no recovery.
What is it in chlorella that is responsible for the results above?
Is it chlorophyll as many have claimed?
Besides, chlorella contains large quantities of vitamins and minerals, namely folate, vitamin B-12 and iron that are important during pregnancy.
Or could it be the G-factor in chlorella?
I coin the term “G-factor” to distinguish it from the “X!” More on this below.
In another in vitro study, a 3 to 5 fold increase in the production of fetal hemoglobin (HbF) was shown using wheatgrass extract.
HbF is a hemoglobin common in the fetus and newborn, but normally present only in small amounts in adults. It has been found that stimulation or induction of fetal hemoglobin in thalassemia (a form hereditary form of anemia) of can improve the patient’s clinical condition.
Chlorophyll benefits or “GJF?”
What is it in this wheatgrass extract that is responsible for the results above?
It’s certainly not chlorophyll because chlorophyll is virtually eliminated during production of the wheatgrass extract.
This chlorophyll-free grass extract has shown tremendous wound-healing and immune-boosting results in human subjects as well.
Thanks to Kohler, the grass juice factor (GJF) was brought to the forefront in the early 20th century.
Based on his experiments on supplements fed to guinea pigs, they are indications that cereal grasses are excellent sources of the GJF.
The unique grass extract “promotes excellent growth in guinea pigs.”
There are certainly some biologically active substances in cereal grasses (including wheatgrass) and chlorella, but yet to be discovered by scientists―hence the terms grass juice factor (GJF) and chlorella growth factor (CGF) respectively.
The G-factor is born.
More about “Grass Juice Factor” here.
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Chlorophyll Benefits #4: Healing Properties?
- Chlorophyll is reputed to heal damaged tissue.
- Chlorophyll is nature’s most powerful healer.
By supplementing the proper nutrients to our body, we are in fact helping it to heal itself by stimulating various growth factors in the body (there are many).
In 2009, a chlorella extract (CGF) supplementation study was conducted on 84 dengue hemorrhagic fever (DHF) patients.
“Our latest study found that giving a chlorella extract to dengue fever patients increases the blood platelets and improves the hemoglobin, allowing patients to recuperate faster,” Dr. Adi Teruna Effendi, an internist who headed the research team, told a news conference on Thursday.
“Those who were given the chlorella extract stayed in hospital only 2.76 days on average, while those who didn’t stayed 4.4 days,” he said. (link)
A six-year study conducted with Japanese children who took one capsule of CGF daily showed that no tooth decay in these children while developing near-perfect maxillary arches (no overbite, dental misalignment etc.).
The children also benefited in other ways, they suffered less illnesses and grew earlier to a larger size, had a higher I.Q. and were socially better skilled.
Chlorophyll benefits or “CGF?”
CGF, a substance from a hot-water extract of chlorella, is first extracted in the early 1950s by Dr. Fujimaki of the People’s Scientific Research Center in Tokyo.
The chlorella extract, is no more green but brownish and has the taste and consistency of stock.
What this means is there is no more chlorophyll left in CGF, but pure a pure and concentrated chlorella extract high in nucleic factors, i.e. RNA, DNA and amino acids that promotes growth and tissue repair.
In a culture medium, Dr. Fujimaki also found that CGF had caused lactobacillus bacteria to grow at 400% normal rate!
“No medical claims are being made for chlorella. I know that chlorella is a food, not a medicine.
We should realize, however, that when the proper foods are used, together with the right supplements to build up the health level of the body, diseases are often “crowded out”. This is nature’s way of healing the body.” - Dr. Bernard Jensen, D.O., PhD.
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Chlorophyll Benefits #5: Deodorizer?
In the early 1950s, “odor-eating” products containing chlorophyll flooded the market. These included mouthwashes, cough drops, cigarettes, dog food–even toilet paper!
- Chlorophyll can overcome bad breath and all sort of body odors.
- Chlorophyllin can really help to alleviate everyday body odors from multiple sources, like bad breath (halitosis), underarm odor, perspiration odor and foot odor!
Chlorophyll benefits or chlorophyllin?
Chlorophyllin, not chlorophyll, has shown some positive results in deodorizing odor associated with infection and wounds. It is used extensively in large hospitals.
Chlorophyllin too has been used effectively in treating wounds and burns.
Chlorophyllin, by the way, has no chlorophyll. It is the water soluble derivative of chlorophyll. Unlike chlorophyll it’s missing the phytol tail; and a copper ion replaces the magnesium in the "sweet spot" to retain the "green".
As mentioned, this is the ‘liquid chlorophyll’ that you see in the market.
Although this stable chlorophyll “substitute” does not contain chlorophyll, some important bioactives, the "X" factor perhaps, could still be retained, which account for its “healing” ability. The chlorophyll source will determine the strength of the factor. Just putting in my two cents worth.
The “G-Factor” – Bottom Line
Both the wheatgrass and chlorella extract do not contain chlorophyll.
If chlorophyll is not the one, then how do you explain the effectiveness of a chlorophyll substitute such as chlorophyllin in treating wounds and burns?
The most logical answer is the factor. The G-factor could be the real healing/growth stimulating agent. And this factor is always present―in chlorophyll or chlorophyllin.
Think about it.
But chlorophyllin treating everyday body odors? I’m not too sure about this.
Prolonged nutrient deficiency, unhealthy diets, insufficient sleep, stress, indigestion, over-acidity―all these can cause the build-up of toxins in our body, starting in the colon.
One of the body’s way of telling you they’re ‘losing’ a battle inside is through your ‘sweet-smelling’ breath, sweat, urine, faeces and other excretion methods known including your skin.
Your body is trying hard to get rid of the horrible toxins mind you; and here you are still assuming you are perfectly healthy!
While your armpit is excreting toxins through sweat, you on the other hand try to stop it from doing so by applying chemical-laden anti-deodorant!
Pretty ironic, don’t you think?
Remember, what comes out of your body reflects how you treat it, and what you put in.
Body odor can be eliminated through a change in diet and lifestyle.
Putting in chlorophyllin is not going to help eliminate bad odor but putting in more nutritious greens will. Top up with a healthy and balanced lifestyle.
This probably seems like a no-brainer, but good hygiene is one of the main odor-eliminating weapons you have.
In A Nutshell
There are only TWO main chlorophyll benefits:
Block dietary heme-induced metabolites from creating havoc in our system.
A dietary source of magnesium.
Green leafy vegetables, young cereal grasses and chlorella are alkaline-forming foods. They promote healthy pH levels in the body in particular the gut, which in turn helps good bacteria to thrive.
A little reminder, liquid chlorophyll DOES NOT give you the above benefits, it has other benefits though.
And as for the “G-factor,” whether you take the cereal grasses or chlorella (and perhaps even spirulina) in whole; just the juice (from the grasses); or the extract; you will still enjoy its benefits.
The extract (e.g. wheatgrass extract), of course, has higher concentration of “G-factor” but usually lacking in other nutrients.
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