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Nutrition

Chlorophyll has gone viral - but is it really a wonder health and beauty supplement?

April 21st 2021 / Anna Hunter / 0 comment

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Liquid chlorophyll is going viral as the latest wellness must-have for weight loss, clear skin and banishing B.O. Should really spike your water with the green supplement?

We take many TikTok trends with a pinch of salt (lipstick as blusher, we're looking at you) but chlorophyll could just be an exception. The chlorophyll hashtag has had almost a 140million views on the platform with users hailing its potential to help everything from acne, regulating periods, to weight loss, banishing B.O. as well as reducing inflammatory skin conditions such as eczema. The trend has translated into real life too; online pharmacy Victoria Health saw surge in sales, leading to a sell-out of World Organics Ultra Concentrated Liquid Chlorophyll, £24 for 59ml, at the weekend.

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What is chlorophyll?

Chlorophyll as a liquid supplement comes in drop form that turns your water a deep green; it's the molecule that makes nature green. Plants need chlorophyll for photosynthesis - to absorb energy from the sun to make their own food. This oxygenating good guy keeps the plant world lush and ticking over. You’ve been told to tuck into your greens for yonks, and for good reason, but how about supplementing your diet with chlorophyll?

As well as chugging chlorophyll as drops in your water, you can take it in tiny pills or smoothie powders derived from chlorella and spirulina which are both algae. Advocates claim they can pull heavy metals out of the body and work as a deep cleansing agent in the body. Pharmacist and co-founder of Victoria Health Shabir Daya explains: "Chlorophyll has the ability to detoxify the body of numerous types of toxins including heavy metals from environmental pollution."

So far, so vaguely virtuous, but with equally spurious selling points including its 'alkalinizing effects' according to Gwyneth Paltrow's wellness site Goop, rumoured capacity to enable weight loss and even potential to cure herpes and slow the growth of cancer cells, you could be forgiven for forking out for litres of liquid chlorophyll and swimming in the stuff.

The thing is, while plants containing chlorophyll are without doubt beneficial to your health, it’s certainly not the chlorophyll content alone that has a protective effect - antioxidants, phytonutrients and fibre all weigh in.

Chlorophyll isn’t a nutrient in itself and while the likes of chlorophyll-containing chlorella are indeed rich in protein and all-important vitamins C and B, there aren't any human studies relating specifically to chlorella’s abundant chlorophyll content.

It’s interesting to note that after World War Two, chlorella in particular was considered as a potential food source due to its high protein, vitamin and mineral content, plus its rapid growth rate.

Here are the experts' insights into the chlorophyll buzz to help you decide for yourself whether or not to invest in more green goo.

Chlorophyll for B.O. and bad breath

This claim does seem to stack up. Water-soluble chlorophyll has been doing the rounds since the 1940s as a means to reduce bad breath and body odour. Shabir Daya explains why it’s been renowned for its freshening effect for so long.

“Chlorophyll is an excellent internal deodoriser. Instead of masking odours as deodorants do, chlorophyll appears to work by getting rid of the odour-causing compounds. Chlorophyll helps to relieve bad breath, body odour and perspiration odour effectively. In fact, there was even a well-known chewing gum which contained chlorophyll within the formulation," says Shabir.

What's better, liquid chlorophyll or powders and tablets?

Scientific studies are limited and observational so far, but if you did want to try it, Shabir recommends a liquid chlorophyll supplement over a tablet or powder, but also recommends that you seek medical advice before adding it into your diet.

Why is liquid chlorophyll better? "Tablets and capsules need to be broken down in order to extract the actives whereas the liquid supplements are there to be absorbed and utilised by the body so that is one step less in the digestive process," explains Shabir.

Chlorophyll as a source of magnesium

Some experts, such as Dr Andrew Weil MD, believe that chlorophyll could also be a good source of magnesium and Shabir supports this:

“At a molecular level, chlorophyll is almost identical to haemoglobin, the oxygen carrier in our blood which is why some people refer to it as the 'blood' of plants. The only difference between haemoglobin and chlorophyll is that haemoglobin has iron at the centre of the molecule whereas chlorophyll has magnesium.”

Given that 70 per cent of the adult population is thought to be deficient in magnesium, a mineral that’s essential for optimal bone health and to release energy from food, adding in a chlorophyll supplement could help in theory. But given that there are no recommended daily dosages or comprehensive scientific studies as yet, the jury’s still out.

To reassure you, chlorophyll is considered non-toxic, non-poisonous and is, of course, present in many of the foods we eat, which is why taking in a full nutritional profile of vitamins and minerals by way of dark green leafy veg may be far preferable to taking a chlorophyll supplement to boost your health.

Shabir also explains that the high level of magnesium in chlorophyll could also be why people online are saying it helps to regulate their periods. "I have not seen any evidence substantiating hormonal balance in the body however one thing is very clear, chlorophyll contains high levels of the energising mineral magnesium which is also required for the manufacture of hormones in the body," he says.

Chlorophyll for weight loss

Limited studies show that a chlorophyll supplement could promote weight loss and a decrease in 'bad' LDL cholesterol. In a small study of 38 overweight women in 2014, who added in a daily chlorophyll supplement to their weight loss plan, the group taking a chlorophyll supplement lost around three pounds more over 12 weeks than the control group and had lower levels of LDL cholesterol.

Chlorophyll as a source of vitamins

It’s interesting to note that after World War Two, chlorella in particular was considered as a potential food source due to its high protein, vitamin and mineral content, plus its rapid growth rate.

If you do get your chlorophyll hit via algae-derived supplements such as chlorella and spirulina, you will be getting a dose of the vitamins and antioxidants that they're also abundant in.

As part of a varied and balanced diet, chlorophyll heavy algae supplements could have their place, and limited research shows that chlorella could have a positive effect on the immune system in healthy people, but other research indicating that chlorella could inhibit the growth of cancer cells is based on animal studies and yet to be explored in humans. Until human studies become larger in terms of sample size and scope, many of the claims of chlorophyll-rich supplements simply can’t hold up.

Chlorophyll for IBS

Chlorophyll is also an excellent colon conditioner, which explains its frequent use with inflammatory bowel disorders such as IBS, colitis and diverticulitis, explains Shabir. "It helps to soothe and heal damaged and inflamed tissues in our intestines," he continues.

Chlorophyll for clear skin

TikTokers credit the green liquid with clearing their skin. Could it be true? According to Shabir any claims of clearer skin from taking chlorophyll will be down to the fact that it enhances liver detoxification processes, which will result in fewer toxins in the bloodstream and a clearer complexion. It could also be that they are drinking more water!

It’s also understood that chlorophyll supplements can make your skin more sensitive to sunlight, increasing the chance of skin damage when exposed to UV light. Great for plants, not so helpful for people in this case.

Who shouldn't take chlorophyll?

Chlorophyll supplements can interact with certain medications such as blood thinners, antidepressants, roaccutane, antibiotics and antihistamines. This is down to the large amounts of vitamin K often present in algae-derived chlorophyll supplements - all the more reason to check with a medical professional as Shabir advises before embarking on any kind of supplement programme.

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Buy liquid chlorophyll from Victoria Health, £24 for 59ml

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