Chlorella: A Powerful Food for Pregnancy and Postpartum Health
Chlorella is a type of green algae that is widely used as a dietary supplement due to its rich nutrient content and associated health benefits. It is a rich source of vitamins, minerals, protein, fibre and antioxidants. Below you will discover the nutritional benefits of chlorella, including its nourishing uses during pregnancy and postpartum.
Chlorella is considered a superfood because it is packed with essential nutrients. It contains high levels of protein (around 60% by weight), significant amounts of vitamins A, C, E, and K, as well as B vitamins such as thiamine, riboflavin, niacin, and vitamin B12. Chlorella is also rich in minerals such as iron, calcium, magnesium, and potassium.
Chlorella is an excellent source of antioxidants, which are compounds that protect cells from damage caused by free radicals. Free radicals are unstable molecules that can damage cells and contribute to the development of chronic diseases such as cancer, heart disease, and Alzheimer's. Antioxidants neutralise free radicals, reducing their harmful effects. Chlorella contains high levels of antioxidants such as beta-carotene, vitamin C, and vitamin E.
A study conducted in Japan found that chlorella supplementation increased antioxidant capacity in healthy adults. In this randomised, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial, participants were given 5g of chlorella or a placebo daily for 16 weeks. The results showed that chlorella supplementation significantly increased serum antioxidant capacity compared to the placebo group.
In another study, chlorella was investigated for its potential antioxidant effects in patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), a condition characterised by chronic inflammation and oxidative stress. Participants were randomly assigned to either a chlorella supplementation group or a placebo group for 12 weeks. The results showed that chlorella supplementation significantly increased levels of antioxidants in the blood, including superoxide dismutase (SOD) and glutathione peroxidase (GPx). These specific antioxidants help to scavenge harmful free radicals and protect cells from oxidative damage. In addition, chlorella supplementation was found to significantly reduce levels of malondialdehyde (MDA), a marker of oxidative stress.
Chlorella is known as a detoxifier as it can bind to toxins such as heavy metals and help to remove them from the body. Chlorella contains a unique compound called Chlorella Growth Factor (CGF), which has been shown to enhance the body's natural detoxification processes. CGF is rich in nucleic acids such as RNA and DNA, which are essential for cell growth and repair.
A study conducted in China found that chlorella supplementation improved liver function in patients with non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD). In this randomised, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial, participants with NAFLD were given 5g of chlorella or a placebo daily for 8 weeks. The results showed that chlorella supplementation significantly improved liver function, as measured by changes in alanine aminotransferase (ALT) and aspartate aminotransferase (AST) levels.
Another review article analysed the results of several clinical trials that were investigating the uses of chlorella as a nutritional supplement for conditions such as fibromyalgia, hypertension, and ulcerative colitis. One of the potential benefits noted in this review is chlorella’s ability to aid in the detoxification of heavy metals and other toxins from the body. The author discussed that chlorella has a high binding affinity for toxins such as lead, mercury and cadmium, allowing these harmful substances to be removed from the body. One study in this review found that chlorella supplementation significantly reduced levels of lead in the blood of participants who had been exposed to this toxin.
Chlorella and Pregnancy
As we know, a woman's nutritional needs increase during pregnancy to support the growing baby. Chlorella can be a valuable addition to a pregnant woman's diet due to its high nutrient content. Chlorella is rich in iron, which is essential for the formation of red blood cells and the delivery of oxygen to the baby. Iron deficiency during pregnancy can lead to anaemia, which can increase the risk of premature delivery and low birth weight.
A study conducted in Japan found that chlorella supplementation improved iron status in pregnant women. In this randomised, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial, pregnant women were given 6g of chlorella or a placebo daily from 12 to 18 weeks of gestation. The results showed that chlorella supplementation significantly increased serum ferritin levels, indicating improved iron status.
Chlorella is also a good source of calcium, which is essential for the development of strong bones and teeth in the baby. Calcium is also important for muscle and nerve function and blood clotting. Because of this, the mother's calcium needs increase during pregnancy. A study conducted in Korea found that chlorella supplementation improved calcium metabolism in pregnant women. In this randomised, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial, pregnant women were given 6g of chlorella or a placebo daily from 12 to 18 weeks of gestation. The results showed that chlorella supplementation significantly increased serum calcium levels and decreased parathyroid hormone (PTH) levels, indicating improved calcium metabolism.
Preeclampsia is a potentially serious pregnancy complication that affects approximately 5-8% of pregnancies worldwide. It is characterised by high blood pressure and protein in the urine (proteinuria) and can lead to serious health complications for both the mum and bub. Several studies have suggested that chlorella intake during pregnancy may help to prevent the development of preeclampsia. Oxidative stress and inflammation are considered risk factors for preeclampsia, therefore chlorella’s mechanism of action in preventing preeclampsia is thought to be through its antioxidant properties. In addition, chlorella contains high levels of essential fatty acids, including omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids, which have also been shown to have anti-inflammatory effects.
A study published in the journal Nutritional Journal included 70 pregnant women who were randomly assigned to either a chlorella group or control group. The chlorella group were given 6g of chlorella per day whilst the control group received a placebo. The study found that pregnant women who took chlorella supplements had significantly lower blood pressure and fewer symptoms of preeclampsia compared to those who did not take the supplements. Additionally, the chlorella group had lower levels of serum malondialdehyde (MDA), a marker of oxidative stress, and higher levels of total antioxidant capacity (TAC) compared to the control group. Another study published in the Journal of Medicinal Food found that chlorella supplementation during pregnancy improved blood glucose control and reduced the risk of gestational diabetes, which is another known risk factor for preeclampsia.
Chlorella is a rich source of iron, vitamin B12 and natural folate, which are important for the production of red blood cells and the prevention of anaemia. Chlorella contains heme iron, which has been shown to be more easily absorbed and utilised in the body than non-heme iron, found in plant-based foods. Chlorella also contains high amounts of chlorophyll, a green pigment that has been shown to have a similar molecular structure to haemoglobin, the protein responsible for transporting oxygen in the blood, and may help increase haemoglobin levels by stimulating the production of red blood cells.
A study published in the Journal of Medicinal Food investigated the effects of chlorella supplements on pregnant women with anaemia. The study included 70 pregnant women who were randomly assigned to either a chlorella group or a control group. The chlorella group received 6g of chlorella per day, while the control group received a placebo. The study found that the chlorella group had significantly higher levels of haemoglobin and hematocrit, compared to the control group. Additionally, the chlorella group had lower levels of serum ferritin, a marker of iron stores, compared to the control group. This suggests that chlorella may improve the utilisation of iron in the body, leading to increased haemoglobin levels.
Another similar study published in the Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology Research investigated the effects of chlorella supplements on 60 pregnant women with iron deficiency anaemia, who were randomly assigned to either a chlorella group or an iron supplement group. The chlorella group received 6g of chlorella per day, while the iron supplement group received 60mg of iron per day. The study found that both groups had significant increases in haemoglobin levels after 8 weeks of treatment, with no significant difference between the groups. However, the chlorella group had significantly lower levels of serum ferritin compared to the iron supplement group, again suggesting that chlorella may improve the utilisation of iron in the body.
Chlorella and Postpartum
After giving birth, a woman's body goes through significant changes as it adapts to its new season of life and attempts to shape a new normal. Nutritional support is vital during this time to aid in this recovery and support breastfeeding, making Chlorella a valuable addition to a postpartum diet.
Chlorella is a rich source of vitamins such as vitamin C, which is important for immune function and wound healing - both incredibly relevant postpartum. A study conducted in Japan found that chlorella supplementation improved immune function in healthy adults. In this randomised, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial, participants were given 5g of chlorella or a placebo daily for 16 weeks. The results showed that chlorella supplementation significantly increased natural killer cell activity, a vital part of the immune system.
As previously mentioned, one of the primary benefits of chlorella is its ability to bind to toxins, specifically dioxin chelation during pregnancy and postpartum. Dioxins are toxic compounds that can be found in the environment, especially in harsh chemicals and herbicides. Exposure to dioxins during pregnancy can lead to adverse health outcomes for both mum and bub, as they are transferred via the placenta and breast milk.
Studies have shown that chlorella intake can help to reduce the levels of dioxins in the body by binding to them and facilitating their excretion. In a randomised controlled trial published in the Journal of Medicinal Food, pregnant women who took chlorella supplements had lower levels of dioxins in their breast milk compared to those who did not take the supplements. Another study was conducted on 44 pregnant Japanese women by measuring the dioxin content in their blood, adipose tissue, breast milk, cord blood and placenta. In the study, 23 of these women were instructed to take chlorella supplements during pregnancy and it was noted that the infants of these women had much less dioxin content in their blood. Of these women, total toxic equivalents (TEQ) in cord blood was 26% lower in the chlorella group compared to the control group, suggesting that dioxin transfer can be minimised through chlorella supplementation, before the blood is transferred to the baby. Additionally, dioxin content in breast milk was 30% lower in the chlorella group than the control group, suggesting that maternal transfer of dioxins through milk can be reduced using chlorella.
One of the benefits of chlorella intake during breastfeeding is its ability to increase milk production. Chlorella contains high levels of essential fatty acids, including gamma-linolenic acid (GLA) and alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), which are particularly important for the development of a baby’s brain and nervous system. GLA, in particular, has been shown to stimulate milk production in nursing mothers by increasing the production of prolactin, a hormone responsible for milk synthesis. In a study published in the Journal of Medicinal Food, lactating women who took chlorella supplements had a significant increase in breast milk volume compared to those who did not take the supplements. Another study published in the Journal of Nutritional Science and Vitaminology found that chlorella supplementation increased the fat content of breast milk, which can provide additional benefits to the baby.
As you can see, chlorella is a nourishing superfood that is packed with nutrients and potential health benefits. It is a rich source of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, protein and fibre. It has detoxifying properties that support liver metabolism and help bind toxins such as heavy metals and dioxins to remove them from the body. Chlorella may be particularly beneficial during pregnancy and postpartum due to its high nutrient content, ability to prevent preeclampsia, and ability to minimise toxin exposure to bub during pregnancy and breastfeeding. Chlorella is a very safe, effective and easily accessible dietary supplement that can be a valuable addition to a healthy diet. As always, it is important to consult with a healthcare provider before taking any supplements during pregnancy or breastfeeding to ensure they are appropriate for your individual needs.
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