(NaturalNews) You may have heard that chlorella is a nutritionally powerful superfood, but did you know that research shows it can also reduce the absorption of fat in the gut, thereby possibly decreasing the risk of heart disease?
Chlorella, a food derived from single-celled algae and long used for nutritional and medicinal purposes in many Asian countries, has been shown to have many health benefits. It contains 60 percent protein, of the same quality as that found in eggs, and is also high in fiber, lipid soluble vitamins, essential minerals and choline.
For decades, researchers have suspected that chlorella might reduce the risk of heart disease. A study in 1975, for example, showed that high cholesterol patients who ate more chlorella had lower cholesterol levels than their counterparts who ate less chlorella. In 1987, researchers found that Chlorella vulgaris (one variety) helped fight abnormal blood fat levels and the thickening of artery walls. Another variety, Chlorella pyrenoidosa, has been found to decrease the total cholesterol/HDL ratio in hamsters, implying improved heart health. Chlorella has also been shown to change the fat content in the blood and livers of rats.
Reducing fat absorption
In 2005, a study suggested that the variety Chlorella pyrenoidosa lowered blood fats by reducing fat absorption in the intestinal tract. In a study published in the journal Nutrition Research and Practice in 2008, researchers from Ewha Womans University in South Korea examined whether such an effect could be more directly observed using the variety Chlorella vulgaris.
The researchers assigned male rats to eat either a normal or a high-fat diet that was either zero percent, 5 percent or 10 percent chlorella by weight. After nine weeks, the researchers found that, among rats eating the high fat diet, blood levels of lipids and liver levels of triglycerides were significantly lower in the chlorella groups than in the non-chlorella group. In addition, blood triglyceride, total blood cholesterol, total liver lipid and total liver cholesterol concentrations were significantly lower in the 10 percent chlorella group than in the zero percent chlorella group.
Fecal total lipid, triglyceride and total cholesterol excretions were also significantly higher among all the chlorella groups (both normal and high-fat diets) than in the zero percent chlorella groups, suggesting that chlorella does in fact lead to reduced absorption and increased excretion of fat and cholesterol.
"These results suggest that Chlorella vulgaris is effective for prevention of dyslipidemia which may be due to the modulation of lipid metabolism and increased fecal excretion of lipid," the researchers wrote.
One benefit among many
Although researchers do not yet understand the precise mechanism by which chlorella lowers blood fat levels, it has been suggested that the superfood's high fiber content might be responsible. Indeed, a low-fiber diet is considered a major risk factor for not just cardiovascular disease but also obesity, gastrointestinal disease and colon cancer. High-fiber diets, in contrast, have been clinically shown to lower blood fat levels in animals with high cholesterol.
In addition to lowering fat and cholesterol levels, chlorella has also been shown to help reduce the absorption of heavy metals, degrade toxic materials, promote animal growth, boost immune function, increase production of cytokines, reduce oxidative stress, prevent stress-induced ulcers and aid in recovery from fatigue.
"I think there are more research papers on chlorella than any substance known," said Dr. Hank Liers, chief formulator of products sold by Health Products Distributors, Inc., in a 2007 interview with Mike Adams, the Health Ranger.
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