By Cliff Harvey ND.
Chlorella is a single celled blue-green algae renowned as a nutrient superfood and used in many multi-nutrient products and sold individually as a health supplement.
In spite of its rich nutritional profile there has been some concern that the detoxifying effects (such as reductions in dioxin and mercury levels) may raise exposure to these damaging compounds for the unborn or breastfeeding baby.
But is this viewpoint valid?
The current research shows us that it’s not the case.
Dioxins (a class of chemicals considered highly toxic and able to cause reproductive and developmental problems, damage the immune system, interfere with hormones and cause cancer) are reduced in breast milk of women taking a chlorella supplement (1). Chlorella supplementation not only reduces dioxin levels in breast milk, but may also have beneficial effects on the immune development of nursing infants by increasing IgA levels in breast milk (2).
It has been further demonstrated that chlorella reduces anaemia and pregnancy related hypertension (3) and beneficial antioxidant carotenoids such as zeaxanthin, beta-carotene (pro-vitamin A) and lutein (all considered potent antioxidants) are found in higher concentrations in the breast milk of nursing mothers taking chlorella (4).
Animal research directly related to mercury transfer to infants in utero indicates that chlorella actually supresses mercury transfer to the foetus, in addition to effective suppressing of mercury accumulation in the brains of the mothers (5).
In conclusion based on the current research it appears that Chlorella is a safe and beneficial supplement for pregnant and breastfeeding women. As always if you are at all concerned about any supplement consult a suitably qualified health practitioner.
1. Nagayama, J., Noda, K., Uchikawa, T., Maruyama, I., Shimomura, H., & Miyahara, M. (2014). Effect of maternal Chlorella supplementation on carotenoid concentration in breast milk at early lactation. Int J Food Sci Nutr. doi: 10.3109/09637486.2014.898257
2. Nakano, S., Noguchi, T., Takekoshi, H., Suzuki, G., & Nakano, M. (2005). Maternal-fetal distribution and transfer of dioxins in pregnant women in Japan, and attempts to reduce maternal transfer with Chlorella (Chlorella pyrenoidosa) supplements. Chemosphere, 61(9), 1244-1255. doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.chemosphere.2005.03.080
3. Nakano, S., Takekoshi, H., & Nakano, M. (2007). Chlorella (Chlorella pyrenoidosa) supplementation decreases dioxin and increases immunoglobulin a concentrations in breast milk. J Med Food, 10(1), 134-142. doi: 10.1089/jmf.2006.023
4. Nakano, S., Takekoshi, H., & Nakano, M. (2010). Chlorella pyrenoidosa Supplementation Reduces the Risk of Anemia, Proteinuria and Edema in Pregnant Women. Plant Foods for Human Nutrition, 65(1), 25-30. doi: 10.1007/s11130-009-0145-9
5. Uchikawa, T., Maruyama, I., Kumamoto, S., Ando, Y., & Yasutake, A. (2011). Chlorella suppresses methylmercury transfer to the fetus in pregnant mice. J Toxicol Sci, 36(5), 675-680.