Chlorella And Cancer: Can This Algae Fight Off The Worst Disease In The World?

chlorella and cancer

Article at a glance:

  • Decades of research provide evidence of the superfood status of chlorella.
  • Chlorella’s rich nutritional profile is filled with nutrients that have antioxidant activity, which explains its potential to reduce the risks of various types of cancer.
  • The benefits of chlorella for the immune system are also promising and may potentially help with common side effects of cancer treatments.


Conventional treatments are currently available for people diagnosed with cancer. However, many of these therapies may come with major side effects that could be detrimental to the patient’s quality of life.

The research for alternative routes hasn’t stopped, and nutrient-dense microalgae species like chlorella have garnered much interest. Here, let’s look into what studies have revealed so far about chlorella and cancer.


Chlorella: A Powerhouse Green Supplement


Chlorella is a unicellular green algae that naturally grows in fresh and saltwater. In some cases, it can also thrive in soil.

With the growing demand for this powerhouse dietary supplement, chlorella is commonly cultivated in controlled environments that mimic their natural habitat. Then, they are harvested, dried, and ground into powder before they are processed into tablets, capsules, and powder supplements.

What is the best superfood for cancer?

While the jury is still out on the “best” superfood for fighting cancer, chlorella has demonstrated promising effects against this disease in in vitro and in vivo studies.


What Research Says About Chlorella and Cancer


How is algae used to fight cancer? Many of the published studies note that further research is needed to understand the mechanism of chlorella against cancer cells fully. However, researchers suggest that the long list of bioavailable compounds in chlorella could be the reason.

Chlorella is naturally rich in vitamins, minerals, amino acids, fatty acids, carotenoids, and phenolic compounds that are quite difficult to get in a single food source. It’s not surprising that the green algae have earned the superfood title for quite some time now.

In studies where chlorella exhibited potential in fighting cancer, researchers believe this activity could be explained by these nutrients, especially those with antioxidant effects.


What Is Cancer?


Before diving into the research on chlorella and cancer, it also helps to understand the basics of how one of the worst diseases in humans develops. Cancer institutions define the illness as a genetic disease, which means it may occur when there’s severe damage to a person’s DNA.

The human body has natural DNA repair mechanisms. But when there’s a disturbance in these processes, it could block the proper mutations and regeneration of cells in the human body.

While genetic changes that cause cancer can be hereditary, poor health and lifestyle practices can also increase the risks. UV exposure, tobacco smoke, and other harmful substances can exacerbate DNA damage that can then lead to various types of cancer.

Some research on chlorella and cancer is not just focused on the green algae’s potential to induce apoptosis of cancer cells. Researchers have also examined how the green supplement may alleviate risk factors and learn the prospects of adding chlorella for cancer treatments.


Potential Chlorella Benefits for Cancer


chlorella for cancer patients


Does chlorella fight cancer? Is chlorella good for cancer patients?

Chlorella research is still an evolving science. However, scientific studies over the years present encouraging possibilities on how supplementing chlorella may provide cancer-fighting benefits.


1. Nutritional Support


What nutrient helps fight cancer?

A nutritious and balanced diet is one of the biggest defenses against cancer. This becomes an even more important health aspect for cancer patients and those undergoing cancer treatments. Research suggests that malnutrition could affect up to 85 percent of cancer patients.

Having major nutritional gaps is not just an effect of the disease itself. Conventional cancer treatments like chemotherapy may also cause side effects that could impede a patient’s diet and nutrition.

Studies after studies have shown that chlorella is packed with macronutrients and micronutrients to support overall health.

Chlorella products reviewed in a meta-analysis contained over 50-60% protein of their dry weight. They’re also a good source of dietary fibers and as many as 9 essential amino acids.

There’s also a long list of micronutrients confirmed to be present in chlorella supplements.

Some of the most notable vitamins found in chlorella products are:

  • Vitamin B12
  • Niacin
  • Folate
  • Vitamin C
  • Vitamin E
  • Vitamin K

You may also get crucial mineral boosts, especially those with antioxidant activity. Minerals found in chlorella are:

  • Selenium
  • Zinc
  • Iron
  • Calcium
  • Potassium
  • Magnesium
  • Phosphorus

The availability of these nutrients in chlorella has made it one of the most widely researched microalgae species.

In many of these studies, various forms of chlorella supplementation showed protective effects against certain types of cancer, high blood pressure, diabetes or high blood sugar, and high cholesterol.


2. Potent Antioxidant Boost


Whenever you’re reading about a healthy diet, it’s impossible not to be reminded of the importance of having enough antioxidants.

That’s because antioxidants are the body’s primary defense against the overabundance of reactive oxygen species and oxidative stress, which causes DNA and cellular damage.

The good thing is that tons of micronutrients have antioxidant activity. But the question is, how much of these nutrients do we need from our typical diet?

This is where natural supplements like chlorella may provide tremendous assistance, whether to lower cancer risks or just for overall health improvement. Many of the nutrients mentioned above are powerful antioxidant agents, which suggests chlorella may offer amazing support to fight oxidative stress.

Aside from the well-known antioxidant vitamins and minerals, a 2021 review also indicates that chlorella has other components with antioxidant benefits. These include:


3. Immune System Support


Some types of cancer treatments, such as chemotherapy, are known to weaken a patient’s immune system.

While these therapies aim to fight the spread of cancer cells, they also tend to affect normal cells like white blood cells. This can lead to compromised immune responses, making cancer patients undergoing treatments more susceptible to virus infection.

It’s quite common for cancer patients undergoing treatments to take dietary supplements for several reasons, including strengthening their immune system.

The amazing immunomodulatory properties of chlorella have been documented in various research, although most studies included healthy participants.

One randomized, double-blinded, placebo-controlled trial supplemented 5 g chlorella tablet daily for 8 weeks. It led to increased levels of immunomodulatory cytokines interferon-γ and interleukin-1β.

The same study also observed chlorella’s ability to modulate inflammatory responses by increasing the concentrations of interleukin-12, which regulates T-cell and natural killer cell functions.


4. Natural Detoxification


Does chlorophyll reduce the risk of cancer?

When you think of doing a detox, there’s a good chance that the first image that comes to mind is a healthy green juice or any green supplements.

There’s a good reason behind this association. The color green in plants and algae mostly comes from the chlorophyll pigments, which is known for its robust detoxification properties.

If you’re looking for chlorophyll-rich supplements mainly for detoxification, chlorella should be at the top of your list. For one, chlorella comprises up to 4% chlorophyll, considerably higher than most green vegetables.

Early research found that dietary chlorophyll and derivatives like chlorophyllin may lower the risks of developing cancer by helping flush out carcinogenic toxins.

There’s also evidence from human and animal studies that back chlorella’s potent detoxification effects. Chlorella could chelate heavy metals in patients with long-term titanium dental implants.


5. Energy Boost


woman with husky on the snow


Several health benefits of chlorella have been linked to its potential to improve energy levels. Studies have attributed chlorella’s potential to boost energy to its macronutrients, effects on gut microbiota, polyunsaturated fatty acids content, dietary fibers, and polysaccharides.

It should be noted that most chlorella research on its effect on physical performance, fatigue, and energy level was conducted with healthy participants. Still, they provide some evidence of how chlorella supplementation may alleviate fatigue in some cases.

Research that specifically investigated the effect of chlorella supplements on cancer-related fatigue is limited but not non-existent.

Findings from a randomized, open-label study in 2014 also suggest that chlorella may improve the quality of life of breast cancer patients. Participants administered chlorella extract for a month reported less fatigue and improved skin condition.


6. May Reduce Side Effects


Does chlorella heal the body?

Side effects are expected from undergoing conventional cancer therapies. While limited, there’s some evidence that chlorella supplementation may alleviate certain reactions from these treatments.

A small 1990 study on patients with brain cancer supplemented participants with Chlorella pyrenoidosa. Participants were observed for two years, and researchers noted that some maintained “near-normal” immune functions while undergoing chemotherapy.

Patients who took chlorella also reported fewer respiratory infections and flu in the same period.

Glycoprotein extracted from a culture of Chlorella vulgaris also demonstrated protective effects against bone marrow suppression and infections induced by 5-fluorouracil, a type of chemotherapy, in mice models.


Other Noteworthy Studies on Chlorella and Cancer


The nutritional profile of chlorella, along with other studies that showed its anti-oxidative damage, immunomodulatory, and anti-inflammatory properties, has inspired research on its potential to fight cancer.

Research on chlorella and cancer has provided some promising findings, although studies conducted with human subjects are still very limited.


Chlorella for Breast Cancer


One study with parallel in vivo and in vitro experiments found that supplementing Chlorella pyrenoidosa powder led to tumor suppression in female rate models.

In the same study, researchers conducted a parallel in vitro study that showed the chlorella supplement’s cytotoxic activity by inducing early apoptosis in human breast cancer cells.

Another study found that Chlorella vulgaris improved the condition of tumor-bearing mice models. Chlorella treatment helped the subjects restore the production of pro-inflammatory cytokines in stromal cells, which was reduced in mice bearing Ehrlich ascites tumor.


Chlorella for Liver Cancer


Chlorella’s cytotoxic activity was also demonstrated against liver cancer in various studies.

In a cellular study, hot water extract from Chlorella vulgaris led to DNA damage and apoptosis (death of cells) of HepG2 liver cancer cells. Notably, the cytotoxic effect of chlorella was more potent in the cancer cells than in normal liver cells.

An animal study also revealed that increasing doses of chlorella increased the expression of proteins that induce apoptosis in rat models with liver cancer.


Chlorella and Colon Cancer


Carotenoids extracted from chlorella microalgae inhibited the proliferation of human colorectal carcinoma cell lines.

A more recent in vitro study observed the same antiproliferative activity of chlorella extract in human colon cancer cells without causing toxicity to normal cells.

Chlorella membrane factor extracted from Chlorella sorokiniana demonstrated antitumor and immunomodulatory properties in an animal study. It significantly impeded colon cancer cell growth in mice models and induced apoptosis of tumor cells.


Chlorella and Pancreatic Cancer


Compared to other types of cancer, there are fewer studies on the effects of chlorella on pancreatic cancer.

However, chlorella showed protective properties for the pancreas in an animal study. Chlorella improved the viability of pancreatic beta-cells after damage caused by hydrogen peroxide, which is a common result of diabetes-related oxidative stress.


Chlorella and Prostate Cancer


Is chlorella good for prostate cancer?

Evidence suggests that certain chlorella species may have promising benefits for prostate cancer.

Lycopene extracted from Chlorella marina caused apoptosis for human prostate cancer cells and inhibited cell cycle progression in a dose-dependent manner.


Is Chlorella Good for Cancer Treatment?


The majority of chlorella research, specifically its effects on various types of cancer, is limited and still requires wider human clinical trials. With the evidence we have at the moment, there’s still a very long way to go before chlorella may be used for cancer treatment.

That said, chlorella may play a supplementary role in cancer treatment by providing nutritional support and through its immune system-boosting properties.


Can You Take Chlorella During Chemo?


woman with a turban

Chlorella is one of the algae supplements with Generally Recognized As Safe (GRAS) certification from the FDA. That means chlorella products are safe for humans, whether as a tablet, capsules, or powders.

However, purchasing chlorella supplements from trustworthy brands is still crucial. This also ensures that the product contains pure chlorella, is produced in hygienic facilities, and follows good manufacturing practices.

Clinical trials on chlorella for cancer patients are limited, and existing studies mostly have few participants. While adverse effects are rarely reported, it’s still difficult to determine possible interactions between chlorella and cancer medications.

It’s best to consult your doctor first before you start taking chlorella, especially if you’re undergoing chemotherapy or any cancer treatment.


How to Use Chlorella for Cancer


There’s a good reason chlorella is commonly referred to as a dietary supplement. It’s not meant to replace a balanced diet and healthy lifestyle practices.

Are you looking into incorporating chlorella into your diet for overall health improvement or reducing cancer risks? Have you gotten the go-ahead from your doctor to take chlorella for nutritional support?

Whatever the reason, the best approach would be to start taking spirulina and a healthier lifestyle.

Thankfully, chlorella tablets and capsules have become widely available. You may find these products easier to consume, as you would have to worry less about their taste and smell.

However, if you like green juices occasionally, chlorella powder supplements are also great options. You can use it as a food additive by mixing it in smoothies, soups, salads, and baked goods.


Frequently Asked Questions


How Much Chlorella to Take for Cancer?


There’s no clinical recommendation yet on how much chlorella to consume daily. However, most chlorella users consume 3 to 5 g of supplements daily.

It’s also highly advised to consult your healthcare provider on the best chlorella dosage for you, especially if you’re undergoing treatments for cancer and other conditions.


What Algae Kills Cancer?


Chlorella and spirulina are two of the most researched algae supplements. Both these green superfoods have exhibited abilities to induce cancer cell death, although these are mostly observed in animal and cellular studies.


Is It Safe to Take Chlorella Every Day?


For healthy adults, it’s generally safe to consume chlorella daily. But if you’re new to taking chlorella, it’s best to ease yourself into it by starting at a lower dose. This might help minimize minor side effects, such as upset stomach, bloating, and headache.


Chlorella: A Promising Superfood in Fighting Cancer


There’s still plenty of room for chlorella research, especially regarding its benefits for cancer patients. However, thanks to our mounting scientific literature, the future appears bright for chlorella’s potential to become a potent supplement to fight cancer.


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John Riedl

Simply put that’s why I’ve gone down the health journey of research and creating health brands.

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