Article at a glance:
- Cholesterol isn’t inherently bad, but it can be surprising at how easy it is for the body to have too much of it.
- Once the amount of cholesterol exceeds the normal level, that’s when things can get ugly over time.
- Some of chlorella’s components that help improve the immune system and boost energy may also positively affect cholesterol levels.
Chlorella has earned its superfood status primarily for being a nutrient-packed food source with key vitamins and minerals the body needs. Studies have also found its potential to improve several health aspects, including cholesterol levels.
Keep reading if you’re concerned about your cholesterol levels and how these affect your heart health in the long run. Let’s see what cholesterol is, what it’s for, and whether chlorella can help lower cholesterol based on notable scientific research.
What Is Cholesterol?
Cholesterol is commonly associated with poor health and cardiovascular disease risks. It’s one of the substances in our body that isn’t inherently bad and plays an essential role.
By definition, it’s one of the lipids (fatty compounds) produced in our body and is known for its waxy characteristic. Knowing the differences between blood cholesterol and dietary cholesterol is also important to better understand how this substance can go from good to bad.
The liver can produce all the naturally-occurring blood cholesterol that the body needs. Blood cholesterol plays an important role in protecting cell membranes. Our body also needs blood cholesterol to make vitamin D and steroid hormones. The liver needs it to produce bile acids, which help with digestion.
Then there’s dietary cholesterol that we get from the food we eat, and it is mostly found in animal-based products, including meat, dairy, poultry, eggs, and seafood.
Types of Cholesterol
You’ve likely heard about the “good” and “bad” cholesterol. These are the common terms used to refer to the main types of cholesterol found in our body. These are the high-density lipoprotein (a.k.a. good cholesterol) and low-density lipoprotein (a.k.a. bad cholesterol).
As you can tell by their names, they’re not just plain fatty compounds; they are lipids and protein combinations. So what makes one of them good and the other bad? It’s primarily based on their composition and how they function.
- Low-density lipoprotein (LDL), or bad cholesterol, has lesser protein as it’s made mostly of cholesterol. It helps deliver cholesterol to protect cell membranes but tends to mix with other substances in the body. Higher amounts of LDL can cause fatty buildup and may lead to arterial plaque.
- High-density lipoprotein (HDL) has higher protein content than lipids. Its good cholesterol reputation can be attributed to its role in the process called reverse cholesterol transport. HDL takes some of the excess bad cholesterol from arteries and transports it to the liver. The liver will then break it down, allowing the body to eliminate it.
Cholesterol Level: What’s Normal and What’s Not
When you get a blood test for a medical checkup, the most common section included is the Lipid Panel or Lipid Profile. This measures the cholesterol levels in your body. Aside from LDL and HDL, a lipid panel includes two other items: total cholesterol and triglycerides. Total cholesterol represents the overall amount of cholesterol in your blood, including LDL, HDL, and triglycerides.
Triglycerides are a type of fat formed from the extra calories from the food we eat. They’re stored in the fat cells to be used later as a source of energy when you “burn calories” through various activities like exercise. So if the body consumes more calories than it uses as energy, one could have high triglycerides.
What’s the Normal Cholesterol Levels?
Although it’s just one of the indicators to consider, a lipid panel is very helpful in determining if a person is at high risk of getting a cardiovascular disease. Like most medical tests, cholesterol levels are measured in milligrams per deciliter (mg/dL).
Experts say the considered normal ranges for cholesterol levels in adults are:
- Total cholesterol – Below 200 mg/dL
- LDL cholesterol – Around 100 mg/dL; below 100 mg/dL for patients with heart conditions and diabetes
- HDL cholesterol – 60 mg/dL or above
- Triglycerides – Below 150 mg/dL
Note, however, that these numbers are considered generally normal, but other cardiovascular risk factors like your age and health history can also affect the results. So it’s best to have a healthcare professional discuss the result of your lipid panel.
How Do Cholesterol Levels Go Up?
The right amount of cholesterol is incredibly important to a healthy body, but having too much of it is where problems may arise. The body already produces the amount of cholesterol it needs to function properly. That means it wouldn’t be that difficult to have unhealthy levels of cholesterol, or simply known as high cholesterol.
Several lifestyle factors can contribute to high cholesterol, like smoking, excessive alcohol intake, lack of exercise, and diet. Many of the everyday foods we eat can increase cholesterol levels, especially if our daily activity or work doesn’t require much moving around.
Genetics and certain health conditions like diabetes, hypothyroidism, and liver diseases can also cause high cholesterol.
Age can also be a risk factor for high cholesterol. The liver produces blood cholesterol and breaks down excess bad cholesterol. A 2013 study, however, found that liver function tends to slow down as people get older.
Why High Cholesterol Can Be Dangerous
Simply put, high cholesterol means having more lipids than your body can process or break down. Cholesterol can then accumulate in the body and form fatty deposits or plaques in the walls of the arteries.
The thing about cholesterol buildup is it can silently form in your blood vessels for a long time before you even notice it. So as time goes by, especially if you do not have your cholesterol levels regularly checked, arterial plaques can grow. As it gets bigger, your blood vessels can get congested or blocked, forming blood clots. That’s how high cholesterol increases one’s risk of getting cardiovascular diseases or other complications like hypertension (high blood pressure) and stroke.
Is Chlorella Good for the Heart?
Many risk factors must be considered in determining a person’s susceptibility to cardiovascular diseases. Cholesterol level is arguably one of the most crucial indicators of heart health. As we’ve covered above, high cholesterol can do tremendous damage without us noticing for a long time. However, going back to having healthy cholesterol levels is possible. Taking the right medications and simply improving our lifestyle choices can be huge steps in the right direction.
Trusted dietary supplements like chlorella can also be a vital addition to improving heart health. More importantly, multiple clinical studies over the years suggest that chlorella may help lower cholesterol.
Chlorella’s effects on cholesterol levels can be attributed to the nutrients, vitamins, minerals, and fatty acids it contains. For instance, this algae superfood is rich in carotenoids, such as lutein, fucoxanthin, and beta-carotene.
A 2017 clinical study on nearly 200 subjects with coronary heart conditions found lutein’s potential to address chronic inflammation in patients. An animal study also observed fucoxanthin’s ability to increase HDL cholesterol while reducing the total cholesterol in mice.
3 Major Health Benefits of Chlorella to Cardiovascular Health
The sheer amount of nutrients you can get from chlorella is what makes it unsurprisingly good for the heart. Thanks to mounting research over the last few decades, there’s also more evidence to help answer the question, does chlorella help lower cholesterol?
1. May Reduce Cholesterol Levels
Is chlorella good for high cholesterol? Chlorella’s potential impact on lipid profile may be one of its biggest benefits, and several studies and meta-analyses have supported it as well.
A study of over 60 patients with mild hypercholesterolemia was one of the first to suggest that chlorella may help lower bad (LDL) cholesterol and triglycerides. Researchers found that regular chlorella intake at a dose of 5 g per day for four weeks helped reduce triglycerides, total cholesterol, non-HDL cholesterol, and very low-density lipoprotein (VLDL) cholesterol. This improved the serum lipid profile of the subjects.
The same study noted that chlorella vulgaris is rich in carotenoids, including zeaxanthin and a-carotene, that can bind with LDL cholesterol receptors. It might explain chlorella’s more pronounced impact on total cholesterol and LDL cholesterol.
A meta-analysis published in 2022 supported such earlier findings and concluded that daily supplementation of chlorella vulgaris might lead to a “significant reduction” of total cholesterol and LDL cholesterol. It concluded that the most significant effect of chlorella to lower cholesterol was achieved by consuming 1,500 milligrams of daily chlorella supplementation.
2. May Lower Blood Pressure
Blood pressure is another vital health indicator you should manage as much as your cholesterol levels. And you’ll be pleased to know that studies showed backed chlorella’s promising potential in managing blood pressure even in hypertensive patients.
An earlier meta-analysis of 19 randomized control trials with nearly 800 subjects found that chlorella consumption at 4 g/day or higher in 8 weeks or more has helped in lowering systolic and diastolic blood pressure, including hypertensive participants.
One of the most prominent minerals found in chlorella is potassium, which is associated with improving cardiovascular functions. An increased potassium intake is encouraged because it may lower blood pressure by helping the blood vessels relax.
3. May Enhance Blood Flow
Does chlorella reduce plaque in arteries? Chlorella’s ability to lower excess cholesterol may, in a way, help reduce plaque in arteries. You may have a better chance of avoiding a severe buildup of arterial plaques over time with less bad cholesterol.
Chlorella biomasses also contain healthy fatty acids like omega 3, which help regulate triglycerides in the body. Omega 3 is also a key component in making hormones that control blood flow to avoid clots and help your artery walls to relax.
Frequently Asked Questions
Is It Safe to Take Chlorella Daily?
Chlorella is one of the dietary supplements that come from completely natural sources. So, yes, it’s generally safe to take chlorella every day. It’s important to only purchase from trusted brands to ensure that your chlorella supplements are made from algae cultivated and processed in safe environments and facilities.
As long as you’re guaranteed the quality of the chlorella tablets or chlorella powder you’re taking, chlorella supplementation should be generally safe to take even daily.
The commonly suggested dose of chlorella is between 3 to 5 g daily. If you haven’t tried this supplement before, you can start at lower doses to gradually introduce it to your system. You can also refer to the product label, which typically includes the recommended daily serving size.
There are a few minor side effects, like upset stomach, diarrhea, flatulence, and nausea, especially for those who haven’t taken chlorella before. But there are no known health risks to regularly consuming chlorella for most adults.
Does Chlorella Interact With Any Medications?
One study found that a chlorella product can contain as much as 3.5 mg of vitamin K in every 100 g dry weight. This vitamin is crucial for blood clotting, so chlorella supplementation may have mild interactions with drugs classified as anticoagulants or blood thinners. If you’re also taking cholesterol or other maintenance drugs, consult your doctor first taking them with chlorella tablets or chlorella powder.
Which Algae Is Good for Cholesterol Reduction?
Green and blue-green algae have shown excellent potential in reducing cholesterol levels because they’re known to have high amounts of carotenoids, dietary fiber, vitamins, minerals, and fatty acids.
Spirulina, another massively popular superfood, may also improve cholesterol levels. A 2017 study showed that a dose of 1 g of spirulina per day for 12 weeks helped reduce the participants’ total cholesterol.
Another study found that consumption of spirulina tablets at 2 g per day for two months led to significantly reduced LDL cholesterol and improved HDL and LDL cholesterol ratios in non-insulin-dependent patients with diabetes mellitus.
Does Chlorophyll Help With High Cholesterol?
Several studies have supported claims that chlorella does reduce cholesterol. In some of these papers, the algae’s carotenoid, fatty acid, and mineral contents are noted as the main proponents of its cardiovascular benefits.
Chlorophyll, the richest pigment compound in chlorella, may also have something to contribute here. It’s known to have powerful antioxidant properties and scavenges free radicals. One study confirmed chlorophyll’s ability to inhibit free radical-induced lipid peroxidation, which may worsen the effects of cholesterol buildup in vascular walls.
What Powder Supplements Can Help Lower Cholesterol?
Based on the findings of several studies, chlorella powder and spirulina powder are some of the powder supplements you can take that might help manage cholesterol levels. Other supplements made from flaxseed, green tea, and berberine may also help lower LDL cholesterol.
Does Chlorella Increase Heart Rate?
Only a few clinical studies measured the effect of chlorella supplementation on heart rate, so it’s not conclusive whether or not chlorella can alter a person’s heart rate. However, one study found that consuming 10 g chlorella tablets and 100 ml chlorella extract daily for 2 months had little effect on the participants’ heart rates. Another experiment found no changes in the heart rate of 14 young men after taking chlorella supplements for 4 weeks.
Chlorella: Green Superfood for the Heart
So does chlorella help lower cholesterol? Tons of research suggests that it does! Its rich contents of minerals, vitamins, fatty acids, and carotenoids are the likely factors in its ability to reduce bad LDL cholesterol. With its level down, the amount of good HDL cholesterol may be able to transport them better until the body eliminates them.
Keeping a healthy cholesterol level (as you now know) is extremely vital to maintaining a healthy heart and cardiovascular system. Unfortunately, it can be easy to stay off track of a healthy lifestyle because of the daily demands of our busy lives.
Thankfully, there are still fairly accessible ways to supplement our diet and daily health routine to improve significant aspects of our health. Just as you can expect from a superfood, chlorella’s health benefits extend to even the most important parts and functions of the body.