Chlorella is a single-celled algae that naturally occurs in freshwater rivers and ponds in East Asia, tinting those bodies of water green. It is gathered from these natural sources, dried, crushed into a powder, and then packed into tablet form for sale as a dietary supplement. It has twice the protein density of spinach, 38 times that of soy beans and 55 times that of rice, providing nine essential amino acids along with a number of vitamins and minerals.
The algae has shown effectiveness at improving the symptoms of metabolic syndrome -- a collection of symptoms linked with cardiovascular disease and diabetes, including high fasting blood sugar, high blood pressure and cholesterol, and central obesity. Studies have found chlorella supplements to reduce blood pressure in 50 percent of hypertension patients, as well as significantly reduce body fat, blood cholesterol and blood sugar levels.
"It seems that chlorella turns on the genes that control the way insulin is normally used by the cells in the body," said researcher Randall Merchant of Virginia Commonwealth University. "This research shows that chlorella could in theory help correct the problems of metabolic syndrome. It is not a magic bullet, but taking it is one other preventive thing you can do, like exercise or watching your diet."
Other studies have shown that chlorella encourages the growth of "good bacteria," absorbs toxins from the intestines, improves digestion, and eases the symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome, ulcerative colitis and fibromyalgia. Chlorella supporters claim that it also increases energy levels and fights depression.