Eight weeks of supplementation was associated with increases in the activity of natural killer (NK) cells, said to play an important role in our innate resistance against a variety of pathogens, according to findings published in the Nutrition Journal.
“These results add to the growing literature on the beneficial immunostimulatory effect of Chlorella supplementation through a clinical human study,” wrote researchers from Yonsei University and Daesang.Co.Ltd.
Chlorella was amongst the first algae to be cultivated for food supplement purposes. Industrial production of Chlorella began in Japan shortly after the Second World War (WW2). The alga is a rich source of “amino acids, protein, minerals, vitamins, dietary fiber, and a wide range of antioxidants, bioactive substances and chlorophylls etc.”, said the Korean researchers.
The researchers recruited 51 healthy Koreans to participate in their randomized, double-blinded, placebo-controlled trial. Participants were randomly assigned to receive tablets providing either five grams per day of Chlorella or placebo for eight weeks.
Results showed that the activity of NK cells increased by about 10% in the Chlorella group, while there was a slight but statistically insignificant decrease in the placebo group.
In addition, levels of interferon-gamma (IFN-gamma) and interleukin-1beta (IL-1beta) significantly increased in the Chlorella group. IFN-gamma is vital for for innate and adaptive immunity against viral and bacterial infections, while IL-1beta is said to play an important role in the inflammatory response.
While the results suggest a beneficial immunostimulatory effect of Chlorella supplementation, the researchers said that the study focused on normal healthy Koreans, and that the results cannot be generalized to sick people or people of other ethnicities.
“Despite these limitations, 8-weeks of Chlorella intake in healthy Koreans increased the NK cell activity and produced INF-gamma […] and IL-1β. In addition, changes in the NK cell activity positively correlated with those in the cytokines after the intervention.”
Source: Nutrition Journal
2012, 11:53 doi:10.1186/1475-2891-11-53
“Beneficial immunostimulatory effect of short-term Chlorella supplementation: enhancement of Natural Killer cell activity and early inflammatory response (Randomized, double-blinded, placebo-controlled trial)”
Authors: J.H. Kwak, S.H. Baek, Y. Woo, J.K. Han, B.G. Kim, O.Y. Kim, J.H. Lee