Chlorella supplements may support immune function during intensive training

By Stephen Daniells

- Last updated on GMT

© Getty Images / lindavostrovska
© Getty Images / lindavostrovska
Intense training and exercise are known to disturb the immune system. A new study from England suggests that supplements containing the algae Chlorella pyrenoidosa may help.

Data published in the European Journal of Nutrition​indicated that supplementation with six grams of Chlorella during a period of intense training led to beneficial effects on secretory IgA (sIgA), an antibody that is important for the integrity of the immune system.

“Daily supplementation with [Chlorella] was able to increase salivary sIgA concentration and secretion rate at rest,”​ wrote Corinna Chidley and Glen Davison from the Endurance Research Group in the School of Sport and Exercise Sciences at the University of Kent.

“Together with previous research there is now substantial evidence to show that [Chlorella] can enhance salivary sIgA; however, in the present study it appears that a longer supplementation period may be required in order to translate to protection against URTI [upper respiratory tract infection] and reduced URS [upper respiratory symptom] reports.”

Study details

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 new study used Chlorella from Japan’s Sun Chlorella Corporation. Chidley and Davison recruited 26 people with an average age of 29 to participate in their study. The volunteers were randomly assigned to receive six grams per day of Chlorella or placebo for six weeks. During the fourth week of the study, both groups underwent two days of intensified training, and their immune responses were assessed.

The data showed that there were no significant changes in the resting saliva sIgA concentration for the placebo group at any time during the six weeks study. However, concentrations increased in the Chlorella group starting from the first day of intensive exercise in fourth week of the study.

“Importantly, resting sIgA concentration was not significantly increased before or during the intensified training period, but appeared to be increasing in the weeks after,” ​they wrote. “It is possible therefore that more benefit would be evident with a longer supplementation period (e.g. if the intensified training was commenced after 5 or 6, rather than 4, weeks of supplementation) and it is feasible that this would also translate to a greater effect on URS reports. However, this will require further study.”

Commenting on the potential bioactives and mechanism(s) of action Chidley and Davison noted that specific polysaccharides and glycoproteins or protein/polysaccharides complexes found in Chlorella have immunostimulating properties, and these have previously been reported to boost immune system function.

Source: European Journal of Nutrition
October 2018, Volume 57, Issue 7, pp 2529–2536, doi: 10.1007/s00394-017-1525-9
“The effect of ​Chlorella pyrenoidosa supplementation on immune responses to 2 days of intensified training”
Authors: C. Chidley and G. Davison

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