QUESTION: “Hello Dr. Neal, I have a very random question and I was wondering if you would be able to help me out with it. What are your thoughts on taking chlorophyll as a supplement?”
DR. NEAL: I knew I would be receiving a question about chlorophyll supplementation any day now – I happened to hear a story about it on the radio the other day. I figured that if a supplement has made the news, its popularity is skyrocketing.
So, let’s discuss!
What’s Chlorophyll Anyway?
I’m sure you’ve heard of chlorophyll before – it just may have been a while since you learned what it was.
I remember learning all about chlorophyll in 4th grade science class. We would perform an experiment. My teacher would give each student 2 plants to take home. We were told to keep 1 of them in a spot that receives lots of sunlight, like near a window. The other, we had to keep in a dark room. After a week or so, we would bring the plants back to school and talk about what happened. With this experiment, we learned that that the sun helps plants make chlorophyll. And, chlorophyll is what gives plants their green color.
Well, all of that is still true. But what does that have to do with the human body? We’re not plants after all.
Chlorophyll and Health
If we think about it, anytime we eat a green vegetable, we’re consuming chlorophyll. That’s what gives them their green color, right? In fact, the greener the plant, the more chlorophyll it has.
It turns out that chlorophyll may act as an antioxidant. Remember, antioxidants are good for us. Studies have found that antioxidants may help prevent certain diseases like heart disease, Alzheimer’s, and even cancer.
In fact, in plants, chlorophyll not only turns the plant green, but it protects the plant from damage, too! In fact, chlorophyll has been used as a treatment for skin conditions for years. But now, it’s becoming popular for the prevention of chronic diseases.
Chlorophyll as a Supplement
When taken as a supplement, we’re actually consuming a slightly modified form of chlorophyll called chlorophyllin. This isn’t a big deal – scientists have found that chlorophyllin behaves the same as chlorophyll in the body.
I do need to mention that most studies on the actual health effects of chlorophyll supplementation were performed in animals. So far, studies have found that chlorophyll may bind to harmful, disease-causing compounds and remove them from the body.
One study performed in humans did find that chlorophyll supplementation around 300 mg per day helped remove a harmful compound called aflatoxin in study participants.
But as I always say, we need more than 1 study to really know what’s going on. And, scientists are quick to point out that vitamin C and vitamin E may be even stronger antioxidants when compared to chlorophyll.
Now, if we really think about it – couldn’t we get chlorophyll naturally in our diet? Couldn’t we just eat green vegetables and get chlorophyll that way? Yes!
We already have lots of studies that have shown that consuming more green vegetables helps reduce our risk for a number of diseases.
It could be due to the chlorophyll in them, or the fact that green vegetables also contain a decent amount of vitamin C, or the fact that they also contain fiber (which also prevents many chronic diseases)… or maybe the combination of all of those things.
In fact, scientists believe that consuming a combination of various plant-based foods may be the most important factor when it comes to preventing disease.
Chlorophyll Supplements: The Bottom Line
So, when it comes to supplementing with chlorophyll, I would save your money for now. Let’s see what happens as scientists continue to study the effects of chlorophyll supplementation on humans especially over the long-term.
In the meantime, we can still get plenty of chlorophyll naturally by consuming green vegetables.
Oh, and in case you’re wondering – spinach contains the highest amount.