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New research on how chlorella supports brain health

Brain health is no small topic. Losing cognitive ability leaves people feeling powerless in a profound way. Tragically, medicine offers few answers for brain diseases like Alzheimer's and dementia.

“Brain health for seniors is a tough health issue,” acknowledges Dr. Michael E. Rosenbaum, MD. “None of the drugs used for dementia actually stop memory loss. They only seem to slow the progression a little bit. In sharp contrast, when it comes to strategies for keeping the brain sharp, natural health has many more satisfying answers.”

New research affirms chlorella could be one of these natural solutions. In 1989, the Kanazawa Medical College Department of Serology, conducted a study to find out if chlorella would be effective in keeping memory sharp. A total of 49 men and women with memory loss participated. The participants divided into a control group and a group receiving ten chlorella tablets and one “cup” of extract three times daily for a six-month period.

More than two-thirds of the participants benefited from chlorella supplementation. While the results from this initial small-scale trial got researchers excited, no one could pinpoint why chlorella seemed to help.

Some research published in 2013 is shedding some light on this question. And it seems some of these answers stem from the way the brain uses oxygen.

“The brain is a hungry organ. Even though it’s only 2% of body weight, it uses up about 20% of the calories consumed,” explains Dr. Rosenbaum. “In order to metabolize this fuel, your brain uses oxygen. However, when the brain uses oxygen to metabolize nutrients, it also produces dangerous oxidized molecules. You probably are familiar with these molecules. They’re also known as free radicals.”

These free radicals go on to wreak more havoc throughout the body including – ironically enough – the very cells the body depends on to transport oxygen up to the brain: Red blood cells.

People with Alzheimer’s disease have abnormally high levels of oxidized fats in the cell membranes of red blood cells. Some researchers speculate these handicapped red blood cells may be linked to brain deterioration. If these cells are unable to transport oxygen properly, then the brain may be missing out on this essential element.

In addition, seniors with Alzheimer’s disease have significantly lower levels of the antioxidant nutrient, lutein, in their red blood cells. Lutein gives antioxidant protection to fats like the ones in cell membranes that are so vulnerable to oxidation.

In 2013, a group of Japanese researchers decided to see if the antioxidant-rich chlorella could help with this problem. Chlorella is rich in lutein and beta-carotene, a nutrient in the same family as lutein.

A group of 12 healthy seniors participated in the study. Half were given 8 grams of chlorella tablets each day for 2 months. This amount of chlorella gave them 10.67 mg of lutein each day. This is a little more than the 10 mg of lutein typically recommended, the amount in half a cup of cooked spinach.

The other half took placebo pills.

After one month of taking the chlorella tablets, the researchers noted a significant increase in lutein levels in the participant’s blood. However they did not yet see significant changes in oxidized fats in the red blood cells.

By two months, though, this changed. The lutein levels in the red blood cells were close to 5 times what they had been at the start of the study. Even more impressively, the level of oxidized fats in the cell membranes of red blood cells of the same chlorella-taking group had been halved!

Concludes Dr. Rosenbaum, “This study adds an important chapter to the story we’re starting to piece together of how chlorella helps the brain stay healthy. Chlorella’s rich lutein supply seemed to make a noticeable difference in protecting red blood cells from oxidation. Almost paradoxically, this may help preserve the brain’s oxygen supply. And consequently, it may also hold the key to keeping the brain healthy as well.”

by S. C.
11 april 2014, Food & Fun > Health