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Addressing Human Exposure to Environmental Toxins with Chlorella Pyrenoidosa Print E-mail
Addressing Human Exposure to Environmental Toxins with Chlorella Pyrenoidosa- Medicinal Properties in Whole Foods  Nick, G. 
Townsend Letter for Doctors and Patients.  Apr 2003.  (237), 28-32.

Environmental factors are now generally believed to be involved in the causation of nearly all cancers. Further, the World Health Organization has estimated that environmental factors constitute 25-33% of global disease burden. Accordingly, since the creation of organic/inorganic chemicals in the late 19th century, the global community has faced an exponential rise in the production and subsequent exposure to environmental chemicals.
As a result, there has been a relative upsurge in the levels of human exposure to these toxic elements. While the concentrations of these chemicals generally remain below their no-observed-effects concentrations (NOECs) within the environment, researchers are discovering that the combination of such chemicals produces significant health hazards that are not generally seen with isolated concentrations of individual chemicals.

This review investigates the premise that harmless isolated chemicals cause significant health hazards when the chemicals are combined within the environment. Further, exposure to combined toxic chemicals can be neutralized by Chlorella pyrenoidosa, a fresh water species of green algae that contains detoxifying chemicals that function in concert to support the human detoxification system.

Exogenous Toxins and Human Health

Humans are exposed to wide use synthetic/industrial chemicals that produce unfavorable health effects. (1) Figure 1 offers examples of such chemicals.

While it is beyond the scope of this review to provide comprehensive documentation for the specific mechanisms whereby each of these known toxic chemical causes damage to the human body, Figure 3 offers an overview of the most prevalent health challenges associated with exposure to environmental toxins and impaired detoxification mechanisms.

Despite the fact that the relative levels of isolated environmental chemical exposure to humans is low, new data is emerging that elucidates the measurable adverse health effects which may be associated with combined exposure to multiple chemicals at no-observed-effect-concentrations (NOECs).

Combined No-Observed-Effect-Concentrations of Environmental Chemicals

A recent study completed by Dr. Silva and colleagues (31) demonstrated that estrogenic chemicals below their NOECs act together to produce significant effects. These researchers tested multi-component mixtures of eight weak environmental chemicals known to bind to estrogen receptors, including hydroxylated polychlorinated biphenyls, benzophenones, parabenes, bisphenol A and genestein. The mixtures were prepared so that no one chemical would contribute disproportionately to the overall effect based on their known individual potencies. Concentrations of the individual components ranged from 0.004 [micro]M to 1.04 [micro]M The researchers measured the estrogenic effects of the low dose chemical mixture utilizing the Yeast Estrogen Screen. Using this reporter gene assay, they first demonstrated that each chemical tested activated the genetically modified yeast cells' estrogen receptor protein.

The additive combined effects of the weak estrogenic compounds were then calculated using four separate models -- concentration addition, toxicity equivalency factors, effect summation, and independent action. From these estimations, the researchers determined that the concentration addition and toxicity equivalency factor approach were valid methods for the calculation of additive mixture effects, as there was excellent agreement between prediction and observation. Remarkably, there were substantial mixture effects even though each chemical was present at levels well below its NOEC. The researchers concluded that estrogenic agents are able to act together to produce significant effects when combined at concentrations below their NOECs. The results of this study highlight the limitations of assessing chemical toxicity on a chemical-by-chemical basis. Traditional risk assessments of toxic environmental chemicals ignore the likelihood of combined actions, which will almost certainly lead to significant underes timations of risk.

In reality, humans and wildlife are exposed to compound, typically nonspecific, mixtures of chemicals. Providentially, phytochemicals, as they naturally occur within Chlorella pyrenoidosa, augment the adverse combined effects of NOECs of environmental toxic chemicals, as described in the Silva study.

Low-Dose Phytochemicals Found in Chlorella pyrenoidosa that Support the Functioning of the Human Detoxification System

Specific phytochemicals found within Chlorella pyrenoidosa support the complex network of enzymatic reactions that drive the human detoxification system. This detoxification network involves the Phase I and Phase II enzymatic reactions that take place in nearly all cells in the body, though they are concentrated in the liver cells. Phase I detoxification reactions change non-polar chemicals that are not water-soluble into relatively polar, water-soluble compounds. The Phase I process can result in the formation of reactive chemicals that are typically more toxic than the original compounds. Phase II detoxification is necessary therefore to add chemical groups to the toxic intermediates to make them water-soluble so that they may easily be excreted via urine and/or feces. Phase I and Phase II detoxification pathways must remain functional for the removal of toxins from the body. This research focuses specifically on the Chlorella pyrenoidosa species of green algae recognized for its detoxification properties.

Chlorophyll Content in Chiorella pyrenoidosa

Chiorella pyrenoidosa contains the uppermost level of chlorophyll (28.9 g/kg) of any known plant on earth. (32) Chiorophylls and their derivatives form molecular complexes with environmental toxins, inactivating them by preventing their binding to DNA and cellular receptors. (33-36) Chlorophyll may also non-specifically inhibit cytochrome P450 activity, reducing Phase I molecular processes that may lead to carcinogen activation. Researchers (37) propose that chlorophyll acts primarily by inhibiting the Phase I cytochrome P450 enzymatic pathway (a key detoxification pathway in the body, found in nearly all cells) that is responsible for the activation of some cancer-causing toxins. Experimenters examined the in vitro effects of chlorophyllin, the sodium/copper derivative of chlorophyll, on the P450 activity of human liver microsomes. Table 1 shows the loss of CYP450 activity for all the human liver enzyme systems assayed in this study. The inhibition was non-specific and NADPH-dependent.

Supporting the results of these in-vitro analyses, researchers at Shapporo Medical University found that consumption of 4 to 5 grams of chlorella prior to consuming various amounts of alcohol resulted in a 96% reduction in the incidence of hangovers. This result suggests that chlorella is enhancing the liver's detoxification capabilities, promoting the removal of alcohol from the liver. (38)

In addition to chlorella's notable levels of chlorophyll that successfully bind to and support the removal of environmental toxins, this single-celled algae contains additional properties that function synergistically with chlorophyll to enhance the liver detoxification pathways. Specifically, chlorella also contains glutathione, a key component of phase II liver detoxification. Glutathione is found within Chlorella Growth Factor, a complex of nutritive and functional compounds demonstrating a variety of medicinal properties.

Chiorella Growth Factor and Glutathione

Chlorella Growth Factor (CGF) comprises roughly 5% of the Chiorella pyrenoidosa species of green algae. CGF is thought to be concentrated in the nuclei of the algae, and appropriately is comprised of nucleic acid associated substances, peptides, proteins, amino acids, vitamins and sugars. Of particular interest with respect to detoxification is the presence of the peptide glutathione within the Chlorella Growth Factor. (39)

Glutathione is a potent detoxification molecule that plays a critical role in the Phase II detoxification pathway. In fact, exposure to environmental toxins depletes the body's stores of glutathione, while whole foods, such as chlorella, that notably support detoxification all function via independent mechanisms to reverse the depletion of glutathione preserves induced by toxic chemicals in the body. (40) In addition to tertiary functional compounds that are clearly present in Chlorella pyrenoidosa that are specific for supporting detoxification, the algae also contains a wide spectrum of nutritive compounds that function synergistically to support the elimination of environmental toxins from the body.

Nutritive Content

In nature, one seldom finds a single vitamin, mineral, amino acid, or phytochemical existing on its own. Rather, we find complexes of multiple components operating together, in harmony, to promote health, longevity and vitality. As such, utilizing a comprehensive whole food detoxification supplement that includes the complete range of vitamins, minerals, nucleic acids, phytochemicals and tertiary functional compounds will consistently produce a greater clinical effect (on detoxification) than using any single ingredient to promote detoxification, optimal health and vitality. Chiorella pyrenoidosa closely fits this profile as it contains a wide spectrum of nutrients (Table 2). (38)

This nutrient-dense whole food also contains tertiary detoxification compounds that are concentrated within its cell wall structure.

Toxin-Absorptive Properties Inherent in Chlorella pyrenoidosa's Cell Wall Structure

Chiorella pyrenoidosa has a distinctive cell wall structure with a chemical composition that is partly responsible for the algae's toxin-absorbing capabilities. (41) The cell wall is comprised of approximately 31% hemicellulose, 27% protein, 15.4% alpha-cellulose, 9.2% lipid, 5.2% ash and 3.3% glucosamine. (42) Research has found that the algae cell walls contain compounds (most likely cellulose and polysaccharides) that adhere to and remove heavy metals such as cadmium, lead and mercury from the body. (43,44)

Likewise, research (45) has demonstrated that the cell wall (whose active detoxification constituents remain intact even after the wall is pulverized) accelerates the removal of dangerous chlorinated hydrocarbon insecticides from the body. In fact, chlorella was responsible for the detoxification of chlordecone poisoned rats, decreasing the half-life of the toxin from 40 to 19 days. The ingested algae passed through the gastrointestinal tract unharmed, interrupted the enteric recirculation of the persistent insecticide, and subsequently eliminated the bound chlordecone with the feces. Elucidating the research that demonstrates the potent toxin-absorbing capabilities of chlorella's cell wall structure allows for a greater appreciation of the techniques available to process and preserve this unique structure while ensuring maximum bioavailability of its toxin-absorbing constituents.

Processing of Chlorella for Optimal Absorption of Environmental Toxins

DYNO(r)-Mill is a distinct method of processing chlorella, engineered by select research scientists under the guidance of Mr. Hideo Nakayama of the Sun Chlorella Corporation. This method was designed to maximize total digestibility of the algae and its cell walls (which, if kept intact, compromise the bioavailability of key detoxification constituents within the algae). The DYNO(r)-Mill is the only method of processing chlorella that truly functions to maintain the detoxifying properties inherent within chlorella, as it solely uses mechanical means to pulverize the cell wall. Other known methods of processing chlorella include heating and blanching the cells or leaving the cells and their walls intact. The prior option exposes the algae to enzymes, heat and chemicals that all function to destroy key medicinal constituents within the algae while the latter grossly hinders the food's digestibility.


Nutritional detoxification programs are being recognized throughout the world as an effective means for naturally removing environmental toxins from the body. Likewise, nutraceutical agents are sparking the interest of many research scientists as a safe and gentle approach to health, without the unwanted side effects often associated with pharmaceutical drugs. Nutritional detoxification, as a treatment modality, has perhaps experienced the most interest with extensive studies completed and in progress on isolated nutrients that affect the human detoxification system. By far the most influential studies have been done on isolated detoxification cofactors, including glutathione, glycine, vitamin C, zinc, selenium, indole-3-carbinols and others. These studies, for the most part, have overlooked the medicinal value inherent in utilizing whole foods such as Chlorella pyrenoidosa (with the DYNO(r)-Mill process employed to preserve the algae's detoxifying cell wall properties) that contain cofactors, as they natura lly occur, that function synergistically to remove environmental toxins from the body.

Given the complexity and overlapping functions of the many facets of the human detoxification system, it is unlikely that a single nutrient or tertiary functional compound is wholly responsible for the effects that Chiorella pyrenoidosa imparts on the body's natural response to exogenous toxic chemical exposure.

The research outlined throughout this review points to the elegant and dynamic interplay that occurs between nutrients, amino acids and phytochemicals as they work together to produce a clinical effect on detoxification that is far greater than the individual components.


Table 1

Inhibition of CYP450 activity by chlorophyllin in human liver

                                           Rate          % inhibition
                                                          of activity
Enzymatic activity      Microsome  (nmol product/min/mg    ([micro]M
(CYP450)                 sample          protein)        0
Human liver microsomes

1A2                       HL108      2.4X[10.sup.-3]     0
2A6                       HL115            2.3           0
2E1                       HL99             1.5           0
2A6, 1A2, 2B6, 2F1        HL115      7.8X[10.sup.-1]     0
3A4, 1A2, 2C8/9/10        HL110      1.4X[10.sup.-1]     0
3A4                       HL110            4.0           0
3A4, 2B6                  HL108      2.6X[10.sup.-3]     0

                                % inhibition of activity
Enzymatic activity              ([micro]M chlorophyllin)
(CYP450)                10        20        50        100
Human liver microsomes

1A2                     54        82        >99       >99
2A6                     56        70         88        98
2E1                     35        60         96       >99
2A6, 1A2, 2B6, 2F1      58        78         84        97
3A4, 1A2, 2C8/9/10      45        60         89        94
3A4                     40        70         87        95
3A4, 2B6                65        85        >99       >99

Table 2

Nutrient Profile of Chlorella. (38)

Vitamins and Minerals

Beta Carotene
Chlorophyll a
Chlorophyll b
Folic acid
Pantothenic acid
Vitamin A
Vitamin B12
Vitamin C
Vitamin B

Amount Per 100 grams of Chlorella

   180.8 mg
   191.6 mcg
   203 mg
 1,469 mg
   613 mg
    26.9 mcg
   165 mg
   600 mg
   315 mg
    23.8 mg
     0.6 mg
     1.3 mg
   989 mg
     1.7 mg
     4.8 mg
     1.5 mg
55,500 IU
   125.9 mcg
    15.6 mg
    <1 IU
   167 mg
    71 mg

Amino Acids Found in Chlorella

Aspartic Acid
Glutamic acid

Fatty Acid Content % of Total

Unsaturated fatty acids: 81.8 Saturated fatty acids: 18.2

C 14:0   0.6
C 14:1   0.9
C 14:2   0.9
C 16:0  15.6
C 16:1   9.1
C 16:2   5.5
C 16.3  17.1
C 18.0   2.0
C 18:1  10.0
C 18:2  15.5
C 18:3  22.8

Figure 1. Examples of widely used synthetic and other industrial chemicals that have documented adverse health reactions.

Examples of Synthetic and Other Industrial Chemicals that are Toxic to Humans (2-4)



Dry cleaning chemicals (e.g., tetrachloroethylene)

Fire retardants (e.g., polybromated biphenyls)

Gasoline (e.g., benzene, ethylbenzene)

Heavy metals (e.g., mercury, amalgam fillings, lead, cadmium)


Mothballs and room deodorizers (e.g., paradichlorobenzene)

Paints (e.g., xylene)

Pesticides (e.g., organophosphates, dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane, endrin, lindane, chlordane)

Petroleum and coal tar products and foods that have come in contact with them (e.g., polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons)

Plastics, foam rubber and insulation (e.g., pthalates, vinylidene chloride, bisphenol A, styrene)

Polychlorinated biphenyls

Solvents (e.g., dichlorobenzene, xylene, ethylphenol styrene, and styrene)

Figure 3

Examples of prevalent health challenges associated with exposure to
environmental toxins and impaired detoxification mechanisms.

Health Challenges Associated with Toxicity Syndromes

Autoimmune Disease (6,7)           Cancer (8-13)
Cardiovascular Disorder (14)       Endocrine Disruption (15)
Gastrointestinal Disturbance (16)  Infertility (17)
Kidney Damage (18,19)              Low Birth Weight (20)
Neurological Disease (21-25)       Obesity (26)
Sick Building Syndrome (27-29)     Spontaneous Abortion (30)

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