Chlorophyll Juice: Separating Myth from Fact

Monday Oct 6 | BY |
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Chlorophyll

Chlorophyll juice is popular in the juicing world, but is it really the source of all those health benefits?

You may remember talking about chlorophyll in junior high science class. It’s that green pigment in plants that absorbs light from the sun to provide energy for photosynthesis.

Recently, though, you may have heard about chlorophyll in another way—as a healthy, nutritious additive for juices. Manufacturers of chlorophyll juice or “liquid chlorophyll” claim it will do all kinds of things for you, from healing your gut to detoxing your body to making you smell great.

Can it really do all that?

The Difference Between Chlorophyll and Chlorophyll Juice

In today’s health conscious world, we can get chlorophyll from three sources:

  1. Dark, leafy greens: Green veggies all contain chlorophyll.
  2. Wheatgrass juice: Wheatgrass is a rich source of chlorophyll.
  3. Liquid or tablet chlorophyll supplement: This isn’t original chlorophyll, but is actually a water-soluble extract in the form of sodium copper chlorophyllin.

Can you get the same health benefits from any of these sources? So far, that’s not entirely clear, but some studies have given us clues.

What are the Real Benefits of Chlorophyll?

The debate is not whether we can enjoy health benefits from natural green juices, wheatgrass, or a liquid chlorophyll supplement. All are healthy additions to the diet. The debate is whether the benefits come from chlorophyll or from something else.

The problem is that most chlorophyll does not survive the digestive process. One study found that after 24 hours, no more than one to two percent was available for absorption. When researchers used spinach as a source of chlorophyll, again, only about one percent was absorbed. A second study found similar results. Researchers gave chlorophyll in the form of spinach to human subjects and found that less than five percent was ingested.

The fact that it’s not absorbed, however, may be the key to some of chlorophyll’s actual benefits. Studies have found that it can bind with certain chemicals known to cause cancer, including polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons found in tobacco smoke, some carcinogenic amines found in charred meat, and other toxins, to carry them harmlessly out of the body through the waste process.

A 2006 study, for instance, found that men who increased their intake of processed meats and decreased their intake of chlorophyll had an elevated risk of colon cancer. A later 2012 study found similar results, in that chlorophyll helped reduce cancerous tumors, including liver and stomach tumors. Scientists at the Oregon State University assert that a diet high in natural chlorophyll from vegetable consumption “could offer substantial protection against food- and air-borne carcinogens, in addition to all the other known benefits of a vegetable-rich diet.”

So far, however, this “detoxing” sort of effect is the only one that we can be sure comes from undigested original chlorophyll. Any other health benefits are likely to come from a related compound called “chlorophyllin” that is more readily absorbed by the body.

What are the Benefits of Chlorophyll Supplements?

The chlorophyll in supplements is not the original chlorophyll. Instead, it’s a mixture of water-soluble sodium copper salts derived from chlorophyll called chlorophyllin. Here’s the difference between the two:

  • Chemically speaking, original chlorophyll has a ring-shaped chemical structure with a magnesium ion in the center. Chlorophyllin has that magnesium replaced with copper.
  • Chlorophyll is not soluble in water. Chlorophyllin is.
  • Chlorophyllin is inexpensively made from chlorophyll and has been used for decades as a food dye, wound-healing accelerant, and for odor control.
  • Commercial chlorophyllin mixtures typically have trisodium copper chlorin e6 and disodium copper chlorin e4. Studies have shown significant amounts of these are absorbed in those taking chlorophyllin supplements.

Studies have shown that chlorophyllin has a number of health benefits.

  • Detoxing action helps reduce risk of cancer: A number of studies have found that like chlorophyll, chlorophyllin can help block cancer-initiating activity. It may act on certain enzymes that are required for the activation of some carcinogens, stopping the process and helping the body eliminate the toxins before they can cause harm. In one study, for example, 100 mg of dietary chlorophyllin in pill form three times a day helped reduce by 55 percent the amount of “aflatoxin” in the urine of participants, which means that more of the toxin was being flushed out where it couldn’t harm the body. (Aflatoxins are toxic compounds produced by molds found in food that can cause liver damage and cancer.)
  • Antioxidant effects: Chlorophyllin has been found in laboratory studies to neutralize free radicals, showing that it may act as an antioxidant, decreasing oxidative damage from chemical carcinogens and radiation.
  • Potential treatment for cancer: Some preliminary studies have shown that human colon cancer cells, when exposed to chlorophyllin, undergo “cell cycle arrest,” which could leave them more vulnerable to other cancer treatments. Researchers speculate that chlorophyllin could be used together with other cancer therapeutic agents to help improve treatment.
  • Natural deodorant: As far back as the 1940s, researchers discovered that chlorophyllin could help neutralize foul-smelling wounds. Doses of 100-200 mg per day helped reduce fecal odor in ostomy patients. Several more recent studies have found similar results. In 2004, for example, researchers found that 180 mg or chlorophyllin per day helped reduce urinary odor in patients with “trimethylaminuria,” a disorder that results in a strong, fishy odor in sweat, breath, and urine.
  • Heal wounds: Some studies have found that chlorophyllin can help slow the growth of bacteria, encouraging wound healing. It was found to be effective for slow-healing wounds, such as vascular ulcers. Ointments containing chlorophyllin are still available in the U.S. by prescription.
Bottom Line

You can’t go wrong with any of these products. Dark green, leafy vegetables are healthy for a number of reasons, chlorophyll may help detox and reduce risk of cancer, and chlorophyllin may do that and more. It helps to know the difference between them, however, so you can better target your health goals.

Do you enjoy chlorophyll in veggies, juice, or supplements? Have you noticed a difference in your health? Please share your thoughts.

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Sources
James H. Baxter, Daniel Steinberg, “Absorption of phytol from dietary chlorophyll in the rat,” The Journal of Lipid Research, November 1967; 8: 615-620, http://www.jlr.org/content/8/6/615.abstract?ijkey=a2484e22e39238a6b4aec0a41fa58d2c522e6c10&keytype2=tf_ipsecsha.

James H. Baxter, “Absorption of chlorophyll phytol in normal man and in patients with Refsum’s disease,” The Journal of Lipid Research, September 1968; 9: 636-641, http://www.jlr.org/content/9/5/636.abstract?ijkey=114e3597901f36d126e5272af8364d8b50f1129c&keytype2=tf_ipsecsha.

“Chlorophyll and Chlorophyllin,” Linus Pauling Institute, http://lpi.oregonstate.edu/infocenter/phytochemicals/chlorophylls/#intro.

Helena F. Balder, et al., “Heme and Chlorophyll Intake and Risk of Colorectal Cancer in the Netherlands Cohort Study,” Cancer Epidemiol Biomarkers Prev. April 2006; 15:717, http://cebp.aacrjournals.org/content/15/4/717.full.

David Stauth, “Chlorophyll can help prevent cancer—but study raises other questions,” Oregon State University, January 1, 2012, http://oregonstate.edu/ua/ncs/archives/2012/jan/chlorophyll-can-help-prevent-cancer-study-raises-other-questions.

Michael T. Simonich, “Cancer Prevention by Chlorophylls,” Linus Pauling Institute, November 2006, http://lpi.oregonstate.edu/fw06/chlorophylls.html.

Colleen M. Story

Colleen M. Story

Colleen M. Story, a northwest-based writer, editor, and ghostwriter, has been creating non-fiction materials for individuals, corporations, and commercial magazines for over 17 years. She specializes in the health and wellness field, where she writes and ghostwrites books, e-books, blogs, magazine articles, and more.

Colleen is the founder of Writing and Wellness. Her fantasy novel, “Rise of the Sidenah,” was released with Jupiter Gardens Press in September 2015. Her literary novel, “Loreena’s Gift,” is forthcoming in spring 2016 from Dzanc Books. She lives in Idaho. www.colleenmstory.com

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