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AACL 2010 Speaker

MerchantProf Randall E Merchant PhD

Professor of Anatomy & Neurobiology
Virginia Commonwealth University

Nutritional Supplementation with Chlorella for Syndrome X
Syndrome X, also known as metabolic syndrome and visceral fat syndrome, affects 20-30% of the population of industrialized countries. The syndrome is diagnosed according to specific criteria related to waistline, triglyceride and HDL levels, blood pressure, and fasting blood glucose. The incidence of Syndrome X increases directly with age until around sixty when it levels off affecting an estimated 40% of the elderly. People with Syndrome X are at increased risk for developing atherosclerosis and suffering from cardiovascular disease and stroke. To reverse these risks associated with Syndrome X, one needs to lose weight, exercise, and make dietary changes to lower the intake of salt, saturated fats, simple sugars, and low-fiber carbohydrates while increasing the consumption of fish, monounsaturated oils, and complex carbohydrates.

The incidence of Type II diabetes is high in people with Syndrome X and their hyperglycemia often requires oral medications to lower blood glucose.  Drug treatment, unfortunately, often means life-long dependence on an agent that may for many patients only partially control their hyperglycemia and may also have adverse side effects.  For this reason, there is a great deal of interest in non-pharmacological interventions which can better control hyperglycemia and reduce or eliminate the need for drugs.

Non-pharmacological interventions provide effective means to lower blood glucose levels and have been emphasized increasingly as a useful method in the treatment of diabetics (1,2). Dietary modifications have focused on reductions in the daily total caloric intake of foods rich in sugar and fats.  Studies have also shown that foods with fiber, such as fruits, vegetables, peas, beans, and whole-grain breads and cereals may help lower blood glucose.  These natural foods also tend to be particularly rich in antioxidants (e.g. vitamins C and E) which when combined with soluble fiber are believed to help limit the secondary cardiovascular complications of diabetes.   This has led to the hypothesis that the combination of proteins, sugars, fats and fiber which exist together in commonly eaten “whole foods” such as fruits, nuts, vegetables, and cereals and whose intakes are, therefore, highly correlated, act in synergy to produce a hypoglycemic effect.  Vegetarians whose diets are rich in fruits and vegetables have substantially lower risk of developing diabetes and hypertension than non-vegetarians (3).

Comprehensive studies have failed to uncover any specific nutrient or combination of nutrients in these diets which improves carbohydrate metabolism (i.e. a hypoglycemic effect) and rather have suggested that it is the “whole food” with its complex combination of nutrients acting synergistically that is responsible.  In light of these observations, it seems reasonable to expect that daily dietary supplementation with natural “whole foods” rich in proteins, vitamins, minerals, and fiber may help control the hyperglycemia of Type II diabetics who otherwise enjoy a normal, non-vegetarian diet.

Chlorella pyrenoidosa, another example of a “whole food”, is a unicellular green alga that grows in fresh water and consists of 60% protein, 20% carbohydrate, and about 11% unsaturated fats. These proteins and carbohydrates can provide a steady energy stream to the body without spiking insulin secretion and can also suppress appetite. Chlorella has the highest content of chlorophyll of any known plant and chlorophyll is a well-known detoxifier; removing toxins stored in the body and preventing the uptake of toxins by the cells of the intestines. Chlorella also contains high concentrations of certain vitamins, minerals, dietary fiber, nucleic acids, amino acids, enzymes, and other substances. The algae have strong cell walls that prevent their native form from being adequately digested so that only after drying and breaking its cell wall can these organisms be digested by humans. The DYNO®-Mill processing method, used in the manufacture of Chlorella for human consumption, has proven the best method for breaking the cell wall while preserving its nutritional value.

In this presentation, a number of laboratory research and clinical trials we and others have conducted in Japan and the United States will be described which show that daily ingestion of Chlorella helps ameliorate the symptoms of Syndrome X by reducing percent body fat, blood pressure, total serum cholesterol, and fasting glucose levels (4-6). The findings of two studies among those that will be presented are described below.
   
In one laboratory study, a group of spontaneously obese mice were fed a regular diet and a group of spontaneously obese mice was fed a normal diet with 5% Chlorella (5). After eight weeks, the obese mice fed the diet containing the Chlorella had significantly lower body weight, blood pressure, and insulin levels while having significantly higher levels of adiponectin compared to those obese mice fed their regular diet.

Direct evidence of how consumption of Chlorella helps control blood sugar has only recently come to light. A recent clinical study by Mizoguchi and colleagues examined serum components and used a DNA microarray to examine expression of several thousand genes in white blood cells of 17 subjects diagnosed with Syndrome X consuming 8.5g of Chlorella per day for two months (6). Consumption of Chlorella led to reductions in percentage body fat, total serum cholesterol and fasting glucose levels. Gene expression analysis identified an activation of genes related to both fat metabolism and insulin signaling pathways.  Variations in the expression of genes directly involved in to the active uptake of glucose before, during, and after consuming Chlorella provide an explanation for reduced serum glucose; substantiating with physiologic and genetic evidence the findings of numerous clinical studies that showed consumption of Chlorella lowered blood sugar.

Syndrome X is treated with the hope of lowering the patient’s overall risk of cardiovascular disease and its consequences.  It is now a generally accepted that a combination of exercise and diet modification is the best way to accomplish this.   Furthermore, there is now a substantial body of evidence that the daily consumption of Chlorella with its complex of proteins, amino acids, vitamins, and minerals may also play a role in diminishing the symptoms of Syndrome X by triggering the expression of genes of the insulin signaling pathway.

References

  1. Delahanty LM, Halford BN: The role of diet behaviors in achieving improved glycemic control in intensively treated patients in the Diabetes Control and Complications Trial. Diabetes Care 16:1453-1458, 1993.
  2. Garg A, et al: Effects of varying carbohydrate content of diet in patients with non-insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus.  JAMA 11;271:1421-1428. 1994.
  3. Beilin LJ, Burke V:  Vegetarian diet components, protein and blood pressure:  Which nutrients are important?  Clin Exp Pharmacol Physiol 22:195-198, 1995.
  4. Merchant RE et al: Nutritional supplementation with Chlorella pyrenoidosa for mild to moderate hypertension. J Med Food 5:141-152, 2002.
  5. Masuzawa T, et al: The effects of Chlorella on metabolic syndrome using spontaneously obese mice. Presented at the 81st Ann Meeting Jpn Pharmacol Soc, 2008.
  6. Mizoguchi T, et al: Nutrigenomics studies on effects of Chlorella on subjects with high risk factors for lifestyle-related disease. J Med Food 11:395-404, 2008.

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