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For many athletes there’s often a fine line between training hard to achieve your best results and going a little too hard and compromising your immune system and getting ill, especially during winter months when colds and other illnesses are rife. Research, published in the European Journal of Nutrition1, shows help may be at hand in the form of an unusual natural supplement however…
In the study scientists looked at the effect, in 26 people, of taking the natural supplement chlorella (a type of fresh water algae that is seen to be rich in certain nutrients and normally taken in tablet or granule form), compared to a placebo, over a six week period, with a two day intense training period during week four. The two days intense training consisted of morning and afternoon sessions on each day (session 1 was an incremental maximal oxygen uptake test; session 2 a high intensity interval training (HIIT) session; session 3 a prolonged endurance ride; and session 4 a second HIIT session).
The scientists monitored the level of an antibody called sigA throughout the study as a measure of the immune system’s strength, and found that, apart from small changes brought about by the intense exercise period, levels of sigA remained constant over the six week period for those taking the placebo. Those in the chlorella group however saw increasingly higher levels of sigA as the trial progressed, from week 4 onwards, leading the researchers to conclude “Supplementation with Chlorella has beneficial effects on resting sIgA, which might be beneficial during periods of intensified training.”
Whilst the scientists didn’t look directly at how chlorella might be affecting the immune system they theorized, based on previous findings, that “the most likely mechanisms for the increase in salivary sIgA observed after 4–5 weeks of supplementation with Chlorella are via the immunostimulating properties of compounds found in chlorella such as specific polysaccharides and glycoproteins or protein/polysaccharides complexes.”
There are several species of chlorella. Chlorella vulgaris and chlorella pyrenoidosa are the most studied, but the study above uses chlorella pyrenoidosa and research comparing the two different species indicates that chlorella pyrenoidosa has higher concentration of some vitamins and amino acids.
Some of the most efficient chlorella pyrenoidosa products on the market come from Sun Chlorella, whose new DYNO®-Mill technology breaks down the cell walls of the algae (without the use of heat or chemicals which can reduce the quality of the chlorella) to ensure when you use either their powder or tablets you’re getting the most nutrients possible.
The powder can easily be added to smoothies or protein shakes, whilst the tablets offer a convenient alternative.
Available directly from www.sunchlorella.co.uk or health stores nationwide.
Eur J Nutr. 2017 Aug 19. doi: 10.1007/s00394-017-1525-9. The effect of Chlorella pyrenoidosa supplementation on immune responses to 2 days of intensified training. Chidley C1, Davison G2.