The study results suggest chlorella might be useful as a prebiotic beyond simple supplementation with micronutrients. Chlorella is a green alga that grows in fresh water and contains significantly more protein and chlorophyll than other plants. Chlorella species are high in vitamins, including multiple forms of folate and vitamins B12 and D, minerals such as iron and magnesium, and dietary fiber.
“Energy and micronutrient requirements in pregnant women are particularly high because of the increased maternal metabolic rate and fetal demands,” the researchers said. “Diet is very important for preventing constipation and microinflammation, but pregnant women often experience changes in their food preferences and immunity, making it difficult to consume the optimal volumes of fiber and fluids.”
Changes in hormonal status, eating behaviors and the microbiome make constipation 30% likely during pregnancy.
Gut microbial diversity
The goal of this open-label, randomized, controlled study was to evaluate how safe and effective orally administered chlorella was for pregnant women with low-grade inflammation.
Women from Okinawa, Japan between 23–38 years old were enrolled in the study. Ten patients were assigned to the chlorella group and 12 to the control group.
The subjects in the chlorella group were given 6 g daily of chlorella supplement (provided by Sun Chlorella Corporation) from 12 to 18 weeks gestation until delivery. There was no limitation on the use of multivitamins and minerals.
The scientists evaluated the red blood cell count and hemoglobin, hematocrit, serum iron, ferritin, CRP (a protein made by the liver), folate, vitamin B12, homocysteine, and albumin levels at the beginning of the study and at 25, 30 and 35 weeks gestation. They monitored constipation, iron intake, side effects, and other complications throughout the investigation. The scientists also assessed newborn body weight, height and Apgar score, which determines how well the baby tolerated the birthing process.
“At the start of pregnancy and during the first trimester, the gut microbial diversity in pregnant women appears to be similar to that in nonpregnant women; however, a substantial shift in phylogenetic composition and structure occurs over the course of pregnancy,” the researchers said.
There was no significant difference in the rate of constipation between the two groups before the intervention. However, after the intervention, zero of the patients in the experimental group suffered from constipation, whereas eight of the 12 patients in the control group did. Five of those needed laxatives.
The scientists added: “There were several limitations in this study. There were not enough participants, so we could not identify significant differences in the decreased CRP levels and nutrient status of pregnant women.”
A variety of effects
Chlorella pyrenoidosa (C. pyrenoidosa) polysaccharides can modulate the gut microbiota by promoting beneficial bacteria, inhibiting the growth of harmful bacteria and reducing the ratio of Firmicutes to Bacteroides.
“C. pyrenoidosa polysaccharides can increase short-chain fatty acid content, which specifically interacts with the immune system,” the researchers said. “[It confers] maternal health benefits and favors healthy immune imprinting in the fetus.”
Chlorella species and chlorella extracts can exert a variety of effects, including reducing inflammation and cholesterol levels, preventing stress-induced ulcers, enhancing resistance to infection and decreasing dioxins in breast milk, and reducing the risk of anemia, proteinuria and edema in pregnant women, according to the scientists.
Source: Food Science & Nutrition
"The effect of Chlorella supplementation in pregnant women with low-grade inflammation"
Authors: Yoko Uchiyama-Tanaka, et al.