Another day, another over-hyped health trend to contend with.
Today, it’s chlorophyll water.
I really don’t mean to be so snarky about these things, but the lack of research done by experts and publications BEFORE championing health and weight loss remedies that have zero validity behind them, is staggering… especially when you realise how many people eat this stuff up without questioning it.
If you’ve missed the chlorophyll water trend, count yourself lucky.
And if you haven’t… fingers crossed you haven’t wasted too much cash on it (a 240ml bottle of the stuff can cost around £30!).
Whichever camp you fall into, here’s everything you need to know about the legitimacy of the chlorophyll water trend
What is it?
Chlorophyll refers to the green pigments found primarily in plants. Their role is photosynthesis – the process by which plants use sunlight to produce energy (hello high school biology!). Chlorophyll water is basically derivatives of these pigments in… well… water (plus glycerin and preservatives).
The health claims?
- It’s a great weight loss remedy
- It is a strong detoxifier that ‘protects and heals’ the body
- It boosts the number of red blood cells in the body and therefore increases energy and well-being
- It protects against cancer
The scientific facts?
- The array of claims are impressive, but there’s one snag. There doesn’t seem to be a single piece of research carried out on human beings that shows that any of the above claims are true. But, I have unearthed where the claims originate from.
- The idea that chlorophyll increases energy and well-being by boosting red blood cell quantities in the body arises from the fact the pigment has a similar molecular structure to haemoglobin – that’s the substance that makes blood bind to and carry oxygen around the body. However, this does not make it a blood replenisher. Think about it: when you have a blood transfusion, the blood has to be directly put into your bloodstream to be effective. If you ingest it (as with natural chlorophyll water), it’s going to be destroyed by your stomach acid during the digestive process. A synthetic version of digestion-resistant chlorophyll exists, but drinking a man-made version kind of defeats the purpose of opting for a natural drink.
- The cancer claims associated with chlorophyll water most likely relate to the antioxidant properties of the pigment. Cell-based research, like this, has shown that a salt gotten from chlorophyll, called chlorophyllin can protect cells against oxidative damage from free radicals – the molecules also implicated in the development of cancer. However, that’s as far as the link goes. There are no published studies that show that cancer patients given a daily dose of actual chlorophyll water reap benefits from it. And there are also no studies that show that people who supplement with chlorophyll are less likely to have cancer than those who don’t.
- There are studies that show that people who eat green leafy vegetables carry a reduced risk of colon cancer, but while these vegetables do contain chlorophyll, they also contain many other beneficial antioxidants and fibre – which are known to protect against certain types of cancer. It’s therefore completely nonsensical to conclude that this is proof of the anti-cancer properties of chlorophyll water.
- As for claims that the green pigment is a great weight loss aid? Well, that falls into the category of misinterpreted science, specifically, this 2014 study. It found that among a small group of 38 women, those who ate 5g of green plant membranes everyday before breakfast for 3 months lost 1.5kg more weight than those who didn’t. However, while plant membranes do contain chlorophyll, they also contain other substances, and as such, the researchers themselves are very careful with their conclusions and never attribute the weight loss observed to chlorophyll itself.
- Finally, you probably know by now how I feel about the word ‘detox’. With that in mind, it’s safe to say that claims that chlorophyll water is a potent detoxifier are complete BS. Why? Because there’s NO SUCH THING AS DETOXING THE BODY. You can detoxify the body from drugs and alcohol, but the premise of pouring in some trendy health food to clean up the remnants of too much junk food, artificial ingredients and whatever else, is a marketing myth made up to sell detox products. There’s simply no evidence anyway that it’s a real phenomenon. Legitimate toxins in the body (that’s waste products from normal cell activity) are removed from the body by the liver, kidneys, colon and skin.
This is the point at which I’d normally carry out a head to head analysis of chlorophyll’s nutritional content versus a close contender, but there really isn’t one to fairly compare it to.
However, the key nutrients found in chlorophyll are: vitamins A, C, E and K, beta carotene, magnesium, iron, potassium and calcium.
Worth the hype?
The reason for this is simple. Yes chlorophyll does contain lots of vitamins and minerals your body needs, and this means that adding it to your diet is a good rather than bad thing. BUT chlorophyll water is a very convoluted and unnecessarily expensive way of getting a daily dose of the green stuff.
You may recall I began this piece by saying that chlorophyll is what makes plants look green, and that’s a clue to the best natural source of chlorophyll: green leafy veg. And unlike processed, bottled green water that’s been sitting on the shelf of some store hoping you’re gullible enough to buy it, green veg is fresher, unprocessed and high in fibre that’s legitimately good for weight loss and colon health.
What are your thoughts? Chlorophyll water – fad or fab? Leave a comment below!