Confession: I meet every new wellness trend with an equal mix of eye roll and wonder. I’m as skeptical of every trend I hear about as I am hopeful that this trend will do all that it’s promised.
When I first heard about the chlorophyll water trend on TikTok, I was excited. Unlike the pancake cereal trend in the early months of the pandemic, which seemed time consuming and required more visual creativity than I possess, this trend is easy. Add a few drops of chlorophyll to water and drink. And this trend came with wellness benefits. Specifically the promise of increased energy, brighter skin, and cancer prevention. (As a brain cancer widow, I’m willing to give anything that promises cancer prevention a second look and a thorough vetting.) I was all in to try.
And yet…the skeptical part of me needed more information. Is this the miracle product it seems to be?
What Is Chlorophyll?
The word “chlorophyll” probably sounds vaguely familiar if you remember anything from high school science. Chlorophyll is the pigment in plants that gives them their green color. It also plays an important role in photosynthesis.
It’s found naturally in a variety of green vegetables, including spinach and kale. It’s also found in algae, wheatgrass, potatoes and parsley. According to board-certified dermatologist Purvisha Patel, chlorophyll is high in vitamins C, A, E, and K. It also has antioxidant properties, which help fight free radicals that arise when skin is damaged.
The chlorophyll gracing TikTok likely isn’t actually chlorophyll. It’s chlorophyllin—a semisynthetic, water-soluble version of chlorophyll according to Noelle Reid, MD, a board-certified LA-based family medicine physician.
How To Take Chlorophyll?
Chlorophyll is available in a variety of forms, including liquid drops, encapsulated supplements, powders, and sprays. The liquid drops are the trend of the moment and also the one Laura DeCesaris, a clinical nutritionist likes best, along with the gelcaps.
Doses vary per supplement, so it’s important to read the label before adding chlorophyll to your water. Also, it’s probably a good idea to start slow, regardless of the serving size on the label.
What Are The Benefits of Chlorophyll?
If you get your information from TikTok, then the benefits of chlorophyll include increased energy, clearer skin, weight loss, and less body odor. The reality is that the jury is out on many of those benefits.
Chlorophyll seems to have caught TikTokers attention because of its skin clearing benefits. There does seem to be some small evidence to support that. Some studies have found that chlorophyll can help with acne, large pores, and signs of aging. A study in the Korean Journal of Investigative Dermatology found that chlorophyll “significantly” improved wrinkles and skin elasticity in women over 45.
Dhaval G. Bhanusali, a board-certified dermatologist based in New York City, cautioned that the research is “very limited,” but noted that it is “certainly promising.”
Cancer Prevention Benefits
Chlorophyll does seem to have some anticancer properties. A 2001 study from Johns Hopkins found that “taking chlorophyllin or eating green vegetables … that are rich in chlorophyll may be a practical way of reducing the risk of liver cancer and other cancers caused by environmental triggers.”
Weight Loss And Bloating
Users who are turning to chlorophyll for weight loss are probably going to be disappointed. There’s not a lot of research to show that chlorophyll can help with weight loss or bloat reduction. “The science isn’t there yet to show its link to weight loss,” Tracy Lockwood Beckerman, MS, RDN, a New York-based registered dietitian, told VeryWellHealth.
However, chlorophyll does have anti-inflammatory properties and that does “support healthy gut function,” according to DeCesaris.
Some TikTok influencers also claim that chlorophyll can reduce body odor. Many of the reviews for chlorophyll supplements do suggest that folks notice less body odor after consuming chlorophyll. However, that’s anecdotal and could be attributed to a placebo effect. The reality is that we don’t have enough research to determine whether chlorophyll can actually reduce body odor or not.
What Are The Risks Of Chlorophyll?
By and large, the side effects you might experience from taking chlorophyll are mild, and mostly digestive. They include: nausea, cramping, diarrhea, vomiting, and potentially green-color bowel movements. The symptoms are more likely to occur when you over-consume chlorophyll or take it on an empty stomach. Dr. Kandavanam also warned that overconsumption could cause photosensitivity. If you’re taking photosensitizing drugs, be extra cautious as chlorophyll could increase the risk of sunburns.
The reality is that chlorophyll is probably not the miracle product TikTok influencers are making it out to be. However, it does have some health benefits that make it an overall positive trend. DeCesaris noted that she’s “seen enough people feel benefits anecdotally from including chlorophyll in their routine to feel that it can be a good part of an overall healthy lifestyle, despite a lack of rigorous research behind it.”
If you do decide to add chlorophyll to your routine, just be cautious. As with any supplement that’s not regulated by the FDA, look for evidence that it has been tested by independent, third-parties for potency, purity, and safety. Pregnant and lactating folks should be aware that chlorophyll hasn’t been studied from this aspect. And, as always, and most importantly, check with your doctor before adding a new supplement to your routine.
The takeaways seem to be the same takeaways that frequently emerge from social media wellness trends: there are no miracle cures, but if you do embark on a wellness trend speak to your doctor — and practice moderation.
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