Does Chlorophyll Work for Weight Loss? (TikTok Shenanigans)

Written by Nathan | Updated on 13 November 2021

Fad diets and other ways to effortlessly lose weight or fat will always be a popular topic online, and one of the latest TikTok shenanigans is proof of this. 

Influencers on the social media website have popularized Liquid Chlorophyll as a miracle drink that they claim can do wonders for your body and health: from cleansing your skin to preventing cancer. Most prominently, however, is the claim that drinking liquid chlorophyll will help you lose weight. But other than the anecdotal evidence found on social media, are there any research and clinical trials that can support this claim? Does chlorophyll work for weight loss, or is it just another fad? 

This article discusses what chlorophyll is, whether consuming chlorophyll for losing belly fat works, as well as the possible benefits and risks of taking it.

What is Chlorophyll?

Chlorophyll is a pigment found in plants that give them their green color. More importantly, it is the key component of photosynthesis or the biological process by which plants use sunlight to derive energy for metabolism and growth. [1] 

Because of this and its severe importance and role to plant life, scientists and doctors have further questioned the effects of chlorophyll on the human body and whether it may be beneficial to our health as well.

Liquid Chlorophyll (TikTok Shenanigans)

Evidently, scientists aren’t the only ones curious about chlorophyll, as suggested by its recent rise of popularity on social media sites. The new rage is “chlorophyll water,” or drinking liquid chlorophyll to gain the claimed health benefits of this antioxidant.

The TikTok liquid chlorophyll is easy to make; you just have to buy supplements like the famous chlorophyll drops and add it to an 8-ounce glass of water that you will drink at intervals throughout the day.     

However, it should be noted that these supplements are not actually the pure chlorophyll found in plants. Instead, they are chlorophyllin, which is a semi-synthetic chlorophyll made by adding a mixture of water-soluble sodium and copper salts. [2] Arguments have been made that the chlorophyllin found in supplements, rather than pure chlorophyll, is the better source as some believe the body more easily absorbs it. 

But does it actually work for weight loss as people claim?

Does Chlorophyll Work for Weight Loss?

One of the most sought-after claimed effects of chlorophyll is its role in weight loss. However, other than the anecdotal evidence on TikTok, research into this topic is still very limited and remains inconclusive.

In a 2013 study, researchers investigated the impacts of thylakoids – chlorophyll-containing membranes in chloroplasts of green plants – on hunger motivation and fullness. They found that the dietary addition of thylakoids to a high carbohydrate meal suppressed hunger and intensified signals of satiety. [3] Essentially, adding thylakoids to your diet may help reduce your food intake as you will feel full and satiated faster, and this, in turn, will eventually lead to weight loss.

In 2014, another study was conducted which investigated the effects of thylakoids on body weight when ingested long term. The study found that over the course of 12 weeks, the group that consumed the green-plant membranes once daily lost more bodyweight than the group that didn’t. However, in terms of waist circumference and body fat, the researchers found no difference between the two groups. [4]

While these studies may, at face value, show a positive correlation between weight loss and chlorophyll consumption, more clinical trials must be conducted specifically on chlorophyll itself to arrive at a definitive conclusion. Both the studies above investigated the effects of the green-plant membrane thylakoids, which are composed of hundreds of different proteins, vitamins, and antioxidants – chlorophyll only being one of them [5]. 

Even more, recent studies stress the need for further research into this topic. In 2019, researchers conducted a systematic review on the effects of thylakoids on appetite and weight loss. They concluded that thylakoid enriched meals could decrease appetite and probably decrease food intake in the short term. [6] Nevertheless, this review continues to emphasize that more studies are essential to fully understand the effects of long-term green-plant membrane supplementation on weight loss. 

For now, whether chlorophyll or its derivative chlorophyllin is beneficial for weight loss remains definitively unanswered. 

Other Claimed Benefits of Chlorophyll

Other than allegedly aiding weight loss, chlorophyll is famous for other claimed benefits. However, not all of these claims have sound evidence yet they still get thrown around frequently. 

1. Cancer Prevention and Detoxification

Another important area of research is the effects of chlorophyll and chlorophyllin on cancer and detoxification of carcinogens in the human body. 

One study in 1994 found that chlorophyllin accelerated the degradation of a carcinogen, but the inhibition of the activation of the carcinogen only occurred with high concentrations of chlorophyllin. [7] While promising, this study was performed in vitro – in a test tube or outside a living organism – and the researchers suggested that their results are unlikely to occur within a living organism due to the limited uptake of chlorophyllin from the gut. 

Furthermore, a 2013 animal study performed on trout found that natural chlorophyll can provide cancer chemoprotection by reducing the bioavailability of certain carcinogens. On the other hand, it found that the chlorophyll failed to inhibit tumor incidence with high doses of the carcinogen. [8]

More recently, a study in 2018 investigated the effects of the daily consumption of oral chlorophyll on pancreatic cancer cells. This was also an animal study performed on mice with transplanted pancreatic cancer cells. They found that the administration of the oral chlorophyll resulted in a significant reduction of pancreatic tumor sizes in these mice. The study goes further by suggesting that chlorophyll contributes to preventing cancer, as can be seen by the decreased cancer incidence in individuals who consume green vegetables. [9]

Clearly, all of these studies are promising. However, these studies were performed either in vitro, or on animals, and only recently have there been clinical trials on humans. More in-depth research with trusted methodologies must be done to conclude the effects of chlorophyll on human cancer cells.

2. Wound Healing

Chlorophyllin has been used for wound healing for more than five decades. In the 1940s, research started to show that chlorophyllin accelerated the healing of wounds in animals and slowed the growth of some bacteria cultures in test tube samples. Later on in the 1950s, chlorophyllin was added to topical ointments for wound care to reduce inflammation and accelerate healing. [10]

Furthermore, a review of wound care products done in 2008 stated that the inclusion of chlorophyllin is more effective as compared to other products. Chlorophyllin can thoroughly cleanse lesions and also maintain optimal circulation, helping the wound to heal faster. Moreover, the addition of chlorophyllin has been found to reduce the pain of the wound while it heals. [11] 

3. Facial Skin Care

Chlorophyll and its derivatives are also being studied as a treatment for acne, enlarged pores, and photodamages like fine lines and wrinkles. 

In a pilot study conducted in 2015, subjects were provided with a topical gel containing 0.1% of a chlorophyllin complex that they were to use twice daily. The study concluded with positive results in that the topical chlorophyllin gel was shown to be clinically effective in treating mild to moderate acne and large pores when used for three weeks. [12]

Additionally, another pilot study in 2015 assessed the efficacy of topical chlorophyllin on photodamaged facial skin. In this study, the subjects were women with mild-moderate fine lines and wrinkles. Ten subjects completed the eight-week study, and the results showed statistically significant improvements of mild-moderate photodamage. [13]

The above suggests that chlorophyll is effective in treating certain facial skincare concerns. Nevertheless, it is important to note that both above studies are pilot, preliminary studies only, and that the scientific evidence is still lacking. 

See here if you’re interested in the best diets for Acne care.

4. Red Blood Cell Production

Chlorophyll has also been claimed to aid in the production of red blood cells in the body. 

In 2004, a preliminary study found that wheatgrass juice reduced blood transfusion requirements in patients with thalassemia, which is a blood disorder. The patients were instructed to consume 100ml of wheatgrass juice daily, and the results showed a decreased need of red blood cell transfusion by 25% or more. [14]

This is relevant to the effects of chlorophyll on the body as chlorophyll makes up greater than 70 percent of wheat grass’ solid content. Nevertheless, the researchers of the study focused primarily on wheatgrass in its entirety and not its chlorophyll make-up. More targeted research must be done to prove that chlorophyll is the essential factor of wheatgrass that reduced the need for blood transfusions in the study.

5. Promotion of Gut Health

New research has also started to suggest that chlorophyll may promote gut health. 

An animal study in 2018 on mice that were induced with liver fibrosis. The results found that oral administration of chlorophyllin reduced the force of intestinal inflammation and improved liver fibrosis in the mice tested. Moreover, chlorophyllin also quickly re-balanced and regulated the microbiota or bacteria in the gut. [15] 

6. Odor Neutralization

Anecdotal claims of chlorophyll’s deodorizing benefits started in the early 1940s with reports that chlorophyll had a deodorant property when applied to skin ulcers. This deodorant property was also alleged to be effective against all kinds of body odors when the chlorophyll was taken orally. 

This deodorizing claim was contested as early as 1953 when the results of a study showed no deodorizing effects on the smell of the urine and feces of the participating subjects. This study unequivocally stated that even chlorophyll doses at least 25 times greater than usually recommended did not neutralize odors. [16] 

However, more recent studies are re-examining chlorophyll’s deodorizing properties. A study conducted in 2004 examined chlorophyllin and its effects on trimethylaminuria, a condition that causes a fishy smell in those afflicted. The study found that chlorophyllin significantly decreased the trimethylamines concentration in the subjects’ urine and that the effects of chlorophyllin lasted longer than observed for activated charcoal.  

Contested Claims

The previous section discussed the claimed effects of consuming chlorophyll supported by clinical trials and trusted research. Below are some of the other claimed benefits of chlorophyll that are currently being contested due to lack of evidence or conflicting data.

In 2014, researchers conducted an evidence-based systematic review that discussed areas wherein the evidence of the benefits of chlorophyll were lacking [17]. 

These areas are enumerated below:

  1. Herpes
  2. Metabolic disorders 
  3. Pneumonia
  4. Poisoning
  5. Tuberculosis
  6. Anemia
  7. Metabolic disorders
  8. Sepsis
  9. Rheumatoid arthritis

Possible Side Effects

With all of the possible benefits chlorophyll offers, the risks that come with consuming it must also be established. Fortunately, most of these side effects appear to be minor. 

First, orally induced chlorophyllin has been shown to cause green discoloration of the urine and feces, and has also been associated with black discoloration of the tongue. Second, topically applied chlorophyllin has been reported to cause a mild burning or itching sensation in wounds. Lastly, diarrhea, nausea, and vomiting have also been reported as a side effect of oral chlorophyllin consumption. [10] 

Should You Drink Liquid Chlorophyll?

Now that we’ve weighed the possible benefits and risks of chlorophyll, the question now is: should you try liquid chlorophyll? 

The answer: it’s up to you. We’ve seen that there are very minor side effects and a lot of possible benefits to it.  However, suppose you will be drinking liquid chlorophyll solely for its alleged weight-loss-inducing properties. In that case, it is best to incorporate a balanced diet and exercise routine while only using chlorophyll supplementarily.

More importantly, remember to check in with your healthcare provider first before taking liquid chlorophyll to ensure your personal health and safety. If you’re curious about other ways to consume chlorophyll, we’ve listed its other sources below. 

Sources of Chlorophyll

If you’re thinking about trying the chlorophyll water trend and are unsure where to find it, you’d be surprised to know that you most likely regularly consume it already. Below, we’ve listed its other sources. 

Natural Chlorophyll

We regularly consume chlorophyll when we eat dark green, leafy vegetables because these types of vegetables are rich sources of natural chlorophyll, which is non-toxic to humans. [10] Some examples of these vegetables are spinach, parsley, green beans, and arugula. As such, incorporating chlorophyll in your diet can easily be achieved by including these green vegetables. 

Wheat Grass as an Alternative

As mentioned above (see red blood cell production), wheat grass’s solid content is estimated to be about 70 percent chlorophyll. [14] As such, adding wheatgrass to your food or drinking wheatgrass juice is a great alternative way to add chlorophyll to your diet. 

Chlorophyll Supplements

Taking chlorophyll supplements is another popular way people are adding chlorophyll into their diets. This is an easy alternative as chlorophyll supplements come in drops, pills, or capsules. 

You can buy chlorophyll supplements online through websites like Amazon or at your local stores. While chlorophyll has shown to have some benefits, check out 3 other supplements that are tried and true, rather than a recent fad

In Summary

Chlorophyll has been a topic of interest in the scientific and medical communities for years, and now, it is present in popular media like TikTok as well. So, after reading the research on the subject, does chlorophyll work for weight loss?  

While there are many claimed benefits to consuming chlorophyll, most of the current data and evidence only suggest and allude to some of these benefits. Ultimately, most of them do not conclusively confirm the benefits of consuming chlorophyll, and we need to learn and gather more evidence to fully support these claims.

Nevertheless, if you decide to join in on the trend and drink liquid chlorophyll for weight loss, make sure that you are doing it safely and that you are following the recommended daily amounts.

Resources

[1] Vallero, D. A. (2016). Systems. Environmental Biotechnology, Second Edition, 151–207. https://doi.org/10.1016/b978-0-12-407776-8.00004-9

[2] Zeece, M. (2020). Food Colorants. Introduction to the Chemistry of Food, 313–344. https://doi.org/10.1016/b978-0-12-809434-1.00008-6

[3] Stenblom, E.-L., Montelius, C., Östbring, K., Håkansson, M., Nilsson, S., Rehfeld, J. F., & Erlanson-Albertsson, C. (2013). Supplementation by Thylakoids to a high carbohydrate meal decreases feelings of hunger, elevates CCK levels and prevents postprandial hypoglycaemia in overweight women. Appetite, 68, 118–123. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.appet.2013.04.022

[4] Montelius, C., Erlandsson, D., Vitija, E., Stenblom, E.-L., Egecioglu, E., & Erlanson-Albertsson, C. (2014). Body weight loss, reduced urge for palatable food and increased release of GLP-1 through daily supplementation with green-plant membranes for three months in overweight women. Appetite, 81, 295–304. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.appet.2014.06.101

[5] Albertsson, P.-Å., Köhnke, R., Emek, S. C., Mei, J., Rehfeld, J. F., Åkerlund, H.-E., & Erlanson-Albertsson, C. (2007). Chloroplast membranes retard fat digestion and induce satiety: Effect of biological membranes on pancreatic lipase/co-lipase. Biochemical Journal, 401(3), 727–733. https://doi.org/10.1042/bj20061463

[6] Amirinejad, A., Heshmati, J., & Shidfar, F. (2019). Effects of thylakoid intake on appetite and weight loss: a systematic review. Journal of diabetes and metabolic disorders, 19(1), 565–573. https://doi.org/10.1007/s40200-019-00443-w

[7] Tachino, N., Guo, D., Dashwood, W. M., Yamane, S., Larsen, R., & Dashwood, R. (1994). Mechanisms of the in vitro antimutagenic action of chlorophyllin against benzo[a]pyrene: studies of enzyme inhibition, molecular complex formation and degradation of the ultimate carcinogen. Mutation research, 308(2), 191–203. https://doi.org/10.1016/0027-5107(94)90154-6

[8] McQuistan, T. J., Simonich, M. T., Pratt, M. M., Pereira, C. B., Hendricks, J. D., Dashwood, R. H., Williams, D. E., & Bailey, G. S. (2012). Cancer chemoprevention by dietary chlorophylls: a 12,000-animal dose-dose matrix biomarker and tumor study. Food and chemical toxicology : an international journal published for the British Industrial Biological Research Association, 50(2), 341–352. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.fct.2011.10.065

[9] Vaňková, K., Marková, I., Jašprová, J., Dvořák, A., Subhanová, I., Zelenka, J., Novosádová, I., Rasl, J., Vomastek, T., Sobotka, R., Muchová, L., & Vítek, L. (2018). Chlorophyll-Mediated Changes in the Redox Status of Pancreatic Cancer Cells Are Associated with Its Anticancer Effects. Oxidative medicine and cellular longevity, 2018, 4069167. https://doi.org/10.1155/2018/4069167

[10] Higdon, J. (2004) Chlorophyll and Chlorophyllin. Linus Pauling Institute. Oregon State University. https://lpi.oregonstate.edu/mic/dietary-factors/phytochemicals/chlorophyll-chlorophyllin

[11] Wound Management & Prevention. (2008, August). Enzymatic Debriding Agents: An Evaluation of the Medical Literature. HMP global learning network. Retrieved November 8, 2021, from https://www.hmpgloballearningnetwork.com/site/wmp/content/enzymatic-debriding-agents-an-evaluation-medical-literature.

[12] Stephens, T. J., McCook, J. P., & Herndon, J. H., Jr (2015). Pilot Study of Topical Copper Chlorophyllin Complex in Subjects With Facial Acne and Large Pores. Journal of drugs in dermatology : JDD, 14(6), 589–592, from https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/26091384/

[13] Sigler, M. L., & Stephens, T. J. (2015). Assessment of the safety and efficacy of topical copper chlorophyllin in women with photodamaged facial skin. Journal of drugs in dermatology : JDD, 14(4), 401–404.

[14] Marwaha, R. K., Bansal, D., Kaur, S., & Trehan, A. (2004). Wheat Grass Juice reduces Transfusion Requirement in Patients with Thalassemia Major: A Pilot Study. Indian Pediatrics. Retrieved November 7, 2021, from http://www.indianpediatrics.net/july2004/july-716-720.htm.

[15] Zheng, H., You, Y., Hua, M., Wu, P., Liu, Y., Chen, Z., Zhang, L., Wei, H., Li, Y., Luo, M., Zeng, Y., Liu, Y., Luo, D. X., Zhang, J., Feng, M., Hu, R., Pandol, S. J., & Han, Y. P. (2018). Chlorophyllin Modulates Gut Microbiota and Inhibits Intestinal Inflammation to Ameliorate Hepatic Fibrosis in Mice. Frontiers in physiology, 9, 1671. https://doi.org/10.3389/fphys.2018.01671

[16] Brocklehurst J. C. (1953). An assessment of chlorophyll as a deodorant. British medical journal, 1(4809), 541–544. https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.1.4809.541

[17] Ulbricht, C., Bramwell, R., Catapang, M., Giese, N., Isaac, R., Le, T. D., Montalbano, J., Tanguay-Colucci, S., Trelour, N. J., Weissner, W., Windsor, R. C., Wortley, J., Yoon, H., & Zeolla, M. M. (2014). An evidence-based systematic review of chlorophyll by the Natural Standard Research Collaboration. Journal of dietary supplements, 11(2), 198–239.https://doi.org/10.3109/19390211.2013.859853

About the Author

Nathan

Nathan has been a fitness enthusiast for the past 12 years and jumps between several types of training such as bodybuilding, powerlifting, cycling, gymnastics, and backcountry hiking. Due to the varying caloric needs of numerous sports, he has cycled between all types of diets and currently eats a whole food diet. In addition, Nathan lives with several injuries such as hip impingement, spondylolisthesis, and scoliosis, so he underwent self-rehabilitation and no longer lives with debilitating pain.