TikTok is a cesspool of garbage nutrition videos, so when nutrition trends come out of that platform, I usually try to ignore them. Like, ‘nature’s cereal’ aka fruit with coconut water and ice is a total diet culture scam – if I want cereal, I’m going to eat it.
But so many people are asking me about the chlorophyll water trend, so here you go.
What is chlorophyll?
Without going into too much detail, chlorophyll is what makes plants green. It’s available in drops, for TikTokers, but is also present – surprise! – in the greens we actually chew, including arugula, spinach, and broccoli. Greens powders contain it as well, although apparently, those aren’t as sexy as chlorophyll drops.
People are using chlorophyll drops in water, which creates a pond scum-looking drink.
Chlorophyllin is the water-soluble form of chlorophyll that is used in supplements. The two forms are very similar, although regular chlorophyll is fat-soluble.
Chlorophyll is suspected to be high in antioxidants, and much like the wheatgrass trend in the 90’s (before a lot of these TikTik people were even born), there are some pretty crazy claims being made about this supplement.
Chlorophyll supplements reportedly contain vitamins A, C, E, and K, which are all essential for health. So what’s the deal? Shouldn’t everyone be gulping down a daily glass of chlorophyll water?
There’s always some new nutrition fad being pushed on social media, and this is how it goes:
Some celebrity says they love chlorophyll/celery juice/whatever
The food may have some benefits, but the praise for it is so hyperbolic, it gives everyone who isn’t using it (and who cares), FOMO
People on social media start using it, because CELEBRITY
The claims for the food/supplement by people who don’t science, multiply and blow right up to just straight misinformation
It becomes this ridiculous trend with no evidence behind it
The trend dies down because people figure out that they would actually rather not drink greenish brown water that tastes like dirt, every single day
A new trend pops up
Here are some of the most commonly-made claims about chlorophyll water, and the research – if any – behind them:
Chlorophyll and weight loss.
Of COURSE there’s a weight loss claim with chlorophyll. Someone on my Facebook page also commented that she knows a person who has lost a lot of weight since they’ve started drinking chlorophyll water.
But was it really due to the chlorophyll? I guess we’ll never know, but the research behind chlorophyll water and weight loss isn’t convincing.
This small 2014 study showed that obese humans lost more weight when they received 5 grams of chlorophyllin a day, versus those who didn’t. Note: 1 tablespoon of chlorophyll = around 100 mg.
The study’s methodology wasn’t great, and the weight loss difference between the two groups, while ‘significant,’ was very small. Like, 2kg. Also, I’m going to bet that nobody is drinking 5 grams of chlorophyll drops a day.
This 2013 study suggested that thylakoid (the structure in the chloroplasts, that contains the chlorophyll) supplementation at one meal reduced appetite, but the methodology was faulty.
As in, subjective reporting of hunger levels, which is not exactly precise.
Also: are thylakoids actually in chlorophyll drops? Because if not, studies using thylakoids aren’t applicable.
Other chlorophyll and weight loss studies have been done in mice , which I don’t take as proof in any way of chlorophyll’s efficacy with weight loss.
Everything else is just anecdotal.
Chlorophyll strengthens red blood cells.
People are freaking out a bit about how the chemical structure of chlorophyll is very similar to that of hemoglobin, which they believe means that chlorophyll can act like blood.
I even found a piece of content describing chlorophyll as ‘green blood.’
What these people are missing, is that a similar chemical structure doesn’t mean that chlorophyll will act like blood, ‘build’ blood, or strengthen blood cells.
Physiology is not that simple. Hey, humans share 98.7% of our genes with chimpanzees, but that doesn’t mean we’re the same animals.
As far as nutrients, even if chlorophyll is a source of iron, the amount you’d get in a few drops of liquid chlorophyll in your water would be negligible.
Otherwise, the red blood cell claim seems to lack any research around it.
Chlorophyll and cancer prevention.
While a diet full of ultra-processed food may be linked with all sorts of cancers, a diet full of plants seems to have the opposite effect. Of course, there are no specific foods or supplements that are known to directly prevent cancer.
And a lot of times, cancer happens anyways, regardless of diet. This is an unfortunately fact of life. But why not consume a diet that’s full of the foods that may at least in some way, protect us from cancer?
That’s where greens supplements like chlorophyll can come in. At least, that’s what’s commonly believed.
The antioxidants in greens supplements like chlorophyll are concentrated, and may be helpful in promoting health. Be mindful though that you can get too many antioxidants, and the ones you consume are better eaten in fibre-rich produce that you actually chew.
The nutrients in whole foods also work synergistically, rather than singly.
This isn’t saying that chlorophyll and other greens supplements are useless in this regard. What I’m saying is that nobody knows if they have an effect, and how much of an effect they have.
Chlorophyll clears up acne.
Chlorophyll applied topically may help with wounds and inflammation…outside of the body.
Chlorophyll consumed internally? Who knows? The studies just aren’t there. Chlorophyll is known to cause skin irritation in some people, just in case you want to try it.
Chlorophyll boosts energy.
Not sure how this would work. Either you’re hydrating more with the water part of chlorophyll water, or it’s the placebo effect.
Chlorophyll detoxes your body.
Yeah, I don’t think so. Sure, greens supplements tend to contain vitamin E and vitamin C, which are necessary for our detox pathways. But I’m not sure why every time there’s a new green drink out there (looking at you, celery juice), it’s always accompanied by sketchy detox claims.
Chlorophyll won’t ‘alkalize’ your body, either. The alkaline diet is a total myth: despite what the internet says, nothing we eat or drink can change the pH of our body. That’s tightly regulated by our lungs and our kidneys. (Read my review of the alkaline diet here)
Should you try chlorophyll water?
Listen. If you want to try chlorophyll water, go right ahead. It’s probably not harmful, and if it makes you feel better, then drink it. Just don’t expect miracles.
The research on chlorophyll is severely lacking, especially in humans.
Consuming too much chlorophyll may cause gastrointestinal upset.
Just because something is green, and just because it contains ‘nutrients,’ doesn’t mean that it’s going to make you healthier or change your life.
Getting your nutrition information from actual experts, not TikTokers who say things like, ‘chlorophyll water makes my cells stoked!!’ is always a good idea.