Chlorophyll refers to a complex of molecules (in plants and algea) that contain Mg and basic poryphrin ring structure. They are the molecules that give plants the green pigment. The function of chlorophyll in plants is to absorb sunlight, which is an essential requirement for plants to carry out photosynthesis. Photosynthesis is a process in which plants synthesize carbohydrates using sunlight, CO2 and water.
Chloropyll containing microorganisms include some algae types such as phytoplanktons.
Common chlorophyll types in plants and algae are:
- Chlorophyll a
- Chlorophyll b
- Chlorophyll c
- Chlorophyll d
Health Benefits of Chlorophyll
Chlorophyll is present in all plants, even though the content may vary depending on species, plant parts or growth stage. Chlorophyll is abundant in leafy vegetables and generally to a lesser extent in fruits. For example in spinach, chlorophyll can be as high as 1% on a dry weight basis.
Chlorophyll and its derivatives are known to have antioxidant activity.
Consumption of leafy vegetables, rich in chlorophyll and chlorophyll derivatives such as chlorophyllin, is associated with reduced risks of certain types of cancers. Therefore, consumption of chlorophyll-rich diet could prevent or delay the onset of certain diseases such as cancer that manifest with aging and are induced by free radicals.
Researches on animals have shown that chlorophyll derivatives, such as chlorophyllin, exhibit antioxidant activity, at least as good as vitamin C. The function of chlorophyll in animals is suggested to be inhibition of lipid peroxidation and protection of mitochondria from oxidative damage induced by various free-radicals and other reactive oxygen species. Chlorophyllin has also been reported to inhibit radiation-induced DNA and mitochondrial membrane damage and it would also appear to be a potent protector of DNA with regard to oxidative damage.
Industrial Uses of Chlorophyll
In the food industry, chlorophyll is used as a natural pigment ingridient in processed foods. Because of its strong green pigment and consumers growing preference for natural foods, chlorophyll is gaining importance as food additive. Increasing number of researches are also reporting health benefits from consumption of high chlorophyll diet. This in turn is encouraging food processors to switch from artificial pigments to chlorophyll-based natural coloring.
In the cosmetics industry, chlorophyll a (known as Natural Green 3) is used in soaps and cosmetics products.
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