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What is chlorophyll and is it useful?

Chlorophyll is the chemoprotein that gives plants their green color. Humans get it from leafy green vegetables, such as broccoli, lettuce, cabbage, and spinach. There are claims that chlorophyll gets rid of acne, helps liver function, and even prevents cancer.

Another claim is that the chlorophyll in a shot of wheatgrass can stave off bad breath and body odor.

Is there any scientific evidence to back this up? Are you really getting what you’re paying for when you buy a chlorophyll supplement or a shot of wheatgrass at the health food store?

“There was a study conducted back in the 1950s by Dr. F. Howard Westcott, which showed that chlorophyll can help combat bad breath and body odor, but the results of that research have basically been debunked,” says Dr. David Dragoo, a Colorado physician.

There hasn’t been any research since to support that chlorophyll has any effect on body odor, though some people continue to use it.

“The National Council Against Health Fraud says that since chlorophyll cannot be absorbed by the human body, it can therefore have no beneficial effects on folks with halitosis or body odor,” Dragoo explains.

Other widely circulating claims are that chlorophyll can ease symptoms related to arthritis, cystic fibrosis, and herpes. But again, Dragoo doesn’t buy it. “As far as factually verifiable research, there is no truth to the fact that chlorophyll can be effectively used to treat those illnesses,” he says.

Vegetables rich in chlorophyll, such as leafy greens, have plenty of health benefits on their own. Elizabeth Somer, MA, RD, and the author of “Eat Your Way to Sexy,” says that the lutein found in leafy greens, for example, is great for the eyes.

Even without scientific evidence, Somer says it’s fine for people to think chlorophyll is good if it causes them to eat more vegetables.

Somer also affirms that no scientific evidence exists to support chlorophyll’s deodorizing properties. The suggestion that it reduces breath, body, and wound odor is unsupported. It’s obviously still a widely held belief, she notes, given the post-meal parsley that restaurants use to garnish plates.

The health benefits of chlorophyll for humans are disputed. However, chlorophyll might just be what the doctor (or veterinarian) ordered for our four-legged friends.

Dr. Liz Hanson is a veterinarian in the seaside town of Corona del Mar, California. She says that chlorophyll does offer health benefits, especially to dogs.

“There are many health benefits of chlorophyll. It helps cleanse all the cells of the body, fights infection, heals wounds, helps to build the immune system and replenish red blood cells, and detoxifies the liver and digestive system,” she says.

Hanson said that chlorophyll also definitely helps with bad breath in dogs, which don’t tend to eat vegetables. “One of the most important ways that our pets benefit from chlorophyll is that it both treats and prevents bad breath from the inside out,” she says. “It also improves digestion, which is the most likely cause of bad breath, even in dogs with healthy teeth and gums.”

You can purchase flavored chew treats containing chlorophyll at pet stores or online. Perhaps you should stick to mints if it’s your own breath you want to keep fresh.