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Chlorella and Spirulina Microalgae as Sources of Functional Foods, Nutraceuticals, and Food Supplements; an Overview


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Chlorella and Spirulina are the two of the most well-known microalgae genus. Both microalgae genus have a significant content of proteins, vitamins, pigments, fatty acids, sterols, among others, which make their production/application by the food industry quite interesting. Chlorella genus is a eukaryotic microorganism, whereas Spirulina genus (cyanobacteria) is a prokaryotic microorganism. The aim of this review was to provide an overview on Chlorella and Spirulina microalgae, particularly as an alternative source of functional foods, nutraceuticals, and food supplements, in which the following compound groups were addressed: (I) Long-Chain Polyunsaturated Fatty Acids; (II) Phenolic Compounds; (III) Volatile Compounds; (IV) Sterols; (V) Proteins, Amino Acids, Peptides; (VI) Vitamins; (VII) Polysaccharides; (VIII) Pigments and (IX) Food. Chlorella and Spirulina microalgae and their derivatives are concluded not to be widely commercially exploited. However, they are remarkable sources of functional foods, nutraceuticals and food supplements.
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Abbreviations: LCPUFAs, long-chain polyunsaturated fatty
acids; ω6, omega-6 family; GLA, γ-linolenic acid; AA, arachidonic
acid; ω3, omega-3 family; EPA, eicosapentaenoic acid; DHA,
docosahexaenoic acid; AL, linoleic acid; AAL, alpha-linolenic acids;
vitamin A, beta-carotene; vitamin K, phylloquinone; vitamin E, alpha-
tocopherol; B1, thiamine; B2, riboavin; B3, niacin; B5, pantothenic
acid; B6, pyridoxine; B9, folic acid; B12, cobalamin; B7, biotin; FAO,
food and agriculture organization; PCs, phenolic compounds; SW,
subcritical water; SPE/SFE, solid-phase/supercritical-uid; VOCs,
volatile compounds; AA-CSIA, stable isotope analysis; FDA, american
food and drug administration; EFSA, european food safety authority;
GRAS, generally recognized as safe; PCA, p-coumaric acid; NC,
narigenin chalcone; N, naringenin; LQ, liquiritigenin; D, daidzein;
A, apigenin; G, genistein; L, luteolin; DK, dihydrokaempferol; DQ,
dihydroquercetin; Q, quercetin
Chlorella and Spirulina are two of the most well-known microalgae
genus. Chlorella is unicellular and Spirulina is a lamentous
cyanobacterium, multicellular. Both are live in fresh water and have
bioactive compounds like protein, vitamins, pigments, long chain
polyunsaturated fatty acids, sterols and other compounds that make
those microalgae very interesting from the health benets point of
The name Chlorella was derived from the Greek chloros and from
the Latin ella, which mean green and small, respectively. Chlorella
microalgae have been present on earth since the pre-Cambrian
period-2.5 billion years ago. Japan is currently the world leader in
Chlorella microalgae consumption.1–3 The name Spirulina was based
on its spiral shaped. However, linear shaped Arthospira microalgae
have been identied.4 Spirulina microalgae are commonly called
blue-green algae-cyanobacteria; Arthospira Platensis and Arthospira
Maxima are cultivated worldwide.
Phytoplanktons such as microalgae have a nutritional value. In
this sense, the genus Chlorella and Spirulina are two of the most
prominent microalgae due to their high production of (I) Long-Chain
Polyunsaturated Fatty Acids; (II) Phenolic Compounds; (III) Volatile
Compounds; (IV) Sterols; (V) Proteins, Amino Acids, Peptides; (VI)
Vitamins; (VII) Polysaccharides; (VIII) Pigments and (IX) Food.
i. Long-Chain Polyunsaturated Fatty Acids produced by microalgae
can be used by the food industry as food supplements, since
microalgae synthesize the omega-6 family (ω6), which includes
γ-linolenic acid and arachidonic acid, and the omega-3 family
(ω3), which includes eicosapentaenoic acid and docosahexaenoic
ii. Phenolic Compounds are considered one of the most important
classes of natural antioxidants, which can be used as dietary
supplements. Phenolic compounds produced by microalgae
include caffeic acid, ferulic acid, p-coumaric acid that can be
extracted with subcritical water technology.7,8
iii. Volatile Compounds, such as carbonyls, alcohols, aldehydes, esters,
terpenes, among others, are naturally produced by microalgae and
can be used as a avoring. Microalgae are an attractive alternative
for producing avors due to the production under mild conditions,
high region-and enantio-selectivity, and for not generating toxic
iv. Sterols, including phytosterol, brassicasterol, ergostenol,
poriferasterol and clionasterol, play a fundamental role in
microalgae physiology, particularly regarding membrane integrity.
Phytosterol - structurally similar to cholesterol - is one of the most
promising sterols, since it can be used in healthy diets, especially
those aiming to reduce coronary heart disease.10
v. Proteins, Amino Acids, Peptides-Chlorella sp. and Spirulina
sp. contain high protein contents (more than 50% dry weight);
MOJ Food Process Technol. 2018;6(1):4558. 45
©2018 Andrade et al. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which
permits unrestricted use, distribution, and build upon your work non-commercially.
Chlorella and spirulina microalgae as sources
of functional foods, nutraceuticals, and food
supplements; an overview
Volume 6 Issue 1 - 2018
Lidiane M Andrade, Cristiano J Andrade,
Meriellen Dias, Claudio AO Nascimento,
Maria A Mendes
Chemical Engineering Department of Polytechnic School,
University of São Paulo, Brazil
Correspondence: Lidiane M. Andrade, Dempster MS Lab-
Chemical Engineering Department of Polytechnic School of
University of São Paulo, Brazil, Rua do Lago, 250, bl B, 3rd oor,
CEP: 05508-080, São Paulo, SP, Brazil, Tel +55-11-26481558,
Received: December 08, 2017 | Published: January 19,
Chlorella and Spirulina are the two of the most well-known microalgae genus. Both
microalgae genus have a significant content of proteins, vitamins, pigments, fatty
acids, sterols, among others, which make their production/application by the food
industry quite interesting. Chlorella genus is a eukaryotic microorganism, whereas
Spirulina genus (cyanobacteria) is a prokaryotic microorganism. The aim of this review
was to provide an overview on Chlorella and Spirulina microalgae, particularly as an
alternative source of functional foods, nutraceuticals, and food supplements, in which
the following compound groups were addressed: (I) Long-Chain Polyunsaturated Fatty
Acids; (II) Phenolic Compounds; (III) Volatile Compounds; (IV) Sterols; (V) Proteins,
Amino Acids, Peptides; (VI) Vitamins; (VII) Polysaccharides; (VIII) Pigments and
(IX) Food. Chlorella and Spirulina microalgae and their derivatives are concluded
not to be widely commercially exploited. However, they are remarkable sources of
functional foods, nutraceuticals and food supplements.
Keywords: chlorella, spirulina, functional foods, nutraceuticals, food supplements
MOJ Food Processing & Technology
Review Article Open Access
Chlorella and spirulina microalgae as sources of functional foods, nutraceuticals, and food supplements;
an overview 46
©2018 Andrade et al.
Citation: Andrade LM, Andrade CJ, Dias M, et al. Chlorella and spirulina microalgae as sources of functional foods, nutraceuticals, and food supplements; an
overview. MOJ Food Process Technol. 2018;6(1):4558. DOI: 10.15406/mojfpt.2018.06.00144
microalgae can thus be used as a source of essential amino acids,
including lysine, leucine, isoleucine, tryptophan and valine.11
vi. Vitamins are fundamental to maintain human health. Chlorella
and Spirulina microalgae produce vitamin A (beta-carotene),
vitamin C, vitamin E, thiamine (B1), riboavin (B2), niacin
(B3), pantothenic acid (B5), pyridoxine (B6), folic acid (B9) and
cobalamin (B12).12
vii. Polysaccharides produced by microalgae are usually very
complex; immulina and immurella were isolated from Spirulina
platensis and Chlorella pyrenoidosa, respectively. The structural
complexity of these polysaccharides may give them the biological
activities against cancer, which can be explored by pharmaceutical
viii. Pigments-the major classes of pigments from microalgae are
carotenoids and phycobiliproteins. In this sense, microalgae that
produce xanthophylls (caroteinoids) seem to be a good alternative
to replace Marigold owers.15,16
ix. Food-the consumption (human, animal diets or sh food) of
Chlorella and Spirulina microalgae impact positively on health.15–18
Therefore, there are numerous exceptional compounds of interest
that can be produced by microalgae, in particular Chlorella and
Spirulina microalgae. These biocompounds can be further applied as
functional, nutraceuticals and supplements feed.
Long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acids
Microalgae consist of approximately 30% lipids making them
very interesting as food supplementary by humans. In this sense,
microalgae are a source of long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acids
(LCPUFAs) especially of the omega-6 family (ω6) such as γ-linolenic
acid (GLA) and arachidonic acid (AA), and omega-3 family (ω3)
as eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA).
Omega 3 and 6 families are essential fatty acids - they cannot be
synthesized de novo by humans; and therefore, must ingest from
food.19,20 Thus, as detailed below, omega 3 and 6 families are
intimately related to health maintenance and disease prevention, in
which microalgae are a promising source of ω3 and ω6.
GLA - ω6 fatty acid is an essential fatty acid presenting anti-
inammatory properties. Although the human organism is capable of
producing very long chain fatty acids from linoleic (AL) and alpha-
linolenic acids (AAL), its synthesis is affected by several factors,
which makes the ingestion of these fatty acids essential for the
maintenance of a healthy condition.19,20
Arachidonic acid is present in the membranes of body cells, and is
the precursor of eicosanoid production through the metabolic pathway
of the arachidonic acid cascade. It is one of the essential fatty acids,
which need to be obtained via feeding by most mammals. Some of
them have little, if any, ability to convert linoleic acid to arachidonic
acid, and so it is essential that they get it in the diet.21
During breastfeeding, arachidonic acid can be found in breast
milk and the placenta. This acid is responsible for the development of
babies, some studies indicate that the low intake of arachidonic acid
from the diet of premature babies, can cause health problems for these
children. For those who practice physical exercise, arachidonic acid
is also important; it can be one of the keys to muscle development.
Studies have shown that this acid has increased performance levels.22
Lower levels of AA can contribute to neurological diseases such as
Alzheimer23 and Autism.24,25
Fatigue, poor memory, dry skin, heart conditions, suicidal behavior
(depression) and schizophrenia can be related to deciency of ω3.
EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid), (ω3 fatty acid) has an anti-inammatory
action in our body, since it acts as a precursor for prostaglandin-3,
thromboxane-3, and leukotriene-5 group, substances that are part of
our defense against inammation by helping to neutralize the pro-
inammatory activity of other similar molecules.
One of the key benets of EPA is to aid heart health and blood
circulation, preventing clots from forming in the blood and reducing the
risks of thrombosis and cerebrovascular accident (stroke). Individuals
who have inammatory diseases, such as lupus and rheumatoid
arthritis, may benet even more from the EPA use.26 DHA is essential
for fetal development and helps to form the retina, in addition, DHA
has antioxidant action and is the most benecial fatty acid for brain
health, since it favors cognition and connections between neurons,
beneting the memory, attention, reasoning, imagination, judgment
and various other aspects related to our mind.
In fact, a study that provided 900mg of algae DHA for six months
for a group of people suggests that DHA supplementation at this level
may support the memory of healthy adults aged 55 or older (based on
a clinical study using 900mg DHA per day for six months in healthy
adults with a mild memory complaint). In addition, there are research
that links DHA to increased production of anti-inammatory and
neuroprotective substances preventing the formation of deleterious
substances in the brain, which would decrease the risks of having
neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s.
The metabolic pathway of polyunsaturated fatty acids is shown in
Figure 1. Fatty acids of families ω-6 and ω-3 can be produced by
the body from linoleic and alpha-linolenic acids, by the action of
enzymes elongase and desaturase. The elongase acts added two
carbon atoms in the initial part of the chain, and the desaturases act
by oxidizing two carbons in the chain, creating a double bond in the
cis-conguration. Research has pointed out that ideal ratio between
ω3/ω6. Western diets have an omega 6 to omega 3 ratio of about 10
to 20:1. Several recommendations have been established by authors
and health agencies from different countries on the ideal ratio of
omega 6 and omega 3. Countries such as Germany and Sweden have
established the ratio 5:1, while in Japan this recommendation is more
rigorous, being 2:1. The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) is
less demanding and recommends the ratio of 5-10:1.27
Regarding recent reports on the production of LCPUFAs from
microalgae, Ferreira et al.30 evaluated the fatty acid prole of
Chlorella homosphaera, Chlorella sp. and Chlorella minutissima,
when cultivated in a heterotrophic mode (BG 11 or basal media) with
0, 5 and 10g of glucose/L. They found that the highest concentration
of lipids in the dry biomass of (I) Chlorella homosphaera, (II)
Chlorella sp. and (III) Chlorella minutissima strains were (I) 22.4%
w/w (BG 11-10g of glucose/L); (II) 21% w/w (Basal-5g of glucose/L)
and (III) 21.5% w/w (Basal-10g of glucose/L), respectively. Whereas,
the highest concentration of total PUFA was (I) 35.25% w/w (Basal-
0g of glucose/L), (II) 24.35% w/w (Basal-10g of glucose/L) and
(III) 25.65% w/w (Basal-10g of glucose/L). Similarly, the highest
production of ω3-ω6 were (I) 35.05% w/w (Basal-0g of glucose/L),
(II) 24.05% w/w (Basal-0g of glucose/L) and (III) 24.95% w/w
Chlorella and spirulina microalgae as sources of functional foods, nutraceuticals, and food supplements;
an overview 47
©2018 Andrade et al.
Citation: Andrade LM, Andrade CJ, Dias M, et al. Chlorella and spirulina microalgae as sources of functional foods, nutraceuticals, and food supplements; an
overview. MOJ Food Process Technol. 2018;6(1):4558. DOI: 10.15406/mojfpt.2018.06.00144
(Basal-10g of glucose/L). The authors concluded that heterotrophic
cultivation of Chlorella is an effective strategy for the production of
PUFAs, particularly the essential fatty acids. These biomolecules can
be applied in the food production. In this sense, some commercially
available products (human nutrition) produced with Chlorella and
Spirulina microalgae are shown in Table 1.
Figure 1 A) DHA biosynthesis-N-3 pathway; B) AA-Biosynthesis-N-6
Table 1 Chlorella and Spirulina commercialized for human nutrition31
genus Main producers Products Production
Taiwan Chlorella
Manufacturing Co.
Tablets, powders,
nectar, noodles 2,000
Klotze (Germany) Powders
Hainan Simai
Pharmacy Co.
Powders, extracts
Nutritionals (USA)
Tablets, powders,
Cyanotech Corp.
Tablets, powders,
beverages, extracts
Myanmar Spirulina
Tablets, chips,
pasta and liquid
Therefore, Chlorella and Spirulina are very interesting alternative
sources of LCPUFAs, which can be applied to a variety of nutraceutical
and pharmaceutical purposes.
Phenolic compounds
Phenolic compounds (PCs) also known as polyphenolics are
biocompounds chemically composed of one or more phenolic rings
that can be halogenated. These halogenations are responsible for the
different biological activities.7,8 PCs are considered one of the most
important classes of natural antioxidants. They protect both the cells
and other natural body chemicals from the damage caused by free
radicals. These are reactive atoms that contribute to tissue damage in
the body. Free radicals, for example, oxidize low-density lipoprotein
- LDL cholesterol, which can lead to its adhesion to arteries and lead
to heart disease.32,33
PCs are indicators of stress microalgae metabolism. PCs are
secondary metabolites that are not directly involved in biological
processes as photosynthesis, cell division and reproduction.34 PCs
are also related to the chemical protective mechanisms of microalgae
as against biotic factors such as, settlement of bacteria, ultraviolet
radiation and metal contamination.35–38
Considering the importance of PCs to be used as supplementary
food evaluated the subcritical water (SW) technology to optimize
the extraction of phenolic compounds from Chlorella sp. microalgae
to be further applied as an antioxidant was evaluated.39 It was found
compounds as caffeic acid, ferulic acid and p-coumaric acid. It is
worth noting that the extraction is commonly carried out by organic
solvents, a non-environment-friendly compound, that is, SW is an
interesting alternative. The production of PCs from Spirulina maxima
also was studied. The authors have found mainly pinostrobin, gallic
acid, cinnamic acid, p-OH-benzoic acid, chlorogenic acid and vanillin
acid, showing concentrations of 33.61, 19.82, 15.77, 14.18, 13.70 and
7.12% (based in the relative area), respectively.40
A new extraction technique based on a combination of
solid-phase/supercritical-uid (SPE/SFE) to obtain phenolic
compounds from Spirulina platensis was studied.41 They have
found 3,4-dihydroxybenzaldehyde (853.85ng/g of dried cell)
and p-hydroxybenzoic acid (604.94ng/g of dried cell) as main
compounds; and protocatechuic acid (137.98ng/g of dried cell),
vanillic (254.29ng/g of dried cell), syringic (3.45ng/g of dried cell),
caffeic acid (169.52ng/g of dried cell), chlorogenic acid (72.11ng/g of
dried cell) and 4-hydroxybenzaldehyde (107.35ng/g of dried cell) as
minority compounds.
Some studies have demonstrated the ability of microalgae to
produce polyphenols, for example Chlorella pyrenoidosa, produce
p-coumaric acid (the precursor of the avonoid synthesis)-Figure 2.42
The phenolic compounds biosynthesized by Chlorella and
Spirulina microalgae were compared.42 They found that Chlorella
microalgae have more content of phoroglucinol, which is used by
the pharmaceutical industry - gastrointestinal disorders43 and also
apigenin, which induces autophagy in leukemia cells (Table 2).44 On
the other hand, Spirulina microalgae have more content of p-coumaric
acid, which has antioxidant properties45 and ferulic acid that also has
antioxidant properties and is commonly used as
Chlorella and spirulina microalgae as sources of functional foods, nutraceuticals, and food supplements;
an overview 48
©2018 Andrade et al.
Citation: Andrade LM, Andrade CJ, Dias M, et al. Chlorella and spirulina microalgae as sources of functional foods, nutraceuticals, and food supplements; an
overview. MOJ Food Process Technol. 2018;6(1):4558. DOI: 10.15406/mojfpt.2018.06.00144
Thus, Chlorella and Spirulina microalgae are rich sources of
phenolic compounds that have antioxidants properties, among others
interesting nutritional and health properties.
Volatile compounds (VOCs)
In the last years the interest in microalgae volatile compounds
(VOCs) has increased, mainly due to the diverse structural features
and interesting biological activities of VOCs. However, VOCs can
cause musty, shy, and mud-like odor and produce harmful toxins,
which is particularly important in water quality.47–53
Other interests concerning to VOCs have been drawing attention
due to their biological activities54,55 which have been identied as
carbonyls, alkenes, saturated and unsaturated aliphatic alcohols,
aldehydes, ketones, esters, thioesters, suldes terpenes, fatty acids,
isoprenylated and brominated hydroquinones; and phycotene.
VOCs present antibacterial, antifungal, antiviral and anticancer
The steam-volatile metabolites of Chlorella vulgaris, which
was grown in fresh water culture, have been studied.58 It was found
that more than 105 VOCs were produced, even so only 30 compounds
were identied, for example hydrocarbons, acids, alcohols, esters,
aldehydes and ketones-33.76, 23.93, 15.62, 8.02, 3.24 and 2.71% of
the total VOCs, respectively. More details are shown in Table 3. It was
also studied the phytotoxic effect of the VOCs. The authors found an
acid phytotoxic effect signicantly higher in comparison to the other
fractions, due to mainly linoleic acid.
Recently, was determined the chemical prole of VOCs (Spirulina
strains) and then, applied those VOCs in food products.59 As result,
they obtained mainly (93.19%) hydrocarbons (medium length alkanes
and alkenes) and in small quantities, odorous compounds, such as
2-methylisoborneol, 2-pentylfuran, 𝛽-cyclocitral, and 𝛽-ionone, as
can be shown in Table 4.
One of the most important sensory properties of food is the avour.
Chlorella and Spirulina microalgae have shown great potential to be
applied in food due to their rich composition of VOCs, which present
biological activities (VOCs). In addition, microalgae VOCs, usually
are not related to musty, shy, and mud-like odor.
Sterols are lipids containing a ring formation in their chemical
structures. Sterols play a fundamental role in the membrane integrity
of microalgae.60 Over the last years, there is an increasing interest
in the microalgae sterols, particularly due to their advantages of
production and; nutritional and pharmaceutical importance.10
Sterols composition of red and brown microalgae are quite
predictable however, the sterol composition of the green algae is
unpredictable.61 Green microalgae such as Chlorella microalgae are
shown to biosynthesized a variety of sterols.62
The sterols composition of Chlorella pringsheimii and Chlorella
fusca were investigated.63 They found brassicasterol, ergostenol,
poriferasterol and clionasterol in Chlorella pringsheimii, and
ergosternol and chondrillasterol in Chlorella fusca.
Among sterols, phytosterol, which is structurally similar to
cholesterol, is one of the most promising sterols. It can be used in
healthy diets, in particular those that aim to reduce coronary heart
disease.64 According to the International Union of Pure and Applied
Chemistry (IUPAC) the chemical structure of phytosterol can be
illustrated as shown in Figure 3.
The bioactivity functions of microalgae-derived phytosterol and
their potential application in functional food and pharmaceutical
industry, were described, such as immunomodulatory, anti-
inammatory, anti-hypercholesterolemic, antioxidant, anticancer and
Ergosterol and 7-dehydroporiferasterol are the major ’s sterols
found in microalgae, both represent 45% of the total sterols.65 In
this sense, some sterols from Chlorella vulgaris such as ergosterol,
7-dehydroporiferasterol peroxide, 7-dehydroporiferasterol, ergosterol
peroxide and 7-oxocholesterol were identied, in which all of them
showed effective anti-inammatory and anticancer activities.66
Cholesterol and β-sitosterol were found in Spirulina maxima.67
The authors studied the correlation between sterols and antimicrobial
activity. Similarly, 3 sterols produced by Spirulina platensis were
identied: campesterol, stigmasterol and β-sitosterol; 8.7, 25.4 and
29.4% respectively.68
Concluding, the interest in microalgae sterols is increasing due to
their higher concentration, when compared to plant sterols. Chlorella
and Spirulina microalgae are sterols producers. Additionally,
phytosterol (biosynthesized by microalgae), which cannot be
synthesized by humans and have been made part of the human diet,
could easily to be applied in nutraceutical and pharmaceutical industry.
Proteins, amino Acids and peptides
Microalgae proteins have been receiving attention by the food
industry, mainly due to their great potential as an essential amino acid
Microalgae such as Chlorella sp. and Spirulina sp. contain
high protein contents-more than 50% dry weight.68, 69 In this sense,
microalgae have higher nutritional quality when compared to
conventional plants, especially soy. Microalgae also have other
nutritive compounds such as carbohydrates, lipids, vitamins,
polysaccharides, pigments, minerals and thus they are often used as
functional foods, nutraceuticals, and food supplements.3,70,71
Spirulina sp. microalgae are composed of phycobiliproteins,
which is a group of proteins related to the photosynthesis system
(phycobiliproteins show pigment properties). Phycobiliproteins
are well-known due to their hepatoprotective, anti-inammatory,
immunomodulatory, anticancer and antioxidant properties.13,34,72
Moreover, phycobiliproteins can also be applied as labels for
antibodies, receptors, and other biological molecules that classify
cells activated by uorescence and are used in immunoblotting
experiments and microscopy or uorescence diagnosis.73
Chlorella sp. microalgae are safe sources of proteins - dietary
supplementation. Microalgae proteins have shown signicant results
in reducing blood pressure, lowering cholesterol and glycemia levels,
accelerating wound healing and improving immune functions.74,75
The large-scale microalgae cultivation started in the 1960s in
Japan, in which Chlorella microalgae were used as a food additive. In
the 1970s and 1980s, the industrial production of microalgae expanded
to USA, China, Taiwan, Australia, India, Israel and Germany. In the
last years, the production of Spirulina and Chlorella microalgae has
Chlorella and spirulina microalgae as sources of functional foods, nutraceuticals, and food supplements;
an overview 49
©2018 Andrade et al.
Citation: Andrade LM, Andrade CJ, Dias M, et al. Chlorella and spirulina microalgae as sources of functional foods, nutraceuticals, and food supplements; an
overview. MOJ Food Process Technol. 2018;6(1):4558. DOI: 10.15406/mojfpt.2018.06.00144
increased, and currently it is practiced by most countries. The annual
production is about 7,500 tons of dry biomass (5,000 and 2,500 tons
of Spirulina and Chlorella microalgae, respectively).76
Regarding the application of microalgae as a source of essential
amino acids, the following essential amino acids were identied:
lysine, leucine, isoleucine, tyrosine, tryptophan and valine, in which
essential amino acids comprised approximately 35% of total amino
acids.73 These amino acids contribute to the high nutritional quality of
microalgae, making them highly suitable for use as supplements or as
nutraceuticals.73,77,78 A new application of microalgae amino acids was
developed.79 This application allows investigators to link consumers
to food sources by tracing essential amino acids from producers to
consumers. They used stable isotope analysis (AA-CSIA), to evaluate
nutrient sources, especially essential amino acids, from Chlorella and
Spirulina microalgae, as shown in Table 5.
Another interesting approach in microalgae proteins is related to
bioactive peptides from microalgae, which can exert hormonal effects
in the physiological stages of the human body.80 Peptides extracted
from microalgae have antioxidant, anticoagulant, antihypertensive,
immunomodulatory, antimicrobial and cholesterol lowering
functions.81 The puried peptides from Chlorella vulgaris species
was described as a great potential in the protection of DNA against
oxidative damage of cells.82 The peptides extracted from Chlorella
vulgaris species can be used in the prevention of diseases such as
atherosclerosis, cancer and coronary diseases.
In this sense, proteins, amino acids and peptides from microalgae
seems to be a very interesting alternative, in comparison to the
traditional sources of proteins, amino acids and peptides, which can
be applied to the human dietary requirements.
Chlorella and Spirulina microalgae are vitamin producers that are
used in animal and human metabolisms,83 in which the vitamins that
are commonly produced by microalgae are: vitamin A (in the form of
beta-carotene), vitamin C, vitamin E and vitamin B such as thiamine
(B1), riboavin (B2), niacin (B3), pantothenic acid (B5), pyridoxine
(B6), folic acid (B9) and cobalamin (B12).12 These vitamins are used
to nourish the body, detoxify and normalize intestinal function, as
well as stimulate the immune system and regenerate cells.12
Table 6 summarizes the vitamins content in Spirulina and Chlorella
microalgae. When compared to Chlorella microalgae, Spirulina
microalgae are richer sources of vitamin E, vitamin B1 and vitamin B7.
Vitamin E protects the membrane lipids from oxidative damage and
also prevents diseases such as coronary, atherosclerosis and multiple
sclerosis, whereas thiamin (vitamin B1) presents anti-inammatory
properties while biotin (vitamin B7) presents maintaining hair, nails
and skin healthy properties.84
Chlorella microalgae biosynthesis vitamin A. In fact, vitamin
A is the most abundant vitamin produced by microalgae. Vitamin
A is involved in immune function, vision, reproduction and
cellular communication.84,85 Niacin (vitamin B3) is also abundantly
biosynthesized by microalgae. Vitamin B3 is important for the
metabolism of fats, cholesterol synthesis, DNA synthesis, regulation
of glucose (blood sugar), reduce cholesterol and cardiovascular
Vitamin B12 (cyanocobalamin) is present in microalgae at low
concentration. Vitamin B12 from microalgae in Chlorella sp. has
better bioavailability than Spirulina microalgae.87 Vitamin B12
deciency can cause neurological and psychiatric problems, due to its
importance for neurological function and also for a proper red blood
cell formation and DNA synthesis.
Chlorella and Spirulina microalgae have an interesting
concentration of folic acid (Vitamin B9), which is necessary for the
formation of cells and maintenance of metabolism, preservation of
skin and mucous membranes and for the normal development of
bones and teeth.69,88
Ingestion of small amounts of microalgae (biomass) may aid to
reach all vitamin requirements (animal feed and human nutrition).
Microalgae vitamins can enhance the nutritional value of algae cells
- applied as a nutritional supplement. Nevertheless, it is important
to note that the vitamin contents (microalgae) signicantly change
with environmental factors (cultivation), harvesting strategy and the
method of drying the cells.12,88
Polysaccharides are polymeric carbohydrate structures that are
widely used by industries, in particular food industry. Regarding the
search for new natural antioxidants, the use of microorganisms such
as Chlorella and Spirulina microalgae has been widely studied due to
their high concentration of polysaccharides.13,14,89,90
In this sense, the polysaccharides from Chlorella and Spirulina
microalgae improve the enzymatic activity of the cell nucleus and
synthesis of DNA repair, besides being a benecial species to the
immune system.14,32
Moreover, polysaccharides from Spirulina platensis and Chlorella
pyrenoidosa microalgae have signicant antioxidant properties,
tumor activities, and immunomodulatory properties, as well as their
great potential for the removal of superoxide and hydroxyl peroxide
Two high molecular weight polysaccharides that were named
immulina and immurella were identied.92 The immulina and
immurella polysaccharides were isolated from Spirulina platensis
and Chlorella pyrenoidosa, respectively. These polysaccharides
presented higher activity against cancer, when compared to the fungal
polysaccharides such as schizoplyllan, lentinan and krestin. The
composition of immulina and immurella is shown in Table 7.
Rhamnose was found as the main compound ≈52.3% of total
polysaccharides produced by Spirulina microalgae.93 Similarly, the
extracts of Spirulina microalga polysaccharides were characterized,
in which rhamnose represented ≈49.7% of total polysaccharides.94
Regarding Chlorella polysaccharides, two polysaccharides
(69,658Da and 109,406Da) that were produced by Chlorella
pyrenoidosa strains were identied. Both polysaccharides were
composed mainly of rhamnose and mannose; 37.8 and 15.2%,
Therefore, recently, microalgae polysaccharides have been
used as alternative source of polysaccharides by the food industry,
nutraceuticals, cosmetics and mainly pharmaceutical industry, since
microalgae polysaccharides have antiviral activity against the virus
Herpes simplex virus (type 1 and 2).14,91,95,96
Chlorella and spirulina microalgae as sources of functional foods, nutraceuticals, and food supplements;
an overview 50
©2018 Andrade et al.
Citation: Andrade LM, Andrade CJ, Dias M, et al. Chlorella and spirulina microalgae as sources of functional foods, nutraceuticals, and food supplements; an
overview. MOJ Food Process Technol. 2018;6(1):4558. DOI: 10.15406/mojfpt.2018.06.00144
Table 2 Content of phenolic compounds in Chlorella and Spirulina microalgae42
Phenolic compound Chlorella (ng/g) Spirulina (ng/g)
Phloroglucinol 74,000 51,000
p-Coumaric acid 540 920
Ferulic acid 0.63 0.97
Apigenin 9.9 6
Table 3 Composition of VOCs found in Chlorella vulgaris58
Class Compounds Composition (%)
α-pinene 2.11
β-pinene 7.63
dodecane 1.76
hexadecene 15.3
heptadecane 0.74
heptadecene 2.11
octadecane 3.21
tetracosane 0.35
heptadecene 0.55
odecanoic 0.2
tetradecanoic 0.9
hexadecanoic 8.73
octadecanoic 2.2
octadec-9-enoic 0.73
octadec-9,12-dienoic 10.2
octadec-9,12,15-trenoic 0.97
hexadecanol 10.8
octadecanol 2.3
nonadecanol 2.01
phytol 0.51
methyl-hexadecanoate 2.2
methyl-octadecanoate 3.52
methyl-octadec-9-enoate 0.98
methyl-octadec-9,12-dienoate 1.32
hexanal 0.14
nonadecanal 0.9
hexadecanal 2.2
decanone 0.7
hexadecanone 1.7
α-ionone 0.13
β-ionone 0.18
U* 12.72
Chlorella and spirulina microalgae as sources of functional foods, nutraceuticals, and food supplements;
an overview 51
©2018 Andrade et al.
Citation: Andrade LM, Andrade CJ, Dias M, et al. Chlorella and spirulina microalgae as sources of functional foods, nutraceuticals, and food supplements; an
overview. MOJ Food Process Technol. 2018;6(1):4558. DOI: 10.15406/mojfpt.2018.06.00144
Table 4 Composition of VOCs produced by Spirulina platensis59
Class Compounds Composition (%)
2-pentylfuran 3.03
tetradecane 0.27
pentadecane 6.48
hexadecane 5.12
6,9-heptadecadiene 0.62
heptadecene 77.67
2,6-dimetrylcyclohexanol 2.41
2-ethyl-1-hexanol 0.38
2-methylisoborneol 0.98
1,1,3-trimetryl-2-cyclohexanone 0.38
β-ionone 1.59
Esters diisobutyric acid 1-tert-buty-l-2-methyl-1,3-propanediyl ester 0.45
*A β-cyclocitral 0.65
Table 5 Essential amino acids found in Chlorella and Spirulina microalgae79
Microalgae Isoleucine Leucine Phenylalanine Valine
Chlorella 26.74 31.05 26.35 28.07
Spirulina 31.29 34.42 35.17 35.62
Table 6 Vitamin content in Chlorella and Spirulina microalgae per 100g of dry cells
Vitamins Chlorella Spirulina
Vitamin A 30.77mg 0.34mg
Vitamin C 10.4mg 10.1mg
Thiamin (vitamin B1) 1.7mg 2.4mg
Riboavin (vitamin B2) 4.3mg 3.7mg
Niacin (vitamin B3) 23.8mg 12.8mg
Pantothenic acid (vitamin B5) 1.1mg -
Pyridoxine (vitamin B6) 1.4mg 0.4mg
Folate (vitamin B9) 94µg 94µg
Cobalamin (vitamin B12) 0.1ug 0ug
Vitamin E (alpha-tocopherol) 1.5mg 5.0mg
Vitamin K (phylloquinone) -25.5µg
Chlorella and spirulina microalgae as sources of functional foods, nutraceuticals, and food supplements;
an overview 52
©2018 Andrade et al.
Citation: Andrade LM, Andrade CJ, Dias M, et al. Chlorella and spirulina microalgae as sources of functional foods, nutraceuticals, and food supplements; an
overview. MOJ Food Process Technol. 2018;6(1):4558. DOI: 10.15406/mojfpt.2018.06.00144
Table 7 Composition of polysaccharides from Spirulina platensis (immulina) and Chlorella pyrenoidosa (immurella).92
Immulina polysaccharide (% mole) Immurella polysaccharide (% mole)
Rhamnose 35.4 Arabinose 31.6
Glucuronic acid 9.7 Galactose 26.8
Fructose 7.7 Rhamnose 12.4
Galactose 7.1 Glucose 5.4
2-methyl-Rhamnose 5.9 3-methul-Arabinose 3.0
Xylose 5.5 3-methyl-Mannose 2.5
3-methyl-Rhamnose 4.2 Xylose 2.4
2-methyl-Xylose 4.2 4-methyl-Arabinose 2.4
4-methyl-Rhamnose 3.9 Mannose 2.3
Glucose 3.6 Ribose 1.9
Mannose 2.4 2,4-dimethyl-Arabinose 1.3
Galacturonic acid 2.0 3-methyl-Galactose 1.2
3-methyl-Galactose 2.0 3-methyl-Xylose 0.9
Arabinose 1.8 3-methyl-Rhamnose 0.9
Amino sugar 1.5 3,5-dimethyl-Hexose 0.7
2-3-dimethyl-Fucose 1.2 6-methyl-Galactose 0.5
N-acetyl-glucosamine 0.9 Glycerol 0.5
2-methyl-Glucose 0.5 2-keto-3-deoxy-Octulonosic acid 0.4
Glycerol 0.4 2,3,6-trimethyl-Mannose 0.4
3,6-dimethyl-Mannose 0.4
2,3-dimethyl-Mannose 0.4
2-methyl-Galactose 0.4
N-acetyl-Galactosamine 0.3
N-acetyl-Glucosamine 0.3
Amino sugar 0.3
Figure 2 Pathway for avonoid biosynthesis in Chlorella (A) and Spirulina (B) microalgae. (Enzyme abbreviations: PCA, P-coumaric acid; NC, narigenin chalcone;
N, naringenin; L, liquiritigenin; D, daidzein; A, apigenin; G, genistein; L, luteolin; DK, dihydrokaempferol; DQ, dihydroquercetin; Q, quercetin).42
Chlorella and spirulina microalgae as sources of functional foods, nutraceuticals, and food supplements;
an overview 53
©2018 Andrade et al.
Citation: Andrade LM, Andrade CJ, Dias M, et al. Chlorella and spirulina microalgae as sources of functional foods, nutraceuticals, and food supplements; an
overview. MOJ Food Process Technol. 2018;6(1):4558. DOI: 10.15406/mojfpt.2018.06.00144
Figure 3 Chemical structure of phytosterol (campesterol is obtained removing 242. Removing 241 and 242 is yield cholesterol. Double bound between C22
and C23 it is obtained stigmasterol. Hydrogenating C5 and C6 stigmastanol are produced. Hydrogenating C5 and C6 and removing 242, campestanol is obtained.
Taking away 242, double bound between C22 and C23 and inverting the stereochemistry at C24 it can obtain brassilcasterol).10
Figure 4 Chemical structure of the main phytosterols from microalgae: (A) 7-dehydroporiferasterol, (B) Ergosterol and (C) 7-oxocholesterol.10
Figure 5 Primary steps of the biosynthetic pathway of carotenoids (non-mevalonate pathway) in most green microalgae species-G3P glyceraldehyde 3-phosphate;
DXP 1-deoxy-D-xylulose-5-phosphate; MEP 2C-methyl-D-erythritol-4-phosphate; IPP Isopentenyl pyrophosphate; DMAPP dimethylallyl pyrophosphate; GGPP
geranylgeranyl diphosphate.16
Chlorella and spirulina microalgae as sources of functional foods, nutraceuticals, and food supplements;
an overview 54
©2018 Andrade et al.
Citation: Andrade LM, Andrade CJ, Dias M, et al. Chlorella and spirulina microalgae as sources of functional foods, nutraceuticals, and food supplements; an
overview. MOJ Food Process Technol. 2018;6(1):4558. DOI: 10.15406/mojfpt.2018.06.00144
Figure 6 Schematic diagram of phycobilisome situated on the thylakoid
Pigments, carotenoids and phycobiliproteins
Currently, rapid advances in biotechnology processes have
been taking place worldwide. Regarding the production of specic
biocompounds such as pigments, microbial processes, in particular
those obtained from microalgae, have advantages over higher plants
extraction (e.g. Marigold owers), for instance easier cultivation,
higher concentration, year-round production, potential to use agro-
industrial wastewater as nutrient source, specic pigments as
astaxanthin are rarely synthesized by higher plants (vascular plants).
In addition, microalgae do not require arable land.15,16
Pigments are fundamental for photosynthetic algae metabolism.
In other metabolisms such as human metabolism, pigments can act
as antioxidant, anti-carcinogen, anti-inammatory, anti-obesity, anti-
angiogenic and neuroprotective.
The major classes of microalgae pigments are carotenoids and
phycobiliproteins, in which carotenoids are sub-classied in two
groups: carotenes and xanthophylls (oxygenated derivatives of
carotenes). In addition, carotenoids are mainly used by the food industry
as dietary supplements, fortied foods and food dyes and animal feed.
Whereas phycobiliproteins are a group of colored proteins with linear
tetrapyrrole prosthetic groups (bilins). Usually, phycobiliproteins
are sub-classied into three groups: phycoerythrin, phycocyanin and
allophycocyanin. The main potential applications of phycobiliproteins
are: antioxidant, anti-inammatory, anti-tumor, immunomodulating,
radical scavenging, antiviral and antifungal.15,16,97,98
Carotenoids are hydrophobic compounds which have color
orange, red and yellow. Usually, they share C40 backbone structure
of isoprene units, in which more than 600 different carotenoids have
been derived from C40 backbone structure. The bioproduction of
carotenoids is biochemically related to photo-synthetic metabolism,
for instance lutein can transfer absorbed energy to chlorophylls.
However, pigments have others biochemistry function such as
astaxanthin and canthaxanthin, which play a role in cell protective
mechanisms. Currently, the major carotenoids produced at industrial
scale are β-carotene, astaxanthin, lutein, lycopene, and canthaxanthin.
Nevertheless, other pigments such as fucoxanthin (microalgae) have
good potential to be produced at industrial scale in the short-term
future (Figure 5).16,99
On the other hand, phycobiliproteins are water soluble pigment
proteins (Figure 6). Phycobiliproteins are classied based on their
spectral properties. Phycoerythrin A max=540 570nm; λF max=575-
590nm), phycocyanin A max=610 620nm; λF max:645 653nm) and
allophycocyanin (λA max=650 655 nm; λF max=657 660nm).100
Phycobiliproteins can be used in the production of fermented milk
products, ice creams, soft drinks, sweet cake decoration, milk shakes,
The optimum conditions of phycobiliproteins production are related
to environmental stress conditions, in particular light. Light, carbon
and nitrogen sources stimulate the synthesis of phycobiliproteins.
Compared to carotenoids, the biosynthesis of phycobiliproteins is
more complex due to transcription, translational and posttranslational
pathways and synthesis of amino acids, proteins and phycobilins.97
The concentration of lutein produced by Chlorella salina, in
which ≈ 5.06mg of lutein per gram of dry alga was found.98 Regarding
recovery and purity of microalgae pigments, Li et al.101 reported that
the nal purity of lutein by Chlorella vulgaris was 94% and the yield
was 88%, respectively.
The production of C-Phycocyanin by Spirulina sp. was described.18
C-Phycocyanin is sensitive pigment (light, pH, temperature
and oxygen). Thus, strategies are needed to make the industrial
applications of C-Phycocyanin feasible. The authors concluded that
high concentration of sugars enhanced the stability of C-Phycocyanin,
which leads to applications as confectionery and pastry.
Despite of (I) great market (market value of lutein is expected to
reach US $309million by 2018, market value of β-carotene is expected
to reach US $334million by 2018), (II) high added-value (average
price of 5% astaxanthin is about US $1,900/kg) and (III) many studies
on the production of pigments by microalgae, many challenges still
remain, in particular harvesting and extraction processes.16,99
Microalgae as food
Microalgae in the human diet: The use of microalgae as food products
has been increasing due to concerns regarding health and safety
issues, for instance replacing synthetic dyes (synthetic β-carotene
has been related to lung cancer and cardiovascular diseases). In this
sense, according to American Food and Drug Administration (FDA)
and the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) food products based
on Spirulina sp. are classied as GRAS (Generally Recognized As
Safe).15–18 In addition, clinical studies indicated that the Spirulina
consumption could lead to the reduction of cholesterol, protection
against some types of cancers, enhance immune response, increase
of intestinal lactobacilli (probiotics), protection against radiation
(sunscreen lotion) and alternative treatment for obesity.102,103
Spirulina sp. has been used for a long time by people as
consumable food in Mexico (Aztecs and other Mesoamericans) and
Chad (Africa).15,104 Currently, the market for microalgae pigments has
increased, in particular for human consumption.16
Many food products can be produced by the use of microalgae
or their biocompounds, for instance isotonic beverages, cereal bars,
instant soups, pudding, cake powder mix and biscuits.15 In this sense,
Spirulina platensis can be used as a source of protein for malnourished
people, in which chocolate biscuits fortied with Spirulina platensis
presented higher protein content and higher digestibility.103 Similarly,
the protein content (bread) increased due to the addition of dried
Spirulina platensis (bread composition).105 Moreover, it was observed
that the concentrations of 11 amino acids, signicantly, increased,
Chlorella and spirulina microalgae as sources of functional foods, nutraceuticals, and food supplements;
an overview 55
©2018 Andrade et al.
Citation: Andrade LM, Andrade CJ, Dias M, et al. Chlorella and spirulina microalgae as sources of functional foods, nutraceuticals, and food supplements; an
overview. MOJ Food Process Technol. 2018;6(1):4558. DOI: 10.15406/mojfpt.2018.06.00144
in which 4 out of them, are essential amino acid acids (threonine,
methionine, leucine and isoleucine).105
An interesting approach using microalgae is the different
compositions of wheat our, cassava our and Spirulina platensis
biomass in the development of doughnuts, in which the presence
of microalgae biomass enhanced the nutritional quality of cassava
doughnut in terms of the protein, mineral, ber and lipid.17
22 different Indian recipes with dried Spirulina were studied and
all recipes were approved in terms of sensory evaluation. They also
affect positively hyperglycemia and hyperlipidemia.106
Elaborated fresh spaghetti enriched with Chlorella vulgaris and
Spirulina maxima was compared to standard semolina spaghetti
(chemical composition, optimal cooking time, cooking losses,
swelling index and water absorption, etc.).9 The authors concluded
that presence of microalgae enhanced the nutritional and sensorial
quality of pasta. In addition, no changes in cooking and textural
properties were observed.
Microalgae in animal nutrition: Microalgae can also be used for
animal nutrition, in which ≈30% of algae produced worldwide
is currently used in animal nutrition;102 for instance, fed hens with
Chlorella microalgae.107 The authors observed that the content of
linolenic acid and docosahexaenoic acid increased in the egg yolk.
Similar results were found by using Spirulina microalgae instead of
Chlorella microalgae.108
In this sense, the effect of dietary supplementation (light lambs)
with microalgae rich in docosahexaenoic acid was investigated.109
The intramuscular fat was the most affected parameters. The authors
concluded that the microalgae enhanced the quality (nutritionally) of
lamb muscle, in particular the relations total polyunsaturated fatty
acids/total saturated fatty acids; ω3/ω6 fatty acids. Whereas the diet
supplementation with Spirulina platensis in the rabbit with high
blood serum cholesterol levels decreased the cholesterol levels and
also increased high-density lipoprotein cholesterol.110 Similarly, adult
rabbits that were fed with Spirulina platensis showed an increasing of
the digestibility of crude proteins.111
A subtle improvement in the body weight growth of piglets that
were fed with Spirulina platensis was observed.112
When fattening calves were fed with the suspension of Chlorella
and Scenedesmus microalgae, it was found that microalgae enhanced
the digestibility of crude ber, which leads to reduced total feeding
cost, compared with animals fed with sesame seed oil.101
It was already proved that the use of Chlorella and Spirulina
microalgae can be applied as a food source, in which it is intrinsically
associated to many positive effects on health. The consumption
(human or animal diets) of Chlorella and Spirulina microalgae has
been occurring for a long time, particularly in Mexico and Chad
(Africa), however, it is restricted in some countries, for instance Brazil.
In this sense, the food industry can use microalgae in formulations
of doughnuts, spaghetti, biscuits, etc., which show a remarkable
potential, especially in nutraceutical terms.
Microalgae in sh feed: Fishmeal is traditionally used in sh feed and
in the recent years, due to the increasing in sh production, microalgae
appear as an economic and environmental-friendly alternative and
also because they contain almost all nutrients that is needed for sh.
The effect of dietary Chlorella on the growth performance and
physiological parameter (blood parameters and digestive enzyme) of
Gibel carp (Carassius auratus gibelio) was evaluated. The addition
of 0.8-1.2% of Chlorella showed better growth, higher contents of
lyzosyme (blood parameter) that affect protein/lipid metabolism and
immunity of gibel carp and also higher amount of digestive protein
(amylase, lipase and protease) in comparison to the control (without
Chlorella supplementation). Furthermore, the cholesterol of sh fed
with Chlorella was lower than that found in the control.113
The effects of Chlorella vulgaris (supplement food) on blood
and immunological parameters of Caspian salmon exposed to Viral
Nervous Necrosis virus and they observed that the presence of
Chlorella in sh fed diet could act as a natural immunuestimulant.114
Another study showed the replacement of sh meal by Chlorella
meal supplemented by dietary cellulase to crucian cap Carassius
auratus and after evaluated the growth performance, digestive
enzymatic activities, histology and myogenic genes’ expression they
conclude that Chlorella meal could totally replace the sh meal.115
Spirulina can be also applied in sh feed providing an increased
growth rate of kenyi cichlids on Spirulina-based diet in comparison to
the control (without Spirulina). The Spirulina feeding frequency (once
and three times a day) on growth performance and seed production on
kenyi cichlids (Maylandia lombardoi) were evaluated. The growth
and the seed production on kenvi cichlids fed with Spirulina three
times a day were higher compared to fed once a day.116
In recent years, much interest has been focused on the potential
of microalgae biotechnology, mainly due to the identication of
several substances synthesized by these microorganisms. Microalgae
are of great importance, both biologically and economically. Their
economic importance is related to the wide range of microalgae
applications all over the world, from the food industry to medicine,
from immuno-stimulants to biofuels, from cosmetics to agriculture.
The immense biodiversity of microalgae and consequent high
variability in their biochemical composition, combined with the use of
genetic improvement and the establishment of large-scale cultivation
technology has allowed certain species (e.g Spirulina microalgae)
to be commercially available. The cultivation of microalgae has
been carried out aiming at the production of biomass for both food
manufacturing and also for obtaining natural compounds with high
added value. Among these natural compounds are polyunsaturated
fatty acids, carotenoids, phycobilins, polysaccharides, vitamins,
sterols and many natural bioactive compounds such as antioxidants,
cholesterol reducers, which can be used especially for the production
of functional foods.
The São Paulo Research Foundation-FAPESP (Project number
2013/50218-2) and BNDES-FUNTEC/VALE (Project number 2542).
Conicts of interest
The author declares no conict of interest.
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Citation: Andrade LM, Andrade CJ, Dias M, et al. Chlorella and spirulina microalgae as sources of functional foods, nutraceuticals, and food supplements; an
overview. MOJ Food Process Technol. 2018;6(1):4558. DOI: 10.15406/mojfpt.2018.06.00144
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... Chlorella vulgaris (CV), a species of unicellular freshwater microalgae, is of interest for broiler production, mainly due to its nutritional properties [1][2][3]. The quantitative and qualitative macro-and micronutrient composition of CV makes it a relevant ingredient for broiler diets [4,5]. Chlorella vulgaris generally contains more than 50% protein [6] and can be used in broiler diets as a partial or complete substitute for protein sources, such as fish meal (up to 5%) and soybean meal (up to 10%), without negative effects on weight gain or the feed conversion ratio (FCR) [2,7]. ...
... In addition to providing 'strict-nutritional' components, CV also provides 'non-strictnutritional' or functional properties [12]. Biochemical constituents such as carotenoids, β-glucan, phenolic compounds, phytosterols, and peptides in CV are reported to confer immune-modulatory properties, antioxidant activity, and support gut tissue regeneration, along with improved productive performance, in livestock [2,5,[13][14][15][16][17]. However, expensive bioprocessing steps are required to acquire these functional components of CV. ...
... Researchers show that adding fermented CV [19], or dried or fresh CV powder [4,18], at a dosage of 1-2% into broiler diets improves growth performance, modulates immune response, and affects the intestinal tissue morphology in broilers. These studies [18,19] confirm the use of CV biomass at low dosages in broiler diets, which confers the functional properties attributed to CV products in other studies [2,5,[13][14][15][16][17]20]. It is economically valuable for farmers to use CV biomass at even lower dosages, if the functional properties are conserved. ...
Full-text available
An experiment was performed to study the effects of a low inclusion level of Chlorella vulgaris (CV) biomass in broiler diets on performance, immune response related to inflammatory status, and the intestinal histomorphology. The study was performed with 120 Ross 308 male broiler chickens from 0–35 days of age. The broilers were housed in 12 floor pens (1.5 m2) bedded with wood shavings. The broilers received a three phase diet program, either with 0.8% CV biomass (CV) or without CV (CON). Each diet program was replicated in six pens. The final body weight increased (p = 0.053), and the feed conversion ratio (FCR), corrected for body weight, was reduced (p = 0.02) in birds fed CV compared to birds fed CON. In addition, decreased haptoglobins (p = 0.02) and interleukin-13 (p < 0.01) responses were observed during the grower phase of birds fed CV compared to the birds fed CON. A strong correlation (r = 0.82, p < 0.01) was observed between haptoglobin response and FCR. Histomorphology parameters of the jejunum were not different between the groups. It was concluded that the inclusion of 0.8% CV biomass in broiler diets is effective in influencing immune responses related to inflammatory status and promoting broiler growth.
... Indeed, early observations reported tribes alongside Lake Chad consuming spirulina as a substitute for meat (8). Fatty acids, pigments, vitamins, and minerals are also in their abundance in both algae (1)(2)(3)9), meaning spirulina and chlorella can be a viable high nutrient source for human consumption. For a thorough nutritional analysis breakdown, the authors refer the reader to Andrade and colleagues review (9). ...
... Fatty acids, pigments, vitamins, and minerals are also in their abundance in both algae (1)(2)(3)9), meaning spirulina and chlorella can be a viable high nutrient source for human consumption. For a thorough nutritional analysis breakdown, the authors refer the reader to Andrade and colleagues review (9). ...
Full-text available
Nutritional clinical trials have reported algae such as spirulina and chlorella to have the capability to improve cardiovascular risk factors, anemia, immune function, and arterial stiffness. With positive results being reported in clinical trials, researchers are investigating the potential for algae as an ergogenic aid for athletes. Initial studies found spirulina and chlorella supplementation to increase peak oxygen uptake and time to exhaustion, with the mechanistic focus on the antioxidant capabilities of both algae. However, a number of oxidative stress biomarkers reported in these studies are now considered to lack robustness and have consequently provided equivocal results. Considering the nutrient complexity and density of these commonly found edible algae, there is a need for research to widen the scope of investigation. Most recently algae supplementation has demonstrated ergogenic potential during submaximal and repeated sprint cycling, yet a confirmed primary mechanism behind these improvements is still unclear. In this paper we discuss current algae supplementation studies and purported effects on performance, critically examine the antioxidant and ergogenic differing perspectives, and outline future directions.
... Although H 2 O 2 is not reactive, the production of hydroxyl radicals in the cell may make it hazardous to cell components. C-PC may be used to detoxify hydrogen peroxide, superoxide and hydroxyl radicals, which is necessary for the protection of biomolecules, pharmaceuticals, and nutraceuticals (33). We may deduce from these findings that C-PC might be a promising antioxidant compound. ...
Full-text available
When glucose and Amadori products are auto-oxidized, glycation occurs, resulting in the formation of early (Amadori) and late advanced glycation end products (AGEs), as well as free radicals. Glycation and an increase in free radical activity induce diabetic complications. Antioxidant and antiglycation compounds may aid in the prevention of oxidation and glycation. The goal of this study was to assess the antiglycation and antioxidant capacity of C-phycocyanin (C-PC) derived from Plectonema sp. The DPPH (1, 1-diphenyl-2-picrylhydrazyl), nitric oxide, hydroxyl radical scavenging activities and ferric ions reducing antioxidant power (FRAP) assays were used to assess antioxidant activity, while an in vitro bovine serum albumin-methyl glyoxal glycation (BSA-MG) model was used to assess glycation inhibitory potential. Glycation inhibition was measured using a variety of spectroscopic and biochemical parameters, including UV-visible & fluorescence spectroscopy, ketoamine, carbonyl and hydroxymethyl furfural content, as well as free lysine & free arginine estimations. In vitro, C-PC exhibited dose-dependent potent antioxidant activity, but lacked significant antiglycation potential. As a result, it is recommended that further studies be conducted to evaluate the antiglycation potential of C-PC.
... Vitamin C may also be found in high amounts in Chlorella spp. And Arthrospira platensis (Andrade et al., 2018). ...
Background The environmental and social problems associated with increasing world population and industrial development have brought concerns related to water and atmospheric pollution, climate change, as well as the production of staple food. In addition, concerns about healthy food for improving life quality have also increased. Scope and approach In this review, microalgae composition, nutritional and functional characteristics are detailed for justifying the feasibility of employing their biomass as ingredients in staple foods for human consumption. It also contains information related to technological and sensorial properties of food containing microalgae biomass, such as meat analogue products, biscuits and cookies, pasta, soup, yogurt, bread and other staple foods. Key findings and conclusions Considering not only the biochemical composition, but also the nutritional and functional features, microalgae biomass seem to be the most promising alternative for sustainable production of ingredients for healthy staple food, comprising vegetarian/vegan diets. This technology allows developing and consolidating Bioeconomy and also helps to achieve some of the U.N. Sustainable Development Goals, such as zero hunger, life on land, life below water, and also responsible consumption and production.
The gradual rise in the human population and an ever-increasing demand for high-value products and alternative fuels has pushed industries into discovering new bioactive compounds and process technologies. Microalgae, an emerging bioresource with distinctive metabolite composition and an efficient growth rate, thus offer a unique platform to meet these demands of sustainable and alternative sources of food and energy. Till date several species of microalgae have been evaluated for their application as cosmeceuticals, pharmaceuticals, nutraceuticals, and biofuels owing to the major bioactive profiles including proteins, polysaccharides, polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs), functional pigments, and vitamins. In addition, the prospect of genetically modified microalgae holds a greater promise to the future for high-value products and third-generation biofuels.
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Microalgae and microalgae-derived compounds have great potential as supplements in the human diet and as a source of bioactive products with health benefits. Spirulina (Arthrospira platensis (Nordstedt) Gomont, or Spirulina platensis) belongs to the class of cyanobacteria and has been studied for its numerous health benefits, which include anti-inflammatory properties, among others. This work was aimed at comparing some spirulina products available on the Italian market. The commercial products here analyzed consisted of spirulina cultivated and processed with different approaches. Single-component spirulina products in powder and flake form, free of any type of excipient produced from four different companies operating in the sector, have been analyzed. The macro- and micromorphological examination, and the content of pigments, phycobiliproteins, phenols, and proteins have shown differences regarding the morphology and chemical composition, especially for those classes of particularly unstable compounds such as chlorophylls and carotenoids, suggesting a great influence of both culture conditions and processing methods.
Microalgae are a known source of proteins, prebiotics, lipids, small molecules, anti-oxidants and bioactives with health benefits that can be harnessed for the development of functional foods, feeds, cosmeceuticals and pharmaceuticals. This review collates information on the supply, processing costs, target markets and value of microalgae, as well as microalgal proteins, lipids, vitamins and minerals. It discusses the potential impact that microalgae could have on global food and feed supply and highlights gaps that exist with regards to the use of microalgal proteins and ingredients as foods and supplements.
This study investigated the bioaccumulation capacity of Chlorella vulgaris and Spirulina platensis exposed to silver nanoparticles (AgNPs) and silver nitrate (AgNO3) affecting the cell growth, viability, pigment content, and health status. Toxicity experiment was conducted using concentrations of 0, 0.005, 0.001, 0.05, 0.01, 0.5, and 0.1 for AgNPs and AgNO3 during a 96-h exposure period. Results illuminated that S. platensis could largely bioaccumulate silver nanoparticles while C. vulgaris greatly absorbed ionic silver (AgNO3), and both microalgae showed a concentration-dependent manner in response to silver materials. AgNO3, compared to AgNPs, affected significantly the average specific growth and yield of algal populations. A concentration-dependent decrease was observed in the content of pigments in exposure to both forms of silver, albeit this biological factor showed the highest severity to AgNO3. Moreover, the content of chlorophyll a, b, and total chlorophyll in S. platensis decreased after 48 and 72 h. The pigment response of C. vulgaris to ionic silver was more severe than the respective nanoparticles. Bioconcentration factor in C. vulgaris populations exposed to 0.001 mg L⁻¹ of AgNO3 and AgNPs (14,109.7 and 6819.7010, respectively) was in the highest level among other treatments, and the lowest BCF calculated for S. platensis at 86.6066 (0.05 mg L⁻¹ AgNO3) and 170.2482 (0.5 mg L⁻¹ AgNPs). Target hazard quotient ordered at THQY > THQM > THQTW > THQD for both microalgae, and maximum allowable limits (CR) reduced considerably with the increase of silver-based materials concentration in S. platensis and C. vulgaris. Taken together, C. vulgaris and S. platensis are strong bioaccumulators for AgNPs and AgNO3 and their biological properties and health status could be disturbed, which is dangerous for both aquatic ecosystem and human health.
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Algal biomass is a promising feedstock for sustainable production of a range of value-added compounds and products including food, feed, fuel. To further augment the commercial value of algal metabolites, efficient valorization methods and biorefining channels are essential. Algal extracts are ideal sources of biotechnologically viable compounds loaded with anti-microbial, anti-oxidative, anti-inflammatory, anti-cancerous and several therapeutic and restorative properties. Emerging technologies in biomass valorisation tend to reduce the significant cost burden in large scale operations precisely associated with the pre-treatment, downstream processing and waste management processes. In order to enhance the economic feasibility of algal products in the global market, comprehensive extraction of multi-algal product biorefinery is envisaged as an assuring strategy. Algal biorefinery has inspired the technologists with novel prospectives especially in waste recovery, carbon concentration/sequestration and complete utilisation of the value-added products in a sustainable closed-loop methodology. This review critically examines the latest trends in the algal biomass valorisation and the expansive feedstock potentials in a biorefinery perspective. The recent scope dynamics of algal biomass utilisation such as bio-surfactants, oleochemicals, bio-stimulants and carbon mitigation have also been discussed. The existing challenges in algal biomass valorisation, current knowledge gaps and bottlenecks towards commercialisation of algal technologies are discussed. This review is a comprehensive presentation of the road map of algal biomass valorisation techniques towards biorefinery technology. The global market view of the algal products, future research directions and emerging opportunities are reviewed.
The overpopulation and the negative impact of conventional crops and livestock on the environment are forcing the introduction in the food market of sustainable alternative ingredients. Microalgae may be an alternative source of proteins thanks to their easy cultivation, low land-use intensity and resources. In addition, this matrix can be exploited for the treatment of urban, agricultural and industrial wastewaters and in aquaculture and hydroponic, representing an important component in the perspective of a waste-saving circular process. This chapter aims at describing the chemical composition of microalgae and their current applications in food industry as novel functional and technological ingredients. It is also reported the state-of-art of current cultivation technologies of microalgal biomasses. Further efforts are still required to reduce process, energy and water usage during microalgae growth as well as to enhance the texture, taste and appeal of microalgae-based food products, thus increasing the number of consumers willing to buy them.
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Chlorella sp . microalgae is a potential source of antioxidants and natural bioactive compounds used in the food and pharmaceutical industries. In this study, a subcritical water (SW) technology was applied to determine the phenolic content and antioxidant activity ofChlorella sp. This study focused on maximizing the recovery ofChlorella sp.phenolic content and antioxidant activity measured by 2,2-diphenyl-1-picrylhydrazyl (DPPH) assay as a function of extraction temperature (100-250 °C), time (5-20 min) and microalgae concentration (5-20 wt. %) using response surface methodology. The optimal operating conditions for the extraction process were found to be 5 min at 163 °C with 20 wt. % microalgae concentration, which resulted in products with 58.73 mg gallic acid equivalent (GAE)/g phenolic content and 68.5% inhibition of the DPPH radical. Under optimized conditions, the experimental values were in close agreement with values predicted by the model. The phenolic content was highly correlated (R² = 0.935) with the antioxidant capacity. Results indicated that extraction by SW technology was effective and thatChlorella sp. could be a useful source of natural antioxidants.
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In the present study, the effects of Chlorella vulgaris on blood and immunological parameters of Caspian salmon (Salmo trutta caspius) before and after exposure to Viral Nervous Necrosis (VNN) virus were examined. In this regard, four treatments in triplicate were chosen. Groups included one control and 3treatments (T 1 , T 2 and T 3). Fish in control group, T 1 , T 2 and T 3 were fed diets supplemented with 0, 1×10 8 , 2×10 7 and 3×10 6 chlorella/450 g of food respectively, for sixty days. In addition, a virus supernatant was prepared from infected wild golden grey mullet (Liza auratus) and used for virus challenge of S. trutta caspius. Virus was injected intraperitoneally and blood samples were collected before and 14 days after the challenge. Immunological (IgM, C 3, C 4 , total protein, respiratory burst, albumin and lysozyme) and changes in blood parameters (RBC, WBC, Htc, Hb, MCH, MCHC and MCV) were also measured. Results showed that C. vulgaris could act as a natural immunestimulant. Also, the alteration trend in hematological and immunological parameters showed that experimental fish could be considered to be resistant to VNN virus after exposure and fish treated with C. vulgaris were more resistant in comparison to those in the control group. The dose used in T 1 (1×10 8 chlorella/450 g food) was the most effective approach with significant differences.
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A nearly 40-year debate on the origins of carbon supporting animal production in lotic systems has spawned numerous conceptual theories emphasizing the importance of autochthonous carbon, terrestrial carbon, or both (depending on river stage height). Testing theories has been hampered by lack of adequate analytical methods to distinguish in consumer tissue between ultimate autochthonous and allochthonous carbon. Investigators initially relied on assimilation efficiencies of gut contents and later on bulk tissue stable isotope analysis or fatty acid methods. The newest technique in amino acid, compound specific, stable isotope analysis (AA-CSIA), however, enables investigators to link consumers to food sources by tracing essential amino acids from producers to consumers. We used AA-CSIA to evaluate nutrient sources for 5 invertivorous and 6 piscivorous species in 2 hydrogeomorphically contrasting large rivers: the anastomosing Upper Mississippi River (UMR) and the mostly constricted lower Ohio River (LOR). Museum specimens we analyzed isotopically had been collected by other investigators over many decades (UMR: 1900–1969; LOR: 1931–1970). Our results demonstrate that on average algae contributed 58.5% (LOR) to 75.6% (UMR) of fish diets. The next highest estimated contributions of food sources were from C3 terrestrial plants (21.1 and 11.5% for the LOR and UMR, respectively). Moreover, results from 11 individually examined species consistently demonstrated the importance of algae for most fish species in these trophic guilds. Differences among rivers in relative food source availability resulting from contrasting hydrogeomorphic complexity may account for relative proportions of amino acids derived from algae.
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Kenyi cichlids belong to mbuna group which is specific to Lake Malawi. Gender discrimination is easy because males have yellow, females have blue colors and their spawning efficiency is good. Cichlid producers prefer kenyi cichlids in recent years due to reproduction performance and coloring of kenyi. In this study, effects of Spirulina-based diet and feeding frequency on coloration, seed production, growth and survival on kenyi cichlids (Maylandia lombardoi) were investigated for 112 days. The study was carried out in a recirculating system which has 100 L each tank and 12 fiberglass tanks with three replicates. Ten fish (3 months old, mean body weight 2.00 ± 0.05 g and mean total length 4.51 ± 0.42 cm) were randomly placed in each tank. Experimental groups were designed with commercial granule (C) and commercial granule Spirulina (S) feeds. In the present study, two feeding frequencies were applied: one feeding daily at 09:00 (namely C1, S1) and three times daily at 09:00, 12:00 and 17:00 (namely C3, S3). The growth and seed production of cichlid fed three times daily were significantly higher compared to fish fed one feeding daily, irrespective of feed source (P < 0.05). Moreover, the specific growth rate of cichlid fed Spirulina-based diet was significantly elevated compared to fish fed non-Spirulina-based diet. The Spirulina-based diets affected skin coloration giving a bluish hue and a typical chroma values for the females of kenyi cichlid. In conclusion, growth performance, seed production and skin coloration of kenyi cichlid fed Spirulina diets three times daily enhanced under the study condition.
The cultivation of microalgae is of great interest due to the high yields and rapid growth rates that can be produced. The fatty acids from microalgal biomass may have therapeutic effects for humans and can be used for biodiesel production. The aim of this study was to evaluate the fatty acid profile of microalgae grown in a heterotrophic mode. Cultures that were carried out with BG11 medium supplemented with 10 g.L⁻¹ of glucose produced the highest cellular concentrations (1.62; 1.53; 1.14 g.L⁻¹) for Chlorella sp., C. homosphaera and C. minutissima, respectively, while the assays without glucose remained at a cellular concentration equal to that at the beginning of the experiments (0.15 g.L⁻¹). The microalga C. homosphaera grown in BG11 supplemented with 10 g.L⁻¹ of glucose had the highest concentration of lipids in dry biomass (22.4% w/w). The maximum concentration of total PUFA (35.25% w/w) and essential fatty acids (35.05% w/w) was found in C. homosphaera in Basal medium without glucose, which is the most suitable method for producing PUFAs and essential fatty acids.
In the present study, we investigated the effect of dietary supplementation with microalgae rich in DHA (C22:6n3) on the fatty acid composition of different fat deposits and muscles in light lambs. Two dietary treatments were studied: control (CT) and microalgae (MT), containing 2% of DHA- rich microalgae. Dietary incorporation of microalgae modified fatty acid composition in all anatomical locations studied (intramuscular, subcutaneous and kidney knob and channel fat); however, intramuscular fat was the most affected deposit. Intramuscular fat of MT lambs had higher levels of DHA (3.35%) and total n3 fatty acids (5.71%), than that of CT lambs (0.25 and 1.23% respectively). Dietary supplementation with microalgae produced a greater proportion of DHA and total n3 in M. Infraspinatus (IM) (5.12 and 8.13% respectively) compared with M. Longissimus (LM) (3.35 and 5.71% respectively) and M. Psoas major (PM) (3.62 and 6.24% respectively). Dietary supplementation with microalgae enhanced the nutritional quality of lamb muscle with more favourable PUFA/SFA and n6/n3 ratios in conjunction with increased levels of DHA and total n3 fatty acids.
This study aimed on modern analytical techniques for the isolation, separation and structural identification of the essential bioactive carotenoid Lutein, from green microalga, Chlorella salina. Identification was done by comparing their absorption and mass spectral data with those of reference standard values reported. The extract is separated by selective C18 columns and the data were then combined with spectroscopic information. Structural assignment of the separated compound is done by HR-MS. The results of the spectral investigation showed that the isolated pigment showed absorbance peak at 445 nm. Total luminescence spectra were recorded by measuring the emission spectra in the range 350–720 nm at an excitation wavelength of 455 nm. The excitation-emission matrices were recorded and two basic fluorescence regions have been obtained. The compound was resolved within 4.36 min by using a C18 column with a flow rate at 1 ml/min and detection at 450 nm. The compound was detected by a High Resolution Orbitrap-MS with regard to specificity and sensitivity (with limits of detection ranging from 1.0 to 3.8 pg μL−1).
Purpose of review Phytosterols are plant sterols structurally similar to cholesterol that act in the intestine to lower cholesterol absorption. Because they have very low systemic absorption and are already present in healthy diets, increasing the intake of phytosterols may be a practical way to reduce coronary heart disease with minimum risk. Recent findings Phytosterols displace cholesterol from intestinal micelles, reducing the pool of absorbable cholesterol, but they are also rapidly taken up by enterocytes and increase expression of the adenosine triphosphate-binding cassette A 1 sterol transporter. Phytosterol esters dissolved in food fat reduce LDL-cholesterol by 10% at a maximum effective dose of 2 g/day. However, this work probably understates the true effectiveness of phytosterols because it does not account for those naturally present in baseline diets. Single meal studies show that phytosterols in intact foods are bioactive at doses as low as 150 mg. The potential effectiveness of phytosterols has been improved in several ways. Individuals most likely to respond have been identified as having high cholesterol absorption and low cholesterol biosynthesis. Phytosterols can be emulsified with lecithin and delivered in non-fat or low-fat foods and beverages, and the amount of fat in fat-based preparations can be reduced substantially with the retention of bioactivity. Summary Phytosterols effectively reduce LDL-cholesterol when given as supplements, and the smaller amounts in natural foods also appear to be important. Future work will focus on the better delivery of phytosterols in natural foods and supplements and on further defining the mechanisms of action.