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Algae NutraPedia



Algae, ranging from single-celled microalgae to large seaweeds, are the simplest and most abundant form of plant life, responsible for more than half of the world’s primary production of oxygen. They form the base of the food chain with many living things depending upon them.

Algae have been collected for more than 4000 years in China and Japan for use as human food. There are many algae that are still cultivated for their nutritional value, either for supplemental use, or as a food source.


Algae are rich sources of:

  • Vitamins
  • Proteins
  • Detoxification agents
  • Anti-oxidants
  • Carotenoids
  • Essential fatty acids such as omega-3 and DHA
  • Vitamin B12
  • Minerals such as iron, magnesium, calcium, selenium, and zinc

….. and more

Algae – The Super Food

Algae are natural superfoods with greatest sources of extraordinary nutrients.

As algae are very high in nutrients, they are emerging as one of the most promising health supplements with potential health benefits. Studies evaluating the effects of algae suggest that some algae are beneficial for:

  • Improving cardiovascular health
  • Reducing cancer risk
  • Lowering blood sugar levels
  • Countering Fatigue
  • Reducing cholesterol
  • Improving malnutrition
  • Helping in weight loss
  • Fighting against ageing
  • Effective in heavy-metals detoxification
  • Relieving allergy symptoms in adults
  • Treating Attention deficit-hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)
  • Promoting immune system
  • Improving memory
  • Fighting against depression

Commercially Available Algae Dietary Supplements

Algae Health Supplement Key Benefit
Spirulina Richest Protein Supplement
Chlorella Detoxifying Agent
Omega-3 Fatty Acids
(Phaeodactylum and Crypthecodinium)
Heart Health
(from H. pluvialis)
(from D. salina)

Algae Nutraceutical Properties

images1 Protein – Some algae such as Spirulina contain unusually high amounts of protein, between 55 and 70 percent by dry weight, depending upon the source (Phang et al., 2000). It is a complete protein, containing all essential amino acids, though with reduced amounts of methionine, cystine, and lysine, as compared to standard proteins such as that from meat, eggs, or milk; it is, however, superior to all standard plant protein, such as that from legumes.


Essential Fatty Acids – Some of the algal strains have a high amount of essential fatty acids which are effective for heart and joint health. In particular spirulina is rich in α-linolenic acid (36 percent of total PUFAs), and also provides γ-linolenic acid (ALA), linoleic acid (LA, 36 percent of total ), stearidonic acid (SDA), eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and arachidonic acid (AA).

Eye health tips1

Beta carotene – Beta-carotene is a precursor of vitamin A, which is essential for healthy skin, mucus membrane, immune system, and eye health. It is also an anti-oxidant, which prevents cell damage caused by free radicals.


Astaxanthin – Astaxanthin is a carotenoid pigment and mainly used as an antioxidant. It is believed to be effective in decreasing the risks of cancer, and beneficial in cardiovascular, immune, inflammatory and neurodegenerative diseases. Studies state that it can also be used to treat carpal tunnel syndrome, rheumatoid arthritis, high cholesterol, musculoskeletal injuries, muscle strength and endurance, and male infertility.


Canthaxanthin is a carotenoid used to protect skin against sun sensitivity and for relieving itching caused by sun exposure. It is used in cosmetics and in medications.


Zeaxanthin and Lutein – Zeaxanthin and Lutein are potent antioxidants which are effective in eye health.


Phytoene, phytofluene – These are carotenoid pigments and believed to be beneficial in skin care by acting as antioxidants, UV absorbers and anti-inflammatory agents.


Echinenone, Fucoxanthin, and Phycobilins (Phycocyanin, Phycoerythrin, allophycocyanin) – These are carotenoid pigments that act as anti-oxidants, and believed to have anti-inflammatory, antinociceptive, and anti-cancer effects.

[Please note that some properties mentioned above are specific to some algae species details of which are given in subsequent topics]

The table below provides a summary of potential nutraceutical products from microalgae, alternative sources and applications.

Product Potential or Existing Algae Source Some Alternate Source (S) Applications
Beta carotene Dunaliella salina Blakeslea trispora, synthetic Pigmenter (food), pro-vitamin A, antioxidant
Astaxanthin Haematococcus pluvialis, Chlorella zofingiensis Xanthophyllomyces dendrorhous, synthetic Pigmenter(aquaculture), anti-oxidant
Canthaxanthin Chlorella spp, other green algae Dietzia natronolimnaea, synthetic Pigmenter (aquaculture, poultry and food)
Zeaxanthin Chlorella ellipsoidea; Dunaliella salina (mutant) Paprika (Capsicum annuum); Tagetes erecta, synthetic Anti-oxidant, food pigmenter
Lutein Scenedesmus spp., Muriellopsis spp., other green algae Tagetes spp., Blakeslea trispora Anti-oxidant
Phytoene,phytofluene Dunaliella Tomato Anti-oxidant, cosmetics
Echinenone Botryococcus braunii, cyanobacteria  - Anti-oxidant
Fucoxanthin Phaeodactylum tricornutum Brown algae Anti-oxidant
Phycobilins (Phycocyanin, Phycoerythrin, allophycocyanin) Cyanobacteria, Rhodophyta, Cryptophyta,Glaucophyta - Natural pigment (e.g. cosmetics and food products), fluorescent conjugates, anti-oxidant etc
Fatty acids      
Arachidonic acid Parietochloris incisa Mortierella spp Nutritional supplement
Eicosapentaenoic acid Nannochloropsis spp., Phaeodactylum tricornutum, Monodus subterraneus etc Fish oil Nutritional supplement
Docosahexaenoic acid Crypthecodinium cohnii, Schizochytrium spp, Ulkenia spp Fish oil Nutritional supplement
Sterols Many species Various plants Nutraceutical


Algae Nutraceutical Products


Algae Dietary Supplements

Following are the most commonly used commercial algae-based health supplements:

  • Spirulina protein supplement
  • Chlorella
  • Omega-3 fatty acids
  • Astaxanthin
  • Co-enzyme Q10
  • Beta carotene


1 kg of Spirulina has the same nutrients found in about 1,000 kgs of assorted vegetables

Nutritional Profile A balanced protein composition with the presence of rare essential lipids, numerous minerals and even vitamin B12.
Algae Strains Used
  • Spirulina platensis
  • Spirulina maxima
Key Benefits The complete protein supplement containing all essential amino acids
Uniqueness Dried spirulina contains about 60% protein. Spirulina has over 100 times the concentration of proteins as found in fruits and nuts. Having 10 g of spirulina is hence equivalent to having 1 Kg of nuts.
Health Benefits


  • Boosts the immune system
  • Controls appetite
  • Improves digestion
  • Supports cardiovascular function
  • Reduces fatigue
  • Helps proper liver and kidney functioning
  • Reduces inflammation and allergies
  • Detoxifier – cleanses the body
  • Boosts energy levels
Recommended Dosage 2 to 3 grams ( in four to six portions of 500 milligrams each)
Max limit: Up to 10 grams per day


Spirulina is completely safe. In few cases, people have reported some side effects such as:

  • Fever and restlessness
  • Gas and stomach aches
  • Dizziness, nausea and thirst
  • Itching skin, rashes and breakouts
Who Should Avoid?
  • People who have phenylketonuria or autoimmune disorder
  • During pregnancy and lactation

Know more about the benefits of Spirulina


The only food supplement with high chlorophyll to detoxify your body

Nutritional Profile Chlorella is an attractive potential food source because it is high in protein and other essential nutrients; when dried, it is about 45% protein, 20% fat, 20% carbohydrate, 5% fibre, and 10% minerals and vitamins.
Algae Strains Used
  • Chlorella pyrenoidosa
  • Chlorella vulgaris
  • Chlorella regularis
Key Benefits Powerful natural detoxification agent. Chlorella can eliminate the harmful and unwanted chemical toxins that have accumulated in our body through pesticides in our food, heavy metals in air &water, and chemicals in drinking water.
Uniqueness Chlorella contains 2-7% chlorophyll, the highest of any known food. The property of detoxifying poisoning substances from the body is one of the important differences between chlorella and other nutritional supplements.
Health Benefits


  • Binds to toxic heavy metals like mercury,lead,cadmium,uranium,arsenic and helps eliminate them from your body
  • Reduces blood pressure, blood sugar and cholesterol levels
  • Helps prevent cardiovascular disease
  • Diminishes asthma and allergy symptoms
  • Helps protect the liver from toxins ,including drugs
  • Helps control symptoms of ulcerative colitis
  • Anti-inflammatory properties of chlorella improve arthritis symptoms
  • Helps in enhancing digestion and bowel function
  • Improves immune system
  • Improves skin disorders
  • Helps in preventing cancers and growth of tumours
  • It has anti-ageing properties
  • Can be used to cure anemia
  • Helps in aiding weight loss
Recommended Dosage 1.5 to 3 g /day ( Maximum limit – up to 9g )
Side-effects The most common side effects include diarrhoea, nausea, gas (flatulence), green discolouration of the stools, and stomach cramping.
Who Should Avoid? Chlorella can contain iodine. Therefore, chlorella might cause an allergic reaction in people sensitive to iodine.

Know more about the benefits of Chlorella

Omega – 3 Fatty Acids

100% vegetarian source of Omega-3 which can save you from heart-attack

Nutritional Profile Alga is the vegetarian source of omega-3 fatty acids – Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and Eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) – which are important for heart, brain and eye health.
Algae Strains Used DHA:
Phaeodactylum tricornutum
Monodus subterraneus
Crypthecodinium cohnii,
Thraustochytrium aggregatum
Ulkenia spp
Key Benefits Cardio vascular health
Uniqueness Vegetarian source of Omega-3 fatty acids which helps in the metabolism of dietary fat and cholesterol.
Health Benefits


  • Important for cardiovascular function
  • Important for proper functioning of the brain
  • Improves brain memory, performance and behavioural function.
  • Important for nervous system function and neurotransmission
  • Boosts immunity
  • Effective inflammation control
Recommended Dosage 1-2 g per day
Side-effects Gastrointestinal symptoms such as belching, indigestion, or diarrhoea
Who Should Avoid? People who take drugs such as anticoagulants or anti-inflammatory drugs should avoid omega-3 supplements


Most powerful anti-oxidant which is,

6,000 times stronger than vitamin C

550 times stronger than vitamin E*

10 times stronger than beta-carotene

Nutritional Profile Astaxanthin is a naturally occuring carotenoid pigment with extremely powerful antioxidant properties. Studies report that astaxanthin is 550 times stronger than vitamin E and more powerful antioxidant than other carotenoids such as β-carotene, lutein and lycopene.
Uniqueness Astaxanthin contains hydroxyl and keto functional groups which provide them the unique ability to penetrate the blood brain and retinal barriers. Studies report that this unique ability enables astaxanthin to protect the brain and nervous system from neurodegenerative diseases and aging.
Algae Strains Used Haematococcus pluvialis, Chlorella vulgaris, Chlorella zofingiensis, and Coelastrella striolata var. multistriata
Haematococcus pluvialis is the richest algal source of astaxanthin and predominantly used for the commercial production of natural astaxanthin.
Key Benefits Extremely powerful natural antioxidant that traps more free radicals than any other antioxidant.
Health Benefits


Astaxanthin is found to have beneficial effects in:

  • Heart health
  • Brain health
  • Joint health
  • Skin health
  • Eye health
  • Beneficial in Central Nervous System (CNS) disorders
  • Enhancing the action of other antioxidants like Vitamin E and C.
  • Preventing age-related macular degeneration (AMD)
  • Enhancing immune functions
Recommended Dosage 2 mg / day (Max. limit – 8-10 mg/day)
Side-effects Side effects, although non-toxic, include:

  • Increased skin pigmentation and hair growth
  • Decreased blood pressure
  • Lowered calcium levels in the blood
  • Altered blood counts
  • Decreased libido
  • Hormonal changes
  • Enlargement of the breasts (in men)
Who Should Avoid?
  • Should be avoided by patients with hypertension, asthma, immune disorders, osteoporosis and parathyroid disorders
  • Astaxanthin may be unsafe for use during pregnancy and breast-feeding

*Source –


Nutritional Profile Beta-carotene is a carotenoid pigment. It acts as a provitamin-A and is converted to Vitamin A in the human body. In addition, it acts as an antioxidant and protects the body from cell damaging molecules called free radicals.
  • The algal beta-carotene has 4 times more powerful anti-oxidant properties than the synthetic beta-carotene.
  • Extremely high concentration of carotenoid antioxidants. Beta-carotene presents in the form of isomers. Beta- carotene found in fruits and vegetables contains about 10% of cis-isomers, whereas the algal beta-carotene contains about 50% of the 9-cis isomers. Therefore, the algae-based beta-carotene has potent bioavailability and antioxidant properties.
Algae Strains Used
  • Dunaliella (D. salina, D. bardawil, D. kona)
  • Spirulina platensis
  • Chlorella
  • Caulerpa taxifolia
Key Benefits Beta-carotene acts as a precursor of vitamin A and potent antioxidant. Therefore, found to be beneficial in skin health, eye health and prevents cardiovascular diseases.
Health Benefits


Beta-carotene is found to be beneficial in:

  • Decreasing risks of cancer and heart disease
  • Boosts immunity
  • Protecting the skin against sunburn
  • Prevents cataract
  • High blood pressure
  • Asthma
  • Depression
  • Diabetes
  • Psoriasis
  • Stroke
  • Arthritis
  • Infertility
  • Parkinson’s disease
  • Cervical dysplasia
  • Intermittent claudication
Recommended Dosage 20-180 mg /day (as supplement)
1–3 g ( as dried D. salina powder)
  • Reports suggest that beta-carotene may increase the risk of lung and gastrointestinal cancers in smokers and asbestos workers
  • Other possible side-effects include: dizziness, headache, joint pain, lung problems, constipation, diarrhoea, stomach and intestine problems, and yellowing of the skin.
Who Should Avoid?
  • Smokers
  • Asbestos workers


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