The global hunger index (GHI) ranks India high with regard to proportion of calorie-deficient or undernourished population and prevalence of underweight children up to the age of five and their mortality. UN estimates that 2.1 million Indian children die before reaching the age of five every year. Although India improved its position in GHI by climbing to 55th position in 2014 from previous year’s performance at 63rd place, it still lags behind Thailand, China, Ghana, Iraq, Sri Lanka and Nepal. GHI, however, does not consider nourishment aspect. India is among most poverty-stricken regions in the world and ranked third based on the available statistics. This affects the availability of nutrient-rich food to the larger proportion of population especially in the lower economic strata. Though government efforts to bring Food Security Act are laudable, it needs to ascertain that nutrition security can be simultaneously achieved. Options that could bring affordable nutrition would be better to avoid dependency on non-vegetarian edible source for fulfiling the need for proteins, vitamins, amino acids, fatty acids and micronutrients. Although the precise world statistic is not available, staggering 31% Indian population (over 350 million people) consists of pure vegetarians. In India, the peace towards animals ahimsa brought vegetarianism among religious followers and philosophers. However production of vegetable crops needs sufficient agricultural land, and adequate water for irrigation with substantial expenditure towards fertilisers and pesticides, which are fast dwindling due to population upsurge. Wonder plants Marine algae (better alternative to misnomer “seaweeds”) are wonder plants that could be incorporated into the human diet to improve the nutrition of vegetarian community. This group of lower organisms existed for over 2.5 billion years and therefore exhibit plethora of active chemical compounds especially developed for their own survival which could essentially be utilised for health benefit. In the Far East and Pacific, there has been a long tradition of consuming marine algae as sea vegetables. Sea vegetables were the regular diet of Celtic culture, while the reference of consuming marine algae could be traced to beginning of fourth century in Japan and during sixth century in China. This long tradition of consuming marine algae has led to several epidemiological studies confirming their health benefits. Apart from micro elements, vitamins and fibres they are the rich sources of polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFA), mainly long chain Omega-3 fatty acids. These needs to be obtained only through diet as human body cannot synthesise them. The global eating patterns of humankind have undergone marked changes due to globalisation of the market. According to a report published on utilisation of marine resources worldwide for human consumption, 65% of 221 marine algae have been exploited for edible purpose. They are increasingly being utilised as food item apart from gelling agent in the form of garnishing agent, condiments, soups, green tea and spice. Novel products Novel products such as low sodium salt of botanical origin were developed by CSIR-Central Salt and Marine Chemicals Research Institute, Bhavnagar. This salt is prepared using red alga Kappaphycus alvarezii - which is commercially being cultivated widely in tropical waters including India - and common halophyte Salicornia brachiata which is abundantly available. The marine algal tissue selectively accumulates higher amount of potassium salt. The salt contents 30% potassium chloride and 65% sodium chloride. The potassium also helps in slackening of muscles. Thus it is medically prescribed for hypertension patients. This salt is also naturally fortified with micro elements especially magnesium and iron as well. The free flowing salt can be obtained without any chemical processing. The second novel product developed from Kappaphycus alvarezii is refined juice for potential health drink application. The juice contains iodine, magnesium, calcium, sodium, zinc, phosphorus and iron and some of the compounds help brain function and boost immunity. Iron and calcium content The marine algal biomass can also be utilised for brimming snack food industry. The research conducted by CSIR-Central Food Technological Research Institute, Mysore, and CSIR-Central Salt and Marine Chemicals Research Institute have clearly shown that incorporation of most common edible green alga Enteromorpha compress in snack food such as pakora can increase iron and calcium content about five-fold. The calorific values of most of the marine algae are low which makes them ideal candidate for developing anti-obesity food products. Other compounds such as soluble fibres, antioxidants, amino acids, vitamin B12 can improve the dietary content of snack food which is otherwise considered as junk food. The antioxidant potential of several marine algae is being studied and it appears that some of these species possess good promise to utilise them for potential health benefits. The detailed study of over hundred marine algal taxa from tropical waters have suggested that the lipid content of these algae is much lower (> 20 mg/g fr wt) than land grown edible vegetables. Nevertheless, a substantially high amount (up to 70%) of nutritionally important polyunsaturated fatty acids of total fatty acid composition was recorded. The incorporation of dried algal powder as in fast foods such as pasta, pizza and fried foods could act as cost-effective dietary supplement. Our studies carried out along the west coast of India showed that the mineral content of edible red alga Porphyra vietnamensis is higher than land vegetables and other edible marine algae such as Caulerpa lentillifera, Enteromorpha flexuosa, Monostroma oxysperum, Eucheuma denticulatum, and Gracilaria parvispora reported from Hawaii. The recently-developed green method by us on integrated production of several compounds from fresh marine algal biomass explored possibility of utilising entire biomass including nutritionally important protein concentrate, having applications in food industry. The other interesting byproducts include pigments such as chlorophylls and phycobiliproteins having enormous applications in confectionery industry as edible food colourants. Marine algal salads The marine algal salads are immensely popular in countries like Korea, Japan, China and Vietnam. In southern and central Vietnam, agarophytes like local species of Gracilaria and Gelidiella are used for preparing edible jelly called “xu xoa.” The jelly is eaten with a sweet mixture of lime juice, sugar, coconut milk and ginger extract. The other popular edible alga is Gracilaria euchumatoides which has been used to prepare soft candy locally known as “che rau cau” available in roadside shops. The marine algal pudding is given to lactating mothers to improve breast feed in Korea. The fermented preparation prepared from green alga Codium is traditional delicacy in Far East countries. Marine algae have been the extraordinary source of an essential element ‘iodine’ which is absent in majority of other foods. Therefore, consuming marine algal products ensures maintaining healthy thyroid to avoid medical conditions like goitres. The medicinal properties of marine algae have been studied extensively. Although, there have been several metabolites with biological activities reported, very few products with real potential applications have been developed or brought in the market. The most promising leads persuaded by commercial pharmaceutical companies in their R&D laboratories include sulfated polysaccharides with antiviral activities, halogenated furanones as antifouling compounds and kahalalide F from green marine alga Bryopsis for possible treatment in lung cancer, tumours and AIDS. The other compounds such as macro algal lectins, fucoidans, kainoids as well as aplysiatoxins have also been significant in drug discovery programmes. The consumption of marine algae regularly have shown to reduce the incidences of lifestyle associated diseases such as cancer, coronary heart ailments, neurodegenerative disorders and inflammation. Key challenge The key challenge is developing viable methods of commercial farming of marine algae which should be cost-effective and labour-intensive. The farming of edible algae such as Prophyra (Nori), and Monostroma (Awo-Nori) is traditionally being carried out in Japan. Although most of the polysaccharide yielding marine algae are cultivated using vegetative fragments, most of the edible algae propagate through spores. This required clear understanding of reproductive strategy and control over sporulation. The nursery techniques need to be implemented for rearing the germlings before outplanting in the sea. The recent biotechnological interventions such as protoplast isolation, fusion and tissue culture techniques could be implemented to develop new fast growing and high yielding varieties, along with conventional breeding methodologies. However, the latter is time-consuming and requires backcross to confirm the traits. Nevertheless, advancement in cultivation techniques to improve productivity, scalability and environmental acceptability is the need of the hour. The food industry in India is worth around US$155 billion which is expected to reach about US$344 billion by the year 2025, with annual increase of about 4.1%. The share of snacks food alone is US$3 billion with an impressive rate of around 15-20% per annum. Close to 1,000 types of snack foods are available. The market is driven by creating innovative snack foods and thus there are plenty of opportunities for creating marine algal based snack food industries in India. Nevertheless, it is worth remembering that the marine algae do not always come with beneficial nutrition but also contain undesired chemicals especially heavy metals, more studies are thus desired. (The authors are scientists from Marine Algal Research Station, Council of Scientific and Industrial Research and Central Salt and Marine Chemicals Research Institute, Council of Scientific and Industrial Research) Source: http://www.fnbnews.com/article/detnews.asp?articleid=37502§ionid=1
Nothing quite beats the taste of corn of the cob in summer or the delightful yellow offering of a true succotash. For centuries, corn has been a staple in North American diets and continues to be a primary choice for meals whether in its native form or processed, such as corn flakes. Apart from human uses, corn makes up the majority of feed for livestock. At one point, over 95% of the feed grains grown in the United States were based on corn. It’s no surprise then that in 2015 alone, some 89.2 million acres will be grown in the United States. This represents around 40% of all the corn grown worldwide. But corn has seen a decline due to a number of factors. Crops have been hard hit by climate change. Higher temperatures have led to decreased yields and less overall abundance. As a result, the value of corn has dropped since 2012. This has put additional pressure on farmers, suggesting they may have to forego corn and look to other crops to maintain viability. This could harm corn stocks and hinder food security. There may be an answer to the corn dilemma, but to find it, one has to look not in the prairies but the sea. Within the salty brine are algae. These microorganisms, once believed to be primordial plant species, are nutrient-making machines. They are known to produce high levels of antioxidants and also a variety of essential fatty acids. Some companies have even seen their algal-derived products make it to market. But extraction may not be the only benefit behind these waterborne creatures. The use of the entire organism as a food source has been suggested for decades. Back in the 1960s, trials of algae-based diets revealed the idea wasn’t all that bad. They were nutritious, provided all the right dietary ingredients. Their bitterness shocked at first, but was eventually tolerated. Little has been done in the last five decades as there have been few reasons to explore this option. But the decline in corn has once again raised the algae idea. This time, however, the target isn’t humans but livestock. The use of algae in feed has been tested sporadically with fairly good results. In cattle, algae helped to increase the level of essential fatty acids in milk. Insheep, overall health improved. Even chickens seem to gain some benefit from algae in their feed. The idea has become so popular there is a push to develop policies for their inclusion in all forms of agriculture. Despite the overall improvement of animal health, algae have traditionally been seen as a supplement rather than a major constituent. But that may change thanks to an American team of researchers. Earlier this year, they published a study in which they used algae as a replacement for corn. The results showed these microorganisms may one day help to improve food security by keeping corn out of animal feed and keeping it solely for humans. The algal mass was mixed with soy hulls and hay to make an appetizing mix for the steers. The group tested varying concentrations of the algal supplement in combination with lower levels of corn or wet gluten from corn (a byproduct of distillation). In the most extreme condition, the algal mass was 45% of the feed with corn being only 16%. In the gluten experiment, the ratio of algae to the wet mass was 45% to 35%. At first, the team conducted experiments in the lab to determine whether the new diet would be actually digestible. It was. This allowed them to continue the experiments with the steers. They tested a variety of factors including actual dry mass consumed including crude protein and fiber levels as well as daily weight gain. The experiments revealed the animals didn’t mind algae but they have their limits. When the algal concentration was 30%, they ate it up readily. When the concentration was 45%, however, they were less likely to choose the meal. This wasn’t a hit on the algae but rather how it was made. In this study, the algal mass was dried and de-oiled, making it very dry. For the steers, this might have been a little too dry for their tastes. By adding water to the mix, the amount of food consumed increased. In the gluten experiments, because moisture was already present, this dietary preference wasn’t observed. As for the nutritional value, weight gain was comparable to corn save for the 45% algae option. In this case, the animals did better than those fed solely corn. The most benefit from the algae came when it was mixed with the wet gluten. This suggests the two could work together to improve nutrition for the animals. The authors suggested the results of this study offer a viable option for reducing if not eliminating raw corn usage in feeds. The results show steers can do quite well with algae and the waste from corn distillation. This could help to reduce the strain on corn supplies and leave the raw food for more human purposes. http://www.popsci.com/farm-algae-may-be-new-corn
Arthrospira platensis was literally on the tip of everyone’s tongue last week when approximately 600 students from Sweden, Belgium and Greece participated in a multi-site in-flight call with ESA astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti. Since the end of last year, schools throughout Europe signed up for the ‘Food from Spirulina’ biological experiment, which called upon students aged 14 to 16 to perform an experiment on cyanobacteria Arthrospira platensis, also known as Spirulina. As part of Samantha Cristoforetti’s education and outreach programme, ESA education in collaboration with ESA scientists developed an experimental kit to be used in the classroom which focussed on the fundamentals of cutting edge research in the 25 year old ‘Micro-Ecological Life Support System Alternative’ programme (MELiSSA). If humans are to venture further into space, alternative systems which bypass the necessity for resupply cargo vehicles from Earth will need to be implemented. One solution being worked on, is the focus of the MELiSSA programme scientists who are aiming to define a complete ecosystem capable of replenishing oxygen, food and water for the crew. Spirulina was identified as the ideal symbiont for such life supporting ecosystems not only for it’s ability to recycle exhaled CO2 into fresh O2 via photosynthesis but also due to it’s spectacular nutritious properties - low in DNA content, presence of all essential amino acids and a multitude of vitamins. Spirulina is commonly found in food stores and often sold as a ‘Super Food’ supplement. Inflight call with the International Space Station In an attempt to bring cutting-edge space research and science into the classroom, ESA education office commissioned 1000 kits to be delivered to schools throughout ESA member states on a first-come, first-served basis. The kits were distributed early March and by early April several thousand students were writing up their reports, which - while the data is still being analysed by ESA education office - seems to have generated well over 80% success rate and clear O2 production in the samples the students exhaled into whilst the controls slowly withered away due to a lack of carbon sources. The experiment thus demonstrated one of the principles of the MELiSSA programme and helped the students understand that the content of their lessons are more than ever relevant to real research and science at the forefront of space exploration. For a few lucky students who participated in the experiment, ESA organised an in flight call with Samantha Cristoforetti. Borlange Framtidsmuseet in Sweden, SCK-CEN in Mol, Belgium and University of Crete in Heraklion were chosen to host hundreds of students for a day full of various space related experiments, activities and scientific lectures. As always with a live connection to the International Space Station, the atmosphere was electric and the ability for some 15 students to ask our crew member in space their question was an unforgettable experience. Healthy Spirulina-based muffins All the students taking part in the day managed to have a taste of the celebrity of the day, Spirulina, whether it be in Swedish smoothies, Belgian waffles or space-qualified muesli bars, the students all went home with a satisfied appetite for science. “The experience exceeded my expectations! I was fully satisfied with Samantha’s answers to all of our questions. I was also impressed of how friendly, warm, approachable and happy Samantha was”, Giorgos Aggelakis. Christine Wintzer Science teacher from Ecole Europeene Bruxelles II said “This project has enabled my students to participate in the world of space and that of scientific research! What could possibly better to bring out scientific vocations.” Jenny Jannson a Swedish teacher from Ludvika said " I have never seen my students so engaged! Their eyes full of the magic of science! A once in a life time experience!" Source: http://www.esa.int/Education/Teachers_Corner/Food_from_Spirulina_project_concludes
Two large animal nutrition companies are teaming up to develop algae-based omega-3 fatty acid products for animal nutrition, particularly aquaculture and pet food applications. DSM Nutritional Products, headquartered in Switzerland, and Evonik Nutrition & Care, headquartered in Germany stated in a press release to meet the increasing demand for omega-3 fatty acids by harnessing naturally occurring marine algae using sustainable, biotechnological processes based on natural, non-marine resources.
Developing products togetherUnder the agreement, the companies will jointly work on the development of products and explore opportunities for commercialisation. In the press release, the companies write: "The competencies that DSM and Evonik bring to the development partnership complement each other: DSM has expertise in the cultivation of marine organisms and long-established biotechnology capabilities in development and operations, whilst Evonik's focus for decades has been on industrial amino acid biotechnology executing large-volume fermentation processes."
Natural and sustainable alternatives to fish oilThe envisioned algae-based omega-3 fatty acid products will be high value, natural and sustainable alternatives to fish oil, whose supply is finite. This will help the animal nutrition industry keep up with increasing demand without endangering fish stocks and will contribute to healthy and sustainable animal nutrition. Just like humans, animals also need their daily intake of essential, long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acids in their diet to ensure healthy growth. Until now, these fatty acids have been added to aquaculture feed almost exclusively from marine sources such as fish oil and fishmeal. By using algae, DSM and Evonik are looking to contribute to a more sustainable aquaculture industry. First results DSM and Evonik expect that in Q4 2015 they will be able to report the first results of the algae-based omega-3 fatty acid product development. Source: http://www.allaboutfeed.net/Nutrition/Research/2015/7/Algae-based-omega-3-fatty-acids-for-animals-2663738W/
In praise of algae biofuelAlgae represents a giant step forward in the field of biofuel, especially compared to food-based alternatives such as corn ethanol. One of the main drawbacks of food-based biofuels is that they suck up agricultural resources that face increasing stress from the twin whammies of population growth and climate change. In contrast, algae can be grown in environments where food cannot be grown. Man-made ponds, brackish water and wastewater are the examples cited by the DOE. That advantage also provides algae biofuel with the potential to introduce new commercial activity into communities. Texas A&M University, for example, is deeply involved in algae biofuel research, and it recognizes economic as well as environmental benefits: “With its high oil content algae is ideal for producing biodiesel and jet fuel, and it can be cultivated in brackish water on land unsuitable for growing food … Commercial microalgae farms in west Texas would generate jobs and enhance economic growth. Co-products from algae biofuels production show potential as a protein supplement in cattle feed or as a source of nitrogen fertilizer. This makes algae for fuel more economically sustainable.” The Energy Department’s algae biofuel article is a quick read, but for those of you who need things even quicker, here’s the breakdown. When the DOE talks algae, it’s not talking about something that resembles seaweed or other water plants. It’s talking about micro-scale organisms, aka “microscopic green machines,” which harvest solar energy and store it in the form of oil. The agency sees progress in the following areas:
- Engineering and/or finding natural strains of algae that can maximize oil production.
- Developing efficient methods for growing and harvesting algae, then dewatering and concentrating algae material for refining.
- Transitioning from demonstration-scale operations to commercial scale.
Algae biofuel companies not sitting on their hands…The signs of progress are all well and good, but for the here and now algae biofuel companies have to find ways to hang on until they can achieve a profitable operation. That means finding other ways to put algae to work, and on that score we’ve been following two algae companies that provide different examples of that approach. One is the company OriginClear, which TriplePundit has covered under its former name,OriginOil. OriginClear’s latest development, announced last month, is a pure algae concentrate that could reduce the use of conventional fertilizer. The announcement was based on the results of field tests in Texas with OriginClear’s partner company, AlgEternal, which is working with Texas A&M, among others, to provide third-party confirmation. Another algae biofuel company familiar to TriplePundit readers is Solazyme. Working with global chemicals manufacturer BASF, last week Solazyme announced the development of the first commercial surfactant based on algae oil. The new product, marketed by BASF under the name Dehyton AO 45, acts as a foaming agent in personal care and household products such as shampoos, among other uses. The bottom line: While fleet managers are turning to compressed natural gas (CNG) for a cleaner-burning fuel in the short term, fossil gas as a source is highly problematic, and algae biofuel presents a more sustainable long-term solution. Source: http://www.triplepundit.com/2015/08/energy-dept-foresees-algae-biofuel-in-your-future/
When it comes to picking the best nutritional supplement available, many people tend to ask, “How does Spirulina differ from Chlorella and other blue-green algae?” Granted, both are incredibly powerful superfoods that can benefit anyone who takes them as part of their daily health regimen, but spirulina and chlorella are definitely two different varieties of a similar type of microalgae.
Physical Differences Between Spirulina and ChlorellaSpirulina and chlorella are very similar in the fact that they are both types of micro-algae, but whereas spirulina is a spiral-shaped, multi-celled algae with no true nucleus, chlorella is a spherical-shaped single-celled algae with a nucleus. Spirulina can sometimes be up to 100-times larger than chlorella. In addition, while spirulina is a blue-green form of algae, chlorella is a solid green-colored form of algae.
Cultivation Differences Between Spirulina and ChlorellaSpirulina tends to grow best in fresh water ponds, rivers, and lakes that have a relatively high alkaline content. Moderate temperatures and abundant sunshine are required in order to produce exemplary crops. In most natural environments, the waters where spirulina flourishes is usually home to very few other organisms, so harvesting the crop is easier. Meanwhile, chlorella, which is also grown in fresh water, tends to occupy water with other organisms due to its microscopic size, making it much more difficult to harvest and cultivate. Chlorella is also traditionally more difficult to process than spirulina, due to the fact that it has an indigestible cellulose wall. Therefore, chlorella requires processing before it can be made available for human consumption. It first has to undergo a complex process in order to mechanically break the cellulose wall. If the cellulose wall isn’t broken, then the body won’t be able to digest it. This process is not only complex, but it requires expensive equipment to perform. Therefore, the cost of the product is ultimately significantly higher. In comparison, spirulina has a perfectly digestible cellulose wall, therefore it is readily available for consumption, and immediately digested and absorbed when taken.
Nutritional Differences Between Spirulina and ChlorellaBoth spirulina and chlorella are classified as superfoods, so they are both among the richest nutrient sources on the planet. But, spirulina has a higher percentage of protein and iron, as well as all eight essential amino acids; potassium; zinc; calcium; vitamins B1, B2, B3, B6 and B-12. Spirulina also has a higher percentage of beta-carotene, while chlorella has a greater level of chlorophyll (due to its dark green color).
Additional Differences Between Spirulina, Chlorella, and Other Blue-Green Algae
- Spirulina is easier on the digestive system than chlorella and other types of blue-green algae
- Spirulina offers the highest level of gamma-linolenic acid (GLA), a “good fat” that is vital for the health and function of the brain, heart, and other body organs and systems
A new study has been published in Biotechnology for Biofuels by several university researchers from Europe and China that investigates the effect of initial-biomass-specific (IBS) light availability on batch microalgal triacylglycerides (TAGs) forNannochloropsis sp. cultivated in vertical and horizontal outdoor tubular reactors at different initial biomass concentrations for the TAG accumulation phase, during two distinct seasons (high and low light conditions). In the paper, titled “Microalgal triacylglycerides production in outdoor batch-operated tubular PBRs,” the researchers state that algae products have not been economical yet mainly because of low productivity, which is strictly dependent on IBS light availability—defined as the ratio of light impinging on reactor ground area divided by initial biomass concentration per ground area. The results showed that increasing IBS-light availability led to both a higher IBS-TAG production rate and TAG content at the end of the batch, whereas biomass yield on light decreased. As a result, an optimum IBS-light availability was determined for the TAG productivity obtained at the end of the batch and several guidelines could be established. In their conclusions, the authors write that “from this study, the great importance of IBS-light availability on TAG production can be deduced. Although maintaining high light availabilities in the reactor is key to reach high TAG contents at the end of the batch, considerable losses in TAG productivity were observed for the two reactors regardless of light condition, when not operated at optimal initial biomass concentrations (15 to 40 percent for vertical reactors and 30 to 60 percent for horizontal reactors).” For the complete study, and all of the technical data, results, methodology and conclusions, click here. Sources: http://www.biodieselmagazine.com/blog/article/2015/07/new-algae-study-sheds-light-on-importance-of-ibs-light-availability http://www.biotechnologyforbiofuels.com/content/8/1/100
Researchers have used compounds found in algae and reef fish mucus to create a material that naturally blocks harmful UV rays, according to a paper published recently in ACS Applied Materials & Interfaces. The sunscreen you buy at your local pharmacy contains ingredients to block two different types of light from the sun—UV-A, which has longer wavelengths and can cause cancer over time, and UV-B, with shorter wavelengths that cause sunburns. But there are concerns about some of the chemicals in commercial sunscreens, which may disrupt some of the body's more delicate systems if they find their way inside. But there’s a natural compound that blocks both types of UV rays, called mycosporines. Mycosporines absorb both types of light, and would be safe if ingested. Researchers have wanted to use mycosporines in sunblock for more than a decade, but they weren’t so easy to fix in place—when scientists put them in a liquid sunscreen for people to put on their skin, the mycosporines would smear and dribble away so that they were largely ineffective. Now researchers have figured out how to fix mycosporines in place by putting them around a polymer scaffolding—for this experiment, they used chitosan, a material derived from shrimp and crab shells and found in a huge range of commercial products, but plenty of other polymers would work just as well, they note. The material could absorb UV-B rays 192 percent more effectively than most commercial sunscreens, and the film was stable after 12 hours of sun exposure or temperatures up to 176 degrees Fahrenheit. These qualities make the material a good candidate for a range of applications on biological and nonbiological materials. Most immediately, the film could be used in clothes and outdoor furniture, both of which can be damaged by too much sun exposure. Presumably the researchers would hope to reach the biggest possible market with a biocompatible sunscreen: human skin. Though the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has been slow to approve new sunscreens in the past, Chemical and Engineering News notes, a sunscreen made from mycosporines might be easier to approve because its sun-blocking components are all found in nature. Source: http://www.popsci.com/new-sun-blocking-material-uses-compounds-algae-and-fish