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Chemical Characterization of Six Microalgae with Potential Utility for Food Application

Abstract

Microalgae contain high levels of proteins, carbohydrates, and lipids, and have found a useful application in enhancing the nutritional value of foods. These organisms can also synthesize long-chain fatty acids in the form of triacylglycerols, such as α-linolenic acid (ALA), eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), linolenic acid (LA), γ-linolenic acid (GLA) and arachidonic acid (AA). The aim of this study was to determine the chemical composition and measure protein, carbohydrates, fibers, lipids as well as the fatty acids composition of six microalgae species with potential application in the food industry. Two freshwater species, Chlorella vulgaris and Spirulina platensis, and four marine species, Nannochloropsis oculata, Nannochloropsis gaditana, Porphyridium cruentum, and Phaeodactylum tricornutum, were used in the experiments. Intracellular protein was the most prominent algal component (42.8–35.4 %), followed by carbohydrate + fiber (32.3–28.6 %), and lipids (15.6–5.3 %). N. gaditana is rich in saturated fatty acids, mainly palmitic acid (5.1 g/100 g), while the cells of S. platensis and C. vulgaris algae are abundant in GLA (1.9 g/100 g) and ALA (2.8 g/100 g) acids, respectively. P. cruentum differs from other algae, because it contains a large amount of AA (3.7 g/100 g). The marine microorganisms N. oculata and P. tricornutum are also a source of essential long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acids (LC-PUFA-ɷ3), mainly composed of EPA and DHA. Our results suggest that the freshwater species C. vulgaris and S. platensis are attractive nutritional supplements because of their low fiber and high protein/carbohydrate contents, while the marine species P. tricornutum and N. oculata can enrich foods with LC-PUFA-ω3, because of their favorable ω3/ω6 ratio.

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Acknowledgments

The authors would like to thank Conselho Nacional de Desenvolvimento Científico e Tecnológico (CNPq, Brazil) and Coordenação de Aperfeiçoamento Pessoal de Nível Superior (CAPES) for financial support and doctoral scholarship to AP Matos and R Feller.

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Correspondence to Ângelo Paggi Matos.

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Matos, Â.P., Feller, R., Moecke, E.H.S. et al. Chemical Characterization of Six Microalgae with Potential Utility for Food Application. J Am Oil Chem Soc 93, 963–972 (2016). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11746-016-2849-y

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  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/s11746-016-2849-y

Keywords

  • Microalgae
  • Biomass composition
  • Lipids
  • Fatty acids
  • Omega-3
  • Nutraceuticals