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Extracting bioactive compounds from marine microalgae


Microalgae can produce high value health compounds like omega-3s , traditionally sourced from fish. With declining fish stocks, an alternative source is imperative. Published in the Pertanika Journal of Tropical Agricultural Science, researchers evaluated various methods for extracting fatty acids and carotenoids from two microalgae species.

Microalgae are photosynthetic microorganisms that produce high value compounds considered essential for human health, including polyunsatured fatty acids (e.g., omega-3s like EPA and DHA), various pigments (chlorophyll and carotenoids), and vitamins. Although fish have traditionally been our principal dietary source of EPA and DHA, declining marine fish stocks, the unpleasant odour of fish oil, and other disadvantages, have prompted a search for alternative sources of these nutrients.

Fish oil has high levels of omega-3s but with declining fish stocks, it is imperative to find alternative sources

Copyright : Wikimedia

Nannochloropsis sp. microalgae viewed under a light microscope.

Copyright : Photo taken at Wageningen University by Inks002 / Wikimedia Commons

In a study, published in the Pertanika Journal of Tropical Agricultural Science, S. P. Loh and S. Lee of the Universiti Putra Malaysia evaluated various methods for extracting fatty acids and carotenoids from two microalgae species: Chaetoceros gracillis, a diatom, and Nannochloropsis occulata, a unicellular green alga. Both species play an important role in the food chain, while N. occulata is also widely cultivated for fish hatcheries and shrimp farms.

No standard extraction methods currently exist for determining the fatty acid or carotenoid content of microalgae. Therefore, the researchers selected different extraction methods based on these criteria: maximum extraction efficiency, ease of handling, and use of solvents of low toxicity.

Overall, the study found that high amounts of fatty acids and carotenoids could be obtained from both microalgae. However, for both fatty acid and carotenoid extration, one extraction method was superior in N. occulata while another method yielded the best results in C. gracillis.

The researchers also found that N. occulata had higher amounts of the omega-3 fatty acid EPA, while C. gracillis was particularly high in palmitic acid and palmitoleic acid levels. In addition, there were significantly higher carotenoid levels in N. occulata compared to C. gracillis.

For more information about this research, please contact:
S. P. Loh
Department of Nutrition and Dietetics
Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences
Universiti Putra Malaysia
3400 Serdang, Selangor, Malaysia
Tel: +(603) 8947 2432; Mobile: +(6012) 391 2654.

About Pertanika Journal of Tropical Agricultural Science (JTAS)
Pertanika Journal of Tropical Agricultural Science (JTAS) is published by Universiti Putra Malaysia in English and is open to authors around the world regardless of nationality. The journal is published four times a year in February, May, August and November. Other Pertanika series include Pertanika Journal of Science & Technology (JST), and Pertanika Journal of Social Sciences & Humanities (JSSH).

JTAS aims to provide a forum for high quality research related to tropical agricultural research. Areas relevant to the scope of the journal include: agricultural biotechnology, biochemistry, biology, ecology, fisheries, forestry, food sciences, entomology, genetics, microbiology, pathology and management, physiology, plant and animal sciences, production of plants and animals of economic importance, and veterinary medicine. The journal publishes original academic articles dealing with research on issues of worldwide relevance.

For more information about the journal, contact:

The Chief Executive Editor (UPM Journals)
Head, Journal Division, UPM Press
Office of the Deputy Vice Chancellor (R&I)
IDEA Tower 2, UPM-MDTC Technology Centre
Universiti Putra Malaysia
43400 Serdang, Selangor
Phone: +(603) 8947 1622 | +(6016) 217 4050

The Chief Executive Editor, UPM Journals

Associated links
Link to research paper
Pertanika Journals

Dr Nayan KANWAL, FRSA, ABIM, AMIS, Ph.D. | ResearchSEA
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