Superfoods are nutrients from food or food products that facilitate the prevention or treatment of diseases or disorders. Over 470 nutraceutical and functional food products are commercially available with researched health benefits, and their documented role in the enhancement of health has driven interest in these substances around the world.
Elsewhere, the growing healthy-lifestyle trend has intensified the use of products aimed at promoting health as well as treating conditions including heart disease, cancer, and Parkinson’s disease. The current estimated global market size for nutraceutical products is 30 to 60 billion dollars, primarily in the United States, Japan, and Europe, with a potential short-term growth market demand of over 197 billion dollars. With the increase in demand for nutraceuticals and food supplements, organisms that can rapidly produce nutritional compounds are desired.
Algae can provide many of the nutraceutical compounds used for health promotion. Different types of microalgae have the capability of producing vitamins A (Retinol), B1 (Thiamine), B2 (Riboflavin), B3 (Niacin), B6 (Pyridoxine), B9 (Folic acid), B12 (Cobalamin), C (L-Ascorbic acid), D, E (Tocopherol), and H (Biotin), and these organisms also concentrate essential elements including: Potassium, Zinc, Iodine, Selenium, Iron, Manganese, Copper, Phosphorus, Sodium, Nitrogen, Magnesium, Cobalt, Molybdenum, Sulfur and Calcium. Algae are also high producers of essential amino acids and Omega 6 (Arachidonic acid) and Omega 3 (docosahexaenoic acid, eicosapentaenoic acid) fatty acids.
Some common microalgae currently used in nutraceuticals are Chlorella, Dunaliella, Haematococcus, and Spirulina.