Microalgae as a safe food source for animals: nutritional characteristics of the acidophilic microalga Coccomyxa onubensis

  • Francisco Navarro
  • Eduardo Forján
  • María Vázquez
  • Zaida Montero
  • Elisabeth Bermejo
  • Miguel Ángel Castaño
  • Alberto Toimil
  • Enrique Chagüaceda
  • Miguel Ángel García-Sevillano
  • Marisa Sánchez
  • María José Domínguez
  • Rosario Pásaro
  • Inés Garbayo
  • Carlos Vílchez
  • José María Vega
Keywords: Coccomyxa onubensis, Rats, Safe food, Nutraceuticals, Hypolipidemic induction


Background: Edible microalgae are marine or fresh water mesophilic species. Although the harvesting of microalgae offers an abundance of opportunities to the food and pharmaceutical industries, the possibility to use extremophilic microalgae as a food source for animals is not well-documented.

Objective: We studied the effects of dietary supplementation of a powdered form of the acidophilic microalga Coccomyxa onubensis on growth and health parameters of laboratory rats.

Method: Four randomly organized groups of rats (n=6) were fed a standard diet (Diet 1, control) or with a diet in which 0.4% (Diet 2), 1.25% (Diet 3), or 6.25% (Diet 4) (w/w) of the standard diet weight was substituted with dried microalgae powder, respectively. The four groups of animals were provided ad libitum access to feed for 45 days.

Results: C. onubensis biomass is rich in protein (44.60% of dry weight) and dietary fiber (15.73%), and has a moderate carbohydrate content (24.8%) and a low lipid content (5.4%) in which polyunsaturated fatty acids represent 65% of the total fatty acid. Nucleic acids are present at 4.8%. No significant difference was found in growth rates or feed efficiency ratios of the four groups of rats. Histological studies of liver and kidney tissue revealed healthy organs in control and C. onubensis-fed animals, while plasma hematological and biochemical parameters were within healthy ranges for all animals. Furthermore, animals fed a microalgae-enriched diet exhibited a statistically significant decrease in both blood cholesterol and triglyceride levels. The blood triglyceride content and very low density lipoprotein-cholesterol levels decreased by about 50% in rats fed Diet 4.

Conclusions: These data suggest that C. onubensis may be useful as a food supplement for laboratory animals and may also serve as a nutraceutical in functional foods. In addition, microalgae powder-supplemented diets exerted a significant hypocholesterolemic and hypotriglyceridemic effect in animals.

Keywords: Coccomyxa onubensis; rats; safe food; nutraceuticals; hypolipidemic induction

(Published: 17 October 2016)

Citation: Food & Nutrition Research 2016, 60: 30472 - http://dx.doi.org/10.3402/fnr.v60.30472


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How to Cite
Navarro F., Forján E., Vázquez M., Montero Z., Bermejo E., Castaño M. Ángel, Toimil A., Chagüaceda E., García-Sevillano M. Ángel, Sánchez M., Domínguez M. J., Pásaro R., Garbayo I., Vílchez C., & Vega J. M. (2016). Microalgae as a safe food source for animals: nutritional characteristics of the acidophilic microalga <em>Coccomyxa onubensis</em&gt;. Food & Nutrition Research, 60. https://doi.org/10.3402/fnr.v60.30472
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