Microalgae and cyanobacteria: Food for thought

  • Gantar M
  • Svirčev Z
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In non-Western civilizations, cyanobacteria have been part of the human diet for centuries. Today, microalgae and cyanobacteria are either produced in controlled cultivation processes or harvested from the natural habitats and marketed as food supple- ments around the world. Cyanobacteria produce a vast array of different biologically active compounds, some of which are expected to be used in drug development. The fact that some of the active com- ponents from cyanobacteria potentially have anti- cancer, antimicrobial, antiviral, anti-inflammatory, and other effects is being used for marketing pur- poses. However, introduction of these products in the form of whole biomass for alimentary purposes raises concerns regarding the potential toxicity and long-term effects on human health. Here, we review data on the use of cyanobacteria and microalgae in human nutrition and searched for available informa- tion on legislature that regulates the use of these products. We have found that, although the quality control of these products is most often self-regu- lated by the manufacturers, different governmental agencies are introducing strict regulations for plac- ing novel products, such as algae and cyanobacteria, on the market. The existing regulations require these products to be tested for the presence of toxins, such as microcystin; however, other, sometimes novel, toxins remain undetected, and their long-term effects on human health remain unknown.

Author-supplied keywords

  • BMAA
  • Biologically active compounds
  • Health food supplement
  • Microcystin
  • Nutrition
  • Spirulina

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  • Miroslav Gantar

  • Zorica Svirčev

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