Algae ingredients demonstrate more health benefits in research

Nutritional OutlookNutritional Outlook Vol. 26 No. 2
Volume 26
Issue 2

Here’s why consumers can’t get enough of ingredients from algae.

© neirfy /

© neirfy /

Everything algae is in high demand as consumers turn to plant-based solutions for common health concerns. It’s not hard to see why. Algae is a highly abundant nutritional ingredient that’s sustainably sourced, and research is uncovering more of algae’s health benefits, further raising its profile.

Sales of algae ingredients have trended upward for the last decade, says Shaheen Majeed, CEO of BGG Americas (Irvine, CA)—especially sales of natural-astaxanthin ingredients, as opposed to synthetic. “While they share the same chemical formula, differences in molecular shape, esterification, and the presence of supporting carotenoids in algae-based astaxanthin lead to far superior health benefits over its distant synthetic cousin,” Majeed says. “A total of eight peer-reviewed studies have shown that algae-based astaxanthin is up to 90 times stronger as an antioxidant and performs far better across a variety of health benefits in animals.”

These health benefits are driving significant demand for algae-based astaxanthin. Majeed says BGG has had to quickly expand production capacity in order to meet demand. He notes that the company had barely finished an expansion in September 2021 before seeing signs that it would have to break ground on a new farm.

Ongoing research is demonstrating algae’s efficacy in numerous health areas. Ahead, we look at a few.

Astaxanthin Preserves Vision in Screen Users

Astaxanthin has a variety of applications, from cardiovascular health to sports nutrition and more. In fact, it was the heart health benefits of astaxanthin that led BGG to file a patent for its branded AstaZine ingredient, Majeed says. “Some of our most exciting research has focused on brain health benefits, with diverse studies showing enhanced cognition in seniors as well as mood-state improvements in athletes,” Majeed says.

Now, new AstaZine research is showing the ingredient has vision benefits. “Our most recent clinical trial showed that AstaZine can help protect vision in heavy users of video display terminals,” he says.

The study, a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial, was conducted by BGG and examined the effects of astaxanthin consumption on visual function in healthy adults between ages 20 and 64 who regularly work in front of visual display terminals. Subjects were randomly assigned to receive either 9 mg of AstaZine astaxanthin per day, or a matching placebo, for 6 weeks. At baseline and after 6 weeks, the subjects were tested for changes in visual acuity before and after playing Tetris for 60 minutes.

The study found that playing Tetris reduced visual acuity in both groups; however, the group taking astaxanthin saw less of a reduction than the control group. The study authors concluded that astaxanthin reduces visual stress caused by digital terminals.1

Algae for Respiratory Support?

Can algae ingredients lend respiratory support? A recent clinical trial on AstaPure Arava by Algatech (Israel) found that the astaxanthin ingredient reduced upper respiratory tract symptoms and improved mood relative to placebo in endurance runners. The study also found that the ingredient reduced cortisol and raised Streptococcus thermophilus concentrations, suggesting stress-reducing and immune-boosting properties.3

Fucoidan Research Expands

Amanda Mackinnon, marketing and communications manager for Marinova (Cambridge, Australia), says her company has seen increased demand for its high-purity fucoidan (Fucus vesiculosus). Fucoidan is a polysaccharide derived from select species of brown seaweed.

In Australia, fucoidan research is ramping up. Mackinnon says there is considerable interest and capital behind new initiatives to explore the potential of Australia’s marine bioproducts. The Australian government recently established the Marine Bioproducts Cooperative Research Centre (MB-CRC), a think tank that will invest $270 million AUD into marine product research and development in Australia over the next 10 years.

“Marinova is a leading industry partner in the MB-CRC and is already undertaking new research projects that are supported by this program,” Mackinnon notes. “Current estimates suggest the country’s high-quality marine bioproducts are on track to reach $1 billion in turnover by 2030.”

As for Marinova, the company recently commenced a $4.6 million AUD expansion of its fucoidan extraction facility in Australia. This expansion, Mackinnon says, will allow Marinova to triple its production capacity. Furthermore, Marinova is investing $5 million AUD into scientific research on the bioactive properties of fucoidan extract.

One recent study on Marinova’s fucoidan extract carried out by the National University of Singapore and Marinova examined the effects of fucoidan on norovirus replication in wild zebrafish (Danio rerio). Zebrafish larvae were injected with 3 nL of norovirus; half of the larvae received just the virus, while the other half were injected with norovirus that had been suspended in a fucoidan solution for one hour.

The zebrafish larvae were harvested after 48 hours and were then placed in a centrifuge and tested via PCR analysis. The larvae that had been injected with fucoidan extract showed no detectable virus, while the control larvae still tested positive for norovirus.2

Format Flexible

In addition to motivating research, the growing demand for algae products has suppliers finding new ways of making their ingredients palatable in a variety of delivery formats. Elzaphan Hotam, CEO of NextFerm Technologies (Yokneam Illit, Israel), says his company’s branded AstaFerm astaxanthin ingredient is formulation-friendly, enabling its use in a number of specific delivery systems—something that will come in handy as consumers seek algae ingredients in more product types.

Rather than sourced from marine algae, AstaFerm astaxanthin is produced via fermentation. “AstaFerm is growing in popularity due to its unique physical properties—namely, lack of odor and high potency,” Hotam says. “It was initially introduced for applications where algae-based astaxanthin could not offer a reliable solution and is now expanding into mainstream astaxanthin for softgels.”

Algae Primed for Innovation

The algae market continues to grow, fueled by innovative research demonstrating the multifaceted capabilities of algae-derived ingredients. More opportunities lie ahead as companies pave the way with further ingredient research. Product makers will be watching, and so will consumers.


  1. Sekikawa, T.; Kizawa, Y.; Li, Y.; Miura, N. Effects of Diet Containing Astaxanthin on Visual Function in Healthy Individuals: A Randomized, Double-Blind, Placebo-Controlled, Parallel Study. J Clin Biochem Nutr. 2023, 72 (1), 74-81. DOI:10.3164/jcbn.22-65
  2. Tan, MTH.; Gorji, ME.; Toh, JYL.; et al. Fucoidan from Fucus vesiculosus Can Inhibit Human Norovirus Replication by Enhancing the Host Innate Immune Response. J Funct Foods. 2022, 95. DOI: 10.1016/j.jff.2022.105149
  3. Talbott, SM.; Talbott, JA. AstaPure Arava Natural Astaxanthin Whole Algae Product Supports Immune Function and Improves Subjective Well-Being. Ecronicon. 2022, 17 (8), 19-28.
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