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Spirulina - Composition

Composition of Spirulina:

  • Spirulina contains about 60% (51-71%) protein of its dry weight. The protein content varies by 10-15% according to the time of harvesting in relation to daylight.
  • Spirulina contain about 15-25% carbohydrates (dry weight).
  • In strains of spirulina used, the nucleic acid levels vary from 4.2-6% of dry matter.
  • Spirulina's lipid content is about 7% by weight, and is rich in gamma-linolenic acid (GLA), and also provides alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), linoleic acid (LA), stearidonic acid (SDA),eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and arachidonic acid (AA).
  • Spirulina contains vitamins B1, B2 , B3 , B6 , B9 , vitamin C, vitamin D, vitamin A and vitamin E. It is also a source of potassium, calcium, chromium, copper, iron, magnesium, manganese, phosphorus, selenium, sodium and zinc.
  • Spirulina contains many pigments which may be beneficial and bioavailable, including beta carotene, zeaxanthin, chlorophyll-a, xanthophylls, echinenone, myxoxanthophyll, canthaxanthin, diatocanthin, 3'-hydroxyechinenone, beta-cryptoxanthin and oscillaxanthin, plus the phycobiliproteins c-phycocyanin and allophycocyanin.

The basic biochemical composition of spirulina can be summarized as follows:

Protein:Spirulina contains unusually high amounts of protein, between 55 and 70 percent by dry weight, depending upon the source (Phang et al., 2000). It is a complete protein, containing all essential amino acids, though with reduced amounts of methionine, cystine, and lysine, as compared to standard proteins such as that from meat, eggs, or milk; it is, however, superior to all standard plant protein, such as that from legumes.

Essential fatty acids: Spirulina has a high amount of polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs), 1.5-2.0 percent of 5-6 percent total lipid. In particular spirulina is rich in Y-linolenic acid (36 percent of total PUFAs), and also provides Y-linolenic acid (ALA), linoleic acid (LA, 36 percent of total ), stearidonic acid (SDA), eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and arachidonic acid (AA). Vitamins: Spirulina contains vitamin B1 (thiamine), B2 (riboflavin), B3 (nicotinamide), B6 (pyridoxine), B9 (folic acid), B12 (cyanocobalamin), vitamin C, vitamin D and vitamin E. Minerals: Spirulina is a rich source of potassium, and also contains calcium, chromium, copper, iron, magnesium, manganese, phosphorus, selenium, sodium and zinc.

Photosynthetic pigments: Spirulina contains many pigments including chlorophyll a, xanthophyll, beta-carotene, echinenone, myxoxanthophyll, zeaxanthin, canthaxanthin, diatoxanthin, 3-hydroxyechinenone, beta-cryptoxanthin, oscillaxanthin, plus the phycobiliproteins c-phycocyanin and allophycocyanin.

Detailed biochemical composition analyses have been conducted of spirulina grown either under laboratory conditions, collected in natural condition or in mass culture system using different agro-industrial waste effluent. This was found to vary in response to the salinity of the growing medium -Vonshak et al. (1996) reported that salt-adapted cells had a modified biochemical composition with a reduced protein and chlorophyll content, and increased carbohydrate content.

However the following provides a review of the literature on the broad composition of spirulina.

Spirulina has high quality protein content (59-65 percent), which is more than other commonly used plant sources such as dry soybeans (35 percent), peanuts (25 percent) or grains (8-10 percent). A special value of spirulina is that it is readily digested due to the absence of cellulose in its cell walls (as it is the case for eukaryotic green microalgae such as Chlorella, Ankistrodesmus, Selenastrum, Scenedesmus): after 18 hours more than 85 percent of its protein is digested and assimilated (Sasson, 1997). The composition of commercial spirulina powder is 60 percent protein, 20 percent carbohydrate, 5 percent fats, 7 percent minerals, and 3-6 percent moisture, making it a low-fat, low calorie, cholesterol-free source of protein.

Various Proximate Analysis Results of Spirulina (% dry matter)

Component FOI, France SAC Thailand IPGSR, Malaysia BAU, Bangladesh
Crude Protein 65 55-70 61 60
Soluble carbohydrate 19 - 14 -
Crude Lipid 4 5-7 6 7
Crude FIber 3 5-7
Ash 3 3-6 9 11
`Moisture - 4-6 6 9
Nitrogen free extract (NFE) - 15-20 4 17
FOI = French Oil Institute; SAC = Siam Algae Co. Ltd; IPGSR = Institute of Post-graduate Studies and Research laboratory, University of Malaya; BAU = Bangladesh Agricultural University

The schematic below shows the main composition of Spirulina. The data has been adapted from the Hawaiian Spirulina extracted by Cyanotech Corporation.

General Composition of Spirulina
Protein 52-62%
Carbohydrates 17-25%
Lipids 4-6%
Minerals 8-13%
Moisture 3-6%
Calcium 10mg Sodium 30mg Iodine 15mcg
Magnesium 15mg Manganese 400mcg Iron 6.5mg
Phosphorus 33mg Boron 22mcg Zinc 90mcg
Copper 20mcg Selenium 0.9mcg

Vitamin A (100% as Beta-Carotene) 11.250 IU Folic Acid 6.2 mcg Phytonutrients
Vitamin B1 Thiamine 3.5 mcg Pantothenic Acid 4.5 mcg Beta-carotene 6.8 mg
Vitamin B2 Riboflavin 140 mcg Vitamin K1 60 mcg Zeaxanthin 9 mg
Vitamin B3 Niacin 400 mcg Vitamin K2 15 mcg Chlorophyll 30 mg
Vitamin B6 Pyridoxine 30 mcg Inositol 1.7 mcg Total carotenoids 15 mg
Vitamin B12 Cobalamin 9.0 mcg Biotin 0.5 mcg C-Phycocyanin 240mg
Vitamin E d-a-tocopherol 285 mcg Total Phycocyanin 519 mg
Vitamins Superoxide Dismutase 1080 units

Spirulina Introduction

    Spirulina is a human and animal food or nutritional supplement made primarily from two species of cyanobacteria: Arthrospira platensis and Arthrospira maxima.

Spirulina Application

"Spirulina spp. and its processing products are employed in agriculture, food industry, pharmaceutics, perfumery and medicine. Spirulina has several pharmacological activities such as antimicrobial (including antiviral and antibacterial), anticancer, metalloprotective (prevention of heavy-metal poisoning against Cd, Pb, Fe, Hg).

Spirulina Production

"Spirulina ( Arthospira sp) used for the production of single" cell protein. The commercial producers of Spirulina are located in the United States, Thailand, India, Taiwan, China, Pakistan, Burma and Chile.

Cultivation and Growth Requirements

"The optimum temperature for growth is 35oC, but above 38oC spirulina is in danger. Growth only takes place in light (photosynthesis), but illumination 24 hours a day is not recommended.

Spirulina – Facts & Factoids

"Spirulina is not considered to be a reliable source of Vitamin B12. The standard B12 assay, using Lactobacillus leichmannii, shows spirulina to be a minimal source of bioavailable vitamin B12.

Spirulina – Market

"Spirulina is now commercially available in tablet or powder form. During 1970-1980, at the time when spirulina was launched on the market, the market for food supplements was not organised and regulated as is the case today.

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