Nutraceutical Potentials of Seaweeds

Posted by: Dr. K. P. Kannan

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Nutraceutical Potentials of Seaweeds

Nutraceuticals potential of seaweeds is supplements, other than nutrition are used as medicine.  It’s a substance, which has physiological benefits or provides protection against chronic disease and is also used to improve health, delay the aging process, prevent chronic diseases, increase life expectancy, or support the structure or function of the body. In recent days nutraceuticals gained considerable attention because of their nutritional, safety, and therapeutic effects. Nutraceutical supplements provide health benefits, such as fulfilling the lack of nutrients in the human body or being utilized to treat or cure certain diseases. As the world population is growing, certain countries are experiencing food crisis challenges, causing natural foods not sustainable to be used for nutraceutical production because it will require a large-scale food supply to produce enriched nutraceuticals. The high demand for abundant nutritional compounds has made seaweed (Macro Algae) a reliable source as they can synthesize high-value molecules through photosynthetic activities.


Diseases such as cancer, diabetes, inflammation, and chronic cardiovascular diseases are major global health problems. In recent years chemotherapy and synthetic drugs have been widely used in the medical field. Some drugs are often associated with side effects such as toxicity, drug tolerance, and metabolic disorders Therefore, the natural bioactive ingredients have become alternate substitutes to prevent diseases. Seaweed is one of the most abundant and promising sources of biologically active metabolites. These bioactive components of seaweed include polysaccharides, unsaturated fatty acids, phenols, peptides, terpenoids, and other compounds with unique structures and properties, which have antioxidant, antiviral, anticoagulant, antibacterial, and antitumor effects. Many active substances are found in the brown, red, and green seaweeds, which have great potential in agricultural, edible, and medical fields.


Seaweeds (Algae) are the most important reservoirs of new therapeutic compounds for humans. Bioactive compounds recovered from seaweed play a major therapeutic role in the prevention of disease in humans. Seaweeds contain biomolecules such as  Polysaccharides, Pigments, Fatty acids, Polyphenols, and Peptides that have been tested and proven to contain various beneficial biological properties that could potentially contribute to functional food and nutraceutical development. Green seaweeds or Green Macro Algae, as a valuable source of bioactive compounds, are still underutilized in nutraceuticals and pharmaceuticals.


Bioactive compounds from seaweed

Polysaccharides: Polysaccharides extracted from Seas weed or microalgae possess different beneficial properties like anticoagulant, anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, anticarcinogenic, and antiviral activities. Seaweeds are a rich source of sulfated polysaccharides, as they are responsible for much of the bioactivity, as they can interact with various textures and cellular proteins. In seaweed, the polysaccharides are the most important macro-molecule which holds more than 80% of its weight.


Protein and amino acids: The protein concentration of seaweed is comparatively higher than terrestrial plant sources like soybeans, pulses, etc. The ratio of essential amino acid and non-essential amino acid (EAA/NEAA) is higher in red seaweed (0.98–1.02) followed by green seaweed (0.72- 0.97) and brown seaweed (0.73)


Vitamins: Vitamins are the most required micronutrients to trigger many metabolic pathways and serve as a precursor for enzyme co-factors.  Seaweeds are the richest source of vitamins and contain all essential and non-essential vitamins in their body cells. Seaweeds like Porphyra umbilicalis, Himanthalia elongata, and Gracilaria changii contain a high level of Vitamin C compared to land vegetables.


Phytochemicals: Macro Algae contains a wide range of secondary metabolites and are continuously involved in the interest of the scientific community for their potential bioactivity, compared to plants. Brown algae possess a high amount of phloroglucinol and are used as a nutraceutical agent for health benefits. Also, seaweeds possess biological activities like antioxidant, antiproliferative, anti-inflammatory, antidiabetic, anti-HIV, and anti-Alzheimer’s activity in vitro


Applications of Nutraceuticals

Food industry: Seaweed is as widely used as a vegetable. Chlorella to foods (such as pasta and biscuits) can improve the nutritional quality of the diet. Chlorella and Spirulina are mostly applied in tablet, capsule, and liquid form for nutritional supplements because of their high nutritional value and ease of growth. Edible cyanobacterium Spirulina platensis has gained worldwide attention as a food additive due to its high nutritional value as a human food and has proven to be a rich source of protein, polyunsaturated fatty acids, and pigment.


Biological medicine

Seaweed polysaccharides have been shown to have a variety of promising biological activities, such as anti-tumor, immunomodulatory, antioxidant, anti-hyperglycemic, anti-cancer, antiviral, anti-fungal,  anti-diabetic, anti-hypertensive anti-inflammatory, UV-protective, and neuroprotection effect.  Algal hydrogels and hydrocolloids are valuable components in the medical field, which are widely used in wound healing, drug delivery, in vitro cell culture, and tissue engineering



The development of seaweed technology is emerging year by year. The seaweed technologies are constantly updated, and seaweed products are overwhelming in the market. Hence, seaweed plays a vital role in the economic, social, and ecological fields. Seaweeds are rich in a variety of biologically active substances as drug sources, cosmetics, and agricultural regulators, which have been largely developed. It is essential and important to strengthen investment in seaweed farming and processing technologies and to develop high-value-added products with integrated multi-trophic aquaculture, which have great market potential and need in-depth exploration.











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