Bioavailability and safety of nutrients from the microalgae Chlorella vulgaris, Nannochloropsis oceanica and Phaeodactylum tricornutum in C57BL/6 mice
Microalgae are rich in macronutrients and therefore, they have been proposed as a potential future food source preserving natural resources. Here, we studied safety and bioavailability of algae nutrients in mice. Three microalgae species, Chlorella vulgaris, Nannochloropsis oceanica and Phaeodactylum tricornutum, were studied after ball mill disruption at different doses (5%, 15% and 25% dry weight) for 14 days. In response to all three algae diets, we observed a weight gain similar or superior to that in response to the control diet. No substantial differences in organ weights nor gut length occurred. Protein bioavailability from the algae diets did not differ from the control diet ranging from 58% to 77% apparent biological value. Fat absorption was lower for microalgae compared to soy oil in control diets, albeit still substantial. High liver eicosapentaenoic acid levels were measured following feeding with N. oceanica, the algae richest in omega-3 fatty acids. Neither histological nor serum analyses revealed any heart, kidney or liver toxicity induced by any of the algae diets. Algae-rich diets were thus well accepted, well tolerated and suitable for the maintenance of body weight and normal organ function. No toxicological effects were observed.