Researchers find potential alternative to palm oil in microalgae

SINGAPORE — Oil extracted from a common type of microalgae could be used to replace palm oil, leading to health benefits and sustainability benefits, according to researchers from Nanyang Technological University in Singapore. The results of their work were published in the February issue of Journal of Applied Phycology.

Compared to palm oil, the oil derived from microalgae contained more polyunsaturated fatty acids, which have been shown to lower levels of “bad” cholesterol, and less saturated fatty acids, which have been linked to strokes and related conditions, according to the university. . The palm oil industry has also been linked to deforestation.

Researchers from Nanyang Technological University created the oil in collaboration with scientists from the University of Malaya in Malaysia. They added pyruvic acid, an organic acid found in all living cells, to a solution with the algae Chromochloris zofingiensis then exposed to ultraviolet light to stimulate photosynthesis. After 14 days, the microalgae were washed, dried, and treated with methanol to break the bonds between oil and algal protein, allowing oil extraction. Producing a 100-gram store-bought chocolate bar would require 160 grams of seaweed, the researchers said.

“Developing these vegetable oils from seaweed is another triumph for NTU Singapore as we seek to find effective ways to address issues in the food and technology chain, especially those that negatively impact environment,” said William Chen. , DSc, Director of NTU’s Food Science and Technology Program. “Discovering this as a potential source of human food is an opportunity to reduce the impact of the food supply chain on our planet.”