Microalgae have the ability to synthetize many compounds, some of which have been recognized as a source of functional ingredients for nutraceuticals with positive health effects. One well-known example is the long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs), which are essential for human nutrition. Eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) are the two most important long-chain omega-3 (ω-3) PUFAs involved in human physiology, and both industries are almost exclusively based on microalgae. In addition, algae produce phytosterols that reduce serum cholesterol. Here we determined the growth rates, biomass yields, PUFA and sterol content, and daily gain of eight strains of marine cryptophytes. The maximal growth rates of the cryptophytes varied between 0.34-0.70 divisions day-1, which is relatively good in relation to previously screened algal taxa. The studied cryptophytes were extremely rich in ω-3 PUFAs, especially in EPA and DHA (range 5.8-12.5 and 0.8-6.1 µg mg dry weight-1, respectively), but their sterol concentrations were low. Among the studied strains, Storeatula major was superior in PUFA production, and it also produces all PUFAs, i.e., α-linolenic acid (ALA), stearidonic acid (SDA), EPA, and DHA, which is rare in phytoplankton in general. We conclude that marine cryptophytes are a good alternative for the ecologically sustainable and profitable production of health-promoting lipids.
Keywords: functional foods; microalgae; nutraceuticals; omega-3; omega-6; polyunsaturated fatty acids; sterols.