Arthrospira platensis is the widely available source of spirulina that contains distinctive natural pigments, including carotenoids and C-phycocyanin (C-PC). In this study, the major carotenoid and C-PC contents were determined in seven commercially available spirulina powder products and laboratory-prepared A. platensis trichomes (AP-1) by an LC-DAD method and UV-Visible spectrometry, respectively. The correlation of these two pigment content levels with Hunter color coordinates and antioxidant activity was also evaluated. The L* value failed to show a significant correlation with pigment content, but a positive correlation was observed between a* values and the contents of total carotenoid and C-PC. As b* values decreased, the chlorophyll a and C-PC contents increased. AP-1 exhibited the highest content of total carotenoids, chlorophyll a and C-PC, and antioxidant activities among the samples. This observation could be related to degradation of these pigments during the mass production process. The carotenoid profiles suggested that the commercial spirulina powders originated from two different sources, A. platensis and A. maxima. Total carotenoid and C-PC content exhibited positive significant correlations with antioxidant activities measured by 1,1-diphenyl-2-picrylhydrazyl (DPPH) and 2,2'-azino-bis(3-ethylbenzothiazoline-6-sulphonic acid) (ABTS) assays. These results provide a strong scientific foundation for the establishment of standards for the commercial distribution of quality spirulina products.
Keywords: Arthrospira platensis; C-phycocyanin; antioxidant activity; carotenoids; natural pigments; spirulina powder.