High variability in nutritional value and safety of commercially available Chlorella and Spirulina biomass indicates the need for smart production strategies

Bioresour Technol. 2019 Mar;275:247-257. doi: 10.1016/j.biortech.2018.12.059. Epub 2018 Dec 18.


Microalgal biomass production is a resource-efficient answer to the exponentially increasing demand for protein, yet variability in biomass quality is largely unexplored. Nutritional value and safety were determined for Chlorella and Spirulina biomass from different producers, production batches and the same production batch. Chlorella presented a similar protein content (47 ± 8%) compared to Spirulina (48 ± 4%). However, protein quality, expressed as essential amino acid index, and digestibility were lower for Chlorella (1.1 ± 0.1 and 51 ± 9%, respectively) compared to Spirulina (1.3 ± 0.1 and 61 ± 4%, respectively). Generally, variability was lower between batches and within a batch. Heavy metals, pesticides, mycotoxins, antibiotics and nitrate did not violate regulatory limits, while polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbon levels exceeded the norm for some samples, indicating the need for continuous monitoring. This first systematic screening of commercial microalgal biomass revealed a high nutritional variability, necessitating further optimization of cultivation and post-processing conditions. Based on price and quality, Spirulina was preferred above Chlorella.

Keywords: Arthrospira platensis; Chlorella vulgaris; Cyanobacteria; Food supplement; Nucleic acids.

MeSH terms

  • Biomass
  • Chlorella / metabolism*
  • Microalgae / metabolism
  • Nutritive Value
  • Spirulina / metabolism*