An algae called Chlamydomonas reinhardtii (C. reinhardtii) can diminish human digestive problems such as stomach bloating, research finds.
For the study, volunteers consumed 1 or 3 grams a day of C. reinhardtii powder for one month.
The results revealed that participants had more regular bowel movements, less abdominal pain, less diarrhoea or constipation, and less bloating or gas.
Also, eating the algae didn’t cause any changes in their gut microbiome (microorganisms that live in the human’s digestive tract).
C. reinhardtii is a green algae that grows in soil and fresh water world wide.
While some algae such as seaweed are popular for their nutrients, vitamins and minerals, the health effect of C. reinhardtii are new to us.
Researchers now suggest that C. reinhardtii can improve gastrointestinal disorders including irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and its symptoms such as stomach pain, gas, bloating, and diarrhoea.
Professor Stephen Mayfield, study co-author, said:
“People have been looking at this algae for decades, but this is the first study to show what many of us have suspected — it’s good for you.
This is exciting because it demonstrates a clear benefit: If you have IBS-like symptoms, this is good for you.”
For years Professor Mayfield and his colleagues were studying this algae to be used as a sustainable source of biofuels.
But over time they tested whether C. reinhardtii can be used as a nutritious ingredient in foods to boost human health.
The research team also looked into the effect of consuming the algae on people with digestive tract problems.
Mr Frank Fields, the study’s first author, said:
“The benefits of consuming this species of algae were immediately obvious when examining the data from both mice and humans who suffered from gastrointestinal symptoms.
I hope that this study helps destigmatize the thought of incorporating algae and algae-based products into your diet — it is a fantastic source of nutrition and we have now shown that this species of algae has additional benefits to animal and human health.”
The experts think the improvement in the digestive system might be due to an unknown bio-active compound or changes in gene expression (genetic information) regulated by certain bacteria in the gut.
About the author
Mina Dean is a Nutritionist and Food Scientist. She holds a BSc in Human Nutrition and an MSc in Food Science.
The study was published in the Journal of Functional Foods (Fields et al., 2020).