A new alternative to palm oil? Microalgae edible oil may reduce cardiovascular disease risk

Palm oil has a low price and high stability. In addition to being one of the most common edible oils at present, it can even be found in daily necessities such as shampoo, detergent and cosmetics. Alternatives to fat are available, and oils made from algae may be able to replace them.

At present, the world’s largest producer of palm oil is Indonesia, followed by Malaysia. Deforestation is just for the economic benefits of palm oil, causing environmental damage and impacting biodiversity. Even if it contributes to the economy, it is putting the cart before the horse; on the other hand Palm oil is also 52% saturated fat, which may contribute to cardiovascular disease or other health problems.

To that end, a scientific team from Singapore’s Nanyang Technological University and the University of Malaya in Malaysia set out to study an oil-producing microalgae called Chromochloris zofingiensis.

Compared with palm oil, microalgae oil contains more polyunsaturated fatty acids and less saturated fatty acids, which helps reduce “bad” cholesterol in the blood, thereby reducing the risk of stroke and cardiovascular disease.

The process is not difficult. The team first added pyruvate to the microalgae solution, and then placed it under a laboratory UV lamp to stimulate photosynthesis. After 14 days, the algae were removed, cleaned and dried, and then methanol was used to break the algal protein and photosynthesis. The role of the algae protein in the production of oil, and ultimately the production of a new generation of edible oil.

Fortunately, scientists have also discovered that pyruvic acid can also be produced by fermenting organic agricultural wastes such as soybean residue and fruit peels. In large-scale production facilities, ultraviolet rays can also be used to replace sunlight, and algae can also absorb atmospheric carbon dioxide during the growth process and convert it into biomass.

The team claims that the quality of the new algal oil is comparable to that of palm oil, but the current 160 grams of microalgae oil can only satisfy a 100-gram chocolate bar.

William Chen, Chair Professor of Food Science and Technology at NTU, said the team hopes to find potential uses of waste through the concept of circular economy, and finally return the waste back to the food chain. Today we rely on nature’s key process of “fermentation” to convert organic matter into a nutrient-rich solution that can be used to cultivate algae, which not only helps reduce palm oil dependence, but also reduces carbon.

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