This is the year for algae. From chlorella to spirulina, health stores are stocked full of the nutrient-dense, cell-protecting, protein rich superfood. Research from Switzerland, led by Dr. Fred Zulli at Mibelle Biochemistry, is exploring the potential role of pink snow algae in the world of functional foods.
What exactly is pink snow algae and doesn’t algae typically thrive underwater? Not necessarily. If you’ve ever gone hiking high up in the mountains, you may have come across patches of snow with a strange pink hue. If you bent down for a closer look, you’d notice that the pink snow is actually an algal bloom. Turning from its original green colour to a bright pink tone under harsh conditions, such as high UV exposure and depleted nutrient levels, the pink snow algae has its own protective mechanism to survive. It is classified as an extremophile. Its unique defense mechanism, as well as its high concentration of carotenoids, may hold some secrets that researchers are eager to uncover.
“Algae have shown valuable applications in food and are well-accepted by consumers,” explains Zulli. “Our investigations on a special algae growing on permanent snow revealed a new activity, where it activates biochemical pathways in our cells that are normally induced by a low calorie diet and exercise.”
Usually, when we engage in physical activity, our body activates the AMPK pathway and our fat stores are used after our first choice fuel (glucose) has been depleted. Though further research is required, the potential use of snow algae in food products could open a door of new possibilities in a world of skyrocketing obesity rates.