The research opens up a period of rest that strengthens the muscles

As more and more of us look for alternatives to eating animals, new research has found a surprisingly eco-friendly source of protein – algae.

A study by the University of Exeter has been published in The Journal of Nutrition and is the first of its kind to show that consuming two commercially available algae species is rich in protein that supports muscle remodeling in young, healthy adults. Their findings suggest that algae may be an interesting and sustainable alternative to animal-based proteins for maintaining and building muscle.

Our work has shown that algae can become part of a safe and sustainable food future. More and more people are trying to eat less meat for ethical and environmental reasons, so interest in non-animal and sustainably produced protein is growing. We believe it is important and necessary to start exploring these options, and we have identified algae as a promising new protein source.”

Ino Van Der Heijden, Researcher, University of Exeter

Food rich in protein and essential amino acids has the ability to stimulate muscle protein synthesis, which can be measured in the laboratory by determining the incorporation of labeled amino acids into muscle tissue proteins and converted to rate over time. Animal protein sources strongly stimulate resting and post-exercise muscle protein synthesis.

As the production of animal protein comes with increasing ethical and environmental concerns, it has now been discovered that an intriguing environmentally friendly alternative to animal protein is algae. Cultivated under controlled conditions, spirulina and chlorella are the two most commercially available algae that contain high doses of micronutrients and are high in protein. However, the ability of Spirulina and Chlorella to stimulate myofibrillar protein synthesis in humans is still unknown.

To bridge the gap, researchers at the University of Exeter evaluated the effect of consuming spirulina and chlorella compared to an established high-quality non-animal dietary protein source (fungal mycoprotein) on blood amino acid levels during and after rest. – practice the synthesis of myofibrillar proteins. Thirty-six healthy young adults participated in a randomized, double-blind study. After one-legged resistance leg exercise, participants consumed a drink containing 25 grams of protein from fungal mycoprotein, spirulina, or chlorella. Blood and skeletal muscle samples were collected at baseline and after four hours of feeding and exercise. Blood amino acid concentrations and myofibrillar protein synthesis rates at rest and during exercise were evaluated.

Ingestion of protein increased blood amino acid concentrations, but most rapidly and with a higher peak response after ingestion of spirulina compared to mycoprotein and chlorella. Protein ingestion increased myofibrillar protein synthesis rates in both rested and exercised tissue without differences between groups, but exercise was higher than rested muscle.

This study is the first of its kind to show that ingestion of spirulina or Chlorella potently stimulates the synthesis of myofibrillar proteins in resting and exercising muscle tissue to a similar extent as a high-quality non-animal counterpart (mycoprotein).

In their commentary, Lucy Rogers and Professor Leigh Breen from the University of Birmingham highlight the strengths and utility of these new findings, while exploring avenues for future research focusing on different populations, such as older adults.

The paper is legitimate Algae ingestion increases myofibrillar protein synthesis in young adults at rest and during exercise to the same extent as mycoprotein and published in The Journal of Nutrition.


Journal reference:

van der Heijden, I., et al. (2023). Algae ingestion increases myofibrillar protein synthesis in young adults at rest and during exercise to the same extent as mycoprotein. The Journal of Nutrition.

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