Researchers at the University of Huelva have discovered that animals fed a type of algae from Huelva were able to reduce their cardiovascular risk. The results have revealed its efficacy for the treatment of triglycerideshypertension, obesity, diabetes and some heart diseases.
This team from Huelva has confirmed that the intake of Coccomyxa onubensis, a microalgae isolated in Riotinto (Huelva); promotes the 39 percent reduction in blood sugar and nearly 26 percent of total cholesterol. This figure is similar to that obtained with the most widely used medication for the treatment of high cholesterol and triglycerides, statins.
Although, this microorganism has become a perfect complement for those patients who are not achieving the expected results with drugs alone. The study has demonstrated triglyceride, sugar and cholesterol lowering effects in diseased research model animals with metabolic syndrome; a condition that brings together several risk factors for heart disease, such as diabetes, obesity, hypertension, hypercholesterolemia and other health problems.
After this study, the experts will begin the clinical phase that will apply this microorganism to patients for whom statin treatment does not work. According to the article ‘The acidophilic microalga Coccomyxa onubensis and atorvastatin equally improve antihyperglycemic and antihyperlipidemic protective effects on rats fed on high-fat diets’, published in the Journal of Applied Phycology, the action of the microalgae reduces the pathologies in rodents that cause cardiovascular diseases.
The results open the door to real tests in patients
In other studies, the experts analyzed the composition of Coccomyxa onubensis, concluding that it is an algae rich in protein and fiber, as well as a source of high nutritional value due to its omega 3 content, specifically DHA, which contributes to cognitive development and strengthens immune system.
In fact, it has few sugars and fatty acids. «Once we determined that it does not imply any harm or toxic effect, we have included the microalgae in the diet of laboratory animals, verifying that it effectively contributes to the reduction of sugar, cholesterol and plasma triglycerides, substantially improving their health»; Francisco Navarro, author of the article, has told the Discover Foundation.
In this way, this work opens the door to real tests with patients who have difficulty lowering their glucose or cholesterol levels and who do not respond correctly to statin treatments. This is mainly due to the genetics of the patient; since there are patients who, due to a defect in chromosome 19, are unable to eliminate bad cholesterol (LDL) from the blood. This condition is called familial hypercholesterolemia.
According to the researcher, the mechanism of action of the statin and the microalgae is different. That is, each one follows a different metabolic pathway in the body due to the enzymes that interact with them during their breakdown. “Thus, patients with this incompatibility could have a valid supplement to reduce their health problems,” he says.
Cholesterol and triglyceride reduction
The microalgae Coccomyxa onubensis owes its name to the fact that it was isolated in Riotinto (Huelva). It is an extremophile, since the environment in which it lives supports extreme conditions; comparable to stomach acids, and produce health-promoting fatty acids and antioxidant molecules.
The application of this microorganism has been oriented towards a diverse industry, such as the creation of biofuel or; as in this case, in the creation of pharmacological products or food supplements, due to its antimicrobial and antibiotic capacity.
The animals were fed a high-fat diet for 108 days, resulting in overweight and a significant increase in glucose, triglyceride, and cholesterol levels. Subsequently, C. onubensis powder was supplied along with the high-fat diet with three different groups. The first of them only received a high-fat diet, the second, a similar diet, but with a statin, and the third received the same type of intake but with the addition of microalgae. The results show that the data of the last two groups are identical.
Balanced diet and moderate exercise
The researchers start from the hypothesis that simultaneous treatment with both options, together with a balanced diet and moderate exercise, would be an adequate solution to control cardiovascular disease.
The clinical studies will be carried out in collaboration with the Lipids and Vascular Risk Unit of the Infanta Elena Hospital. “If all goes well, and we get the necessary financing, in a short time a supplement could be available to help these patients who cannot eradicate their disease; despite following the usual medical recommendations and treatments”, concludes the researcher.
The intake of microalgae will help patients with metabolic syndrome, a disease that groups diabetes, obesity, hypertension, hypercholesterolemia and other health problems. This research has been carried out through funding from the ‘Algae Biotechnology’ research group at the University of Huelva, through the Andalusian Plan for Research, Development and Innovation.