Distinguishing the Bioactive Vitamin B12 in Algae Supplements: A Scientific Approach

Jun 11 - 2024
Distinguishing the Bioactive Vitamin B12 in Algae Supplements: A Scientific Approach

To determine the presence of both the physiologically active vitamin B12 and its inactive pseudo-form in algae-based nutritional supplements, a rapid and efficient ultra-high performance liquid chromatography (UHPLC) method with UV detection was developed. This method was applied to analyze 57 commercially available microalgae products, including Chlorella and Spirulina.

The findings revealed a wide range of total vitamin B12 content, from not detected to 445.9 μg per 100g of dry matter in Chlorella samples,algae oil powder supplier and between 92.8 to 164.1 μg per 100g of dry matter in Spirulina products. However, there was significant variation in the concentration of pseudo-vitamin B12 across all samples. While Chlorella products predominantly contained the active cobalamin form, Spirulina supplements were found to primarily contain the pseudo-vitamin B12 form.

The ability to differentiate between cobalamin and its pseudo-form in algae is crucial not only for food analysts but also for consumer protection, as consumers must be able to trust the accurate labeling of nutritional supplements.

Vitamin B12, particularly cobalamin, is essential for a balanced diet and is of great concern to vegans, as it is almost exclusively found in animal-derived foods.organic algal oil Despite the small amount required to meet adequate intake (4 μg/day for adults), ensuring a sufficient supply of vitamin B12 remains a challenge, with deficiency symptoms being widespread.

Common animal food sources of cobalamin include meat, milk, eggs,beta carotene food coloring fish, and shellfish. Microbial de novo biosynthesis of cobalamin can occur via aerobic or anaerobic pathways, and it is industrially produced on a large scale via microbial fermentation.

In humans, three extracellular cobalamin-binding proteins are involved in the uptake and transport of cobalamin. Different native forms of vitamin B12 exist in natural food samples, with varying upper ligands such as methylcobalamin and 5′-deoxyadenosylcobalamin, which act as essential enzymatic cofactors within the human body.

Plant-based sources of vitamin B12 and other valuable nutrients have become an important field in food sciences due to health benefits and trends towards animal-free diets. Important plant foods containing cobalamin in significant amounts include edible macroalgae and microalgae, such as Chlorella and Spirulina.

Chlorella and Spirulina species are widely used for nutritional supplements and dominate the global microalgae market. They do not produce any algal toxin and have "GRAS" status, meaning they are "generally recognized as safe" by the FDA.

Spirulina is promoted as a "functional food" and a valuable source of high-quality protein, iron, γ-linolenic acid, vitamins, and minerals. More than half of microalgal species require vitamin B12 for growth, which is synthesized de novo by certain prokaryotes, including the majority of cyanobacteria.

The bioavailability of vitamin B12 in nutritional supplements based on Chlorella or Spirulina may differ. The lower ligand of cobalamin can vary, resulting in analogues of cobalamin, especially in cyanobacteria, which produce a form known as "pseudo"-vitamin B12. This pseudo-form does not show any physiological activity in mammals but may be restructured by certain microalgae into cobalamin.

The production of a biologically non-active form of vitamin B12 by cyanobacteria raises concerns in food science, as supplements containing only pseudo-cobalamin could be unsuitable for human bioavailability. Therefore, it is essential to focus on quality control to ensure that products with high contents of pseudo-cobalamin are not misrepresented to consumers as a source of vitamin B12.

Analytical selectivity is crucial in assessing vitamin B12 in complex food matrices due to the lack of a standard procedure for the analysis of vitamin B12 and its analogues. The development of a fast, simple, and reliable UHPLC method based on UV detection to separate the physiologically active form of vitamin B12 from the non-active pseudo-vitamin B12 in nutritional supplements is vital for guaranteeing high-quality products and ensuring consumer trust in dietary supplements.

The study's material and methods involved the use of analytical or LC–MS grade reagents and chemicals, with standard substances obtained from reputable suppliers. A total of 57 algae-based nutritional supplements were purchased from local and online stores for analysis. The results of vitamin B12 and pseudo-vitamin B12 for all supplements are detailed, providing valuable insights for food analysts and consumers.