Microphyt taps Phaeodactylum tricornutum for weight management

By Asia Sherman

- Last updated on GMT

© urbazon / Getty Images
© urbazon / Getty Images

Related tags microalgae Weight management omega 3 fatty acids Carotenoids Supplyside west 2023

Biotech company Microphyt grows 15 different microalgae strains at industrial scale in a controlled loop photobioreactor in the south of France to tackle global health challenges like cognitive decline and metabolic disorders.

The latest target is healthy weight management, harnessing an extract of Phaeodactylum tricornutum​ to help consumers, particularly overweight women, overcome the pain points of transitioning to a healthy active lifestyle.

“More and more consumers are looking for natural, holistic approaches to help them manage their weight, with an emphasis on physical activity and general well-being rather than strict weight-loss solutions that could be detrimental to their health,” said Christel Lemaire, marketing manager at Microphyt.

The extract launched in the U.S. as PhaeOptim at the recent SupplySide West natural ingredients trade show in Las Vegas, backed by a clinical study in women showing improvements to aerobic capacity, resting heart rate and fat oxidation.

Phaeodactylum tricornutum

MicroPhyt photobioreactor
Microphyt's microalgae is cultivated in the Camargue photobioreactor near Montpellier, France © Photo courtesy of Microphyt

Microalgae has been growing in the Earth’s oceans, lakes and rivers for billions of years. Two of the most widely known are superfoods chlorella and spirulina, but there are hundreds of thousands of species, which are responsible for more than half of the world’s oxygen regeneration. As tiny biomass factories full of beneficial compounds, they also serve as the base of the ocean food chain. 

One of these microalgae is Phaeodactylum tricornutum​, a marine diatom rich in omega-3 fatty acids and fucoxanthin carotenoids. In a marine environment, fucoxanthin functions as a light-harvesting complex for algal photosynthesis and photoprotection. In the human body, it has exhibited significant antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and metabolism boosting activity.

“Fucoxanthin has also shown to increase the mitochondrial activity, and so to access to more energy in the body, more fuel that leads to the MET [energy used at rest] and lipid oxidation increase,” Lemaire said. “Other compounds in PhaeOptim such as oxylipins and phytosterols also have positive effects on the decrease of inflammation level and cholesterols reduction, respectively.”

The same Phaeodactylum tricornutum ​extract also serves as main active ingredient in Microphyt’s flagship product BrainPhyt, pre-launched as PhaeoSol for brain health in 2019 after receiving New Dietary Ingredient status from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. It is also combined with guarana extract to power GamePhyt, specifically designed to enhance cognitive performance in gamers.

Beyond the scale​ 

Lemaire said that with PhaeOptim, Microphyt is looking beyond the number on the scale to enhance the wellness journey by facilitating a better exercise experience and maximizing the time spent exercising. This is achieved by addressing the pain points in the overweight.

“PhaeOptim improves exercise adaptations creating a more supportive, effective, and possibly comfortable exercise experience through enhanced aerobic capacity, resting heart rate and earlier improvements in fat oxidation,” Lemaire explained. “Why not use a supplement that creates a better exercise experience?” 

According to a 12-week clinical trial carried out in 37 overweight women and slated for publication next year, 220 mg of PhaeOptim a day significantly increased VO₂ max to reduce shortness of breath and increase endurance, strengthened cardiovascular capacities to reduce heart risk, prevented exercise-related bone damage, and optimized body resource consumption and exercise capacity as measured by lipid and glucose oxidation.

And in a sports and active nutrition market still lacking in research focused on women, Lemaire sees this study as a  “major market positioning bonus”, particularly with the growth of brands created by women for women looking for innovation in the category.

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