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Dunaliella salina — big health benefits from a tiny green alga

Dunaliella salina is a unicellular microalga that grows in high-temperature, saltwater areas. While most organisms are able to tolerate a very narrow range of salinity in their environment, this green alga is known as a halophile, or "salt-lover." Studies suggest that in response to the stress of intense sunlight and widely varying salt levels, Dunaliellasalina enhances abscisic acid metabolism and increases glycerol production, mechanisms that help prevent its cell membrane from losing water across a high osmotic gradient. Dunaliella salina also accumulates massive quantities of beta-carotene and photolyase to afford it resistance against intense UV light.

Dunaliella—rich in antioxidant carotenoids

This alga is cultivated commercially in lagoons (low-tech), and also at high-cell densities under carefully controlled conditions (high-tech). Its high carotenoid content is the principal feature that makes Dunaliella highly valued as a nutritional supplement. Carotenoids are known for their antioxidant activity. Dunaliella contains a type of beta-carotene called 9-cis β-carotene, which research reveals to be significantly stronger in antioxidant activity and DNA repair than other forms of beta-carotene. Recent preliminary studies in mice suggest that 9-cis β-carotene may also have the potential to inhibit atherogenesis and fatty liver in humans. Dunaliella also contains a number of vitamins, minerals, lipids, proteins, carbohydrates, and chlorophyll.

Potential Health Benefits

  • Rich in antioxidants
  • Supports skin and eye health
  • Helps maintain a healthy immune system
  • Great source of carotenoids and provitamin A
  • May help reduce the risk of cancer


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Principal Author: M. Ofiyeva
Date of Initial Publication: 10/02/2008
Article Last Updated: 03/10/2011