We have heard of green superfoods like spirulina and wheatgrass that have great health benefits but how many of us have heard of Euglena? Cultivated on the pristine shores of Okinawa, Japan, this largely unheard-of species of microscopic algae contains 59 essential nutrients needed by our body for optimal health. It is a rare organism that combines both plant and animal cell characteristics to efficiently absorb nutrients.
History Of Euglena
Euglena first evolved more than 500 million years ago. It was discovered in the 1660s by Dutchman Antoni van Leeuwenhoek. In the 1950s, researchers including American scientist, Melvin Calvin, conducted studies on photosynthesis using Euglena. In the 1990s, research on Euglena was expanded to the fields of food products, medicine, CO2 fixation and other uses in Japan and cities around the world. Its research culminated in NASA projects and a Nobel Prize in Chemistry.
Nobody was able to reach the commercial production of Euglena due to difficulties encountered in mass cultivation, particularly since it is positioned at the bottom of the food chain and thereby vulnerable to foreign organisms. In order to achieve large scale cultivation, extensive studies were done by researchers in Japan. After joining in the research and incorporating the knowledge and techniques, euglena Co., Ltd. finally became the first in the world to succeed in the outdoor mass cultivation of Euglena in 2005.
Since then Euglena has been grown as a food source in the form of health supplements and drinks, beauty products like facial creams and hair serums, environmental applications including water treatment and CO2 reduction, even biofuel for research as an alternative to fossil fuels. “Our aim is to achieve a sustainable business for the next hundred years and build towards a new society where Nature and Industry coexist,” says Mitsuru Izumo, president of euglena Co., Ltd.
What Is Euglena
Euglena belongs to the algae family along with kelp and seaweed. It has been supporting life on earth since the pre-historic era. Among its bounty of nutrients are 14 vitamins like Vitamins C & D, 9 minerals like Iron & Calcium, 18 amino acids like Lysine & Alanine, 11 unsaturated fatty acids like DHA & EPA and 7 others like Chlorophyll & Paramylon (β-glucan).
As a plant-animal hybrid, Euglena is rich in nutrients from both: folic acid and fibre, frequently found in vegetables, and omega oils and vitamin B-1 frequently found in animals like meat and fish. It combines animal characteristics like the locomotive ability to change its cell shape and plant characteristics like growing with photosynthesis. Produced in the famous environment of Ishigaki Island in Okinawa, Japan, it is grown under fresh air, clear water, and strong sunlight, and reaches a body length of approximately 0.05mm.
Benefits Of Euglena
Euglena has powerful benefits that range from health to sustainability and greatly impacts humanity along with animals and the environment. As a food supplement, Euglena contains a unique naturally occurring compound called Paramylon (β- glucan) which helps remove undesirable substances like fats and cholesterol, enhances the immune system, and reduces the level of uric acid in the blood. It is a non-digestible dietary fibre with a sponge-like structure for detox and composed of β-1, 3-glucan for immune support. Euglena has a notable biological characteristic which is its absence of a cell wall. Its cell is surrounded by a membrane mainly made of protein, resulting in its high nutritional value and efficient nutrient absorption to boost and restore cellular activity. Euglena is recommended for regulating bowel movements, improving energy levels and supplementing those who have no time to prepare nutritious meals.
As a component in cosmetics and beauty products, Euglena helps to make skin smoother, more elastic and radiant. With the development of Rejuna, a cosmetic extract synthesised through the hydrolysis of Euglena by means of enzymes, this ingredient abounding in vitality and nutrition has highly notable effects. It increases the production of dermal fibroblasts, which provides additional defences against ultraviolet light and helps keep skin looking youthful. It also triggers the formation of collagen, an important element for resilient and anti-aging skincare. Euglena is also used in hair and scalp care products to restore damaged hair and provide moisture and bounce to create luscious and healthy-looking hair.
As an environmental application, Euglena has the ability to grow by converting CO2 into biomass through photosynthesis, meaning large volumes of Euglena can capture CO2 emitted by facilities such as power stations and steel refineries. It can also be used to feed livestock and aquaculture with its high protein and high nutrition profile. With current research and development, Euglena-based biofuels can soon replace fossil fuels to power aircrafts and automobiles. Euglena has the potential to reduce the pressure on Earth’s resources, creating a sustainable ‘low carbon society’.
Uses Of Euglena
Euglena can be used in five the different fields of Food, Fibre, Feed, Fertiliser and Fuel called the 5 “F”s of the Biomass Model. Through ongoing improvements and development of cultivation technologies, production costs of Euglena can be reduced. euglena Co., Ltd. has been successful in food production and cosmetics, and has ongoing research and development to expand into feed and fuel.
One of euglena Co., Ltd.’s major objectives is to fight against malnutrition using Euglena food products. Euglena provides the proper nutrition and is easily transportable in powder form to developing countries. Even in developed countries, which have seen an increase in obesity and diabetes, Euglena can serve as a healthier food choice to modern day eating habits.
Euglena has potential applications in new fibre materials using paramylon. Studies have shown paramylon as an effective fibre material with special properties such as wound healing effects. As Euglena is rich in protein and nutritional value, it can be used as feed for livestock and aquafarm fish. It was found from long term studies that Euglena feed may decrease the mortality rate of juvenile fishes and the residue from Euglena after biofuel extraction can be used as feed and fertiliser, avoiding unnecessary waste.
The possibilities of Euglena as a biofuel has been recognised since the start. Various research and development projects are underway, in partnership with universities and corporations to develop microalgae-based biofuels. euglena Co., Ltd. hopes to develop aviation biofuel for practical use by 2020.
Future Of Euglena
Euglena has the potential to address global issues such as poverty and malnutrition, as well as provide solutions for sustainable energy. It was a visit to Bangladesh in 1998 and witnessing the scene of extreme poverty there that the president of euglena Co., Ltd., Mr. Izumo, started his journey. When he found Euglena as a solution to malnutrition, his passion led him to challenge the difficulties of large-scale cultivation of Euglena which no one had achieved before.
By collaborating with top universities and leading corporations, along with setting up modern facilities and research centres, euglena Co., Ltd. could accelerate the advancement of technology and knowledge to improve the large-scale cultivation of Euglena. Such partnerships also increase the efficiency and quality of production and aid in functional studies and projects. With the aim to develop the next generation of biofuels and establish a nationwide biofuel supply system, euglena Co., Ltd. believes there is a chance to save our planet’s environment and depleting resources, along with greatly contributing to solve global food and poverty issues.
Melody Chong, Health Coach : Melody found her calling in health and wellness after an illustrious career in the public relations and marketing industries. Since becoming a certified health coach 5 years ago, she marries her passion and core competencies into helping organisations with their PR & Marketing efforts in the fields of health, wellness, sports, fitness and nutrition extending to writing, talks and organising events.