The Ocean’s Pharmacy: Health Discoveries in Marine Algae


Mélanie Silva, Dorit Avni, João Varela e Luísa Barreira

Non-communicable diseases (NCDs) represent a global health challenge, constituting a major cause of mortality and disease burden in the 21st century. Addressing the prevention and management of NCDs is crucial for improving global public health, emphasizing the need for comprehensive strategies, early interventions, and innovative therapeutic approaches to mitigate their far-reaching consequences. Marine organisms, mainly algae, produce diverse marine natural products with significant therapeutic potential. Harnessing the largely untapped potential of algae could revolutionize drug development and contribute to combating NCDs, marking a crucial step toward natural and targeted therapeutic approaches. This review examines bioactive extracts, compounds, and commercial products derived from macro- and microalgae, exploring their protective properties against oxidative stress, inflammation, cardiovascular, gastrointestinal, metabolic diseases, and cancer across in vitro, cell-based, in vivo, and clinical studies. Most research focuses on macroalgae, demonstrating antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, cardioprotective, gut health modulation, metabolic health promotion, and anti-cancer effects. Microalgae products also exhibit anti-inflammatory, cardioprotective, and anti-cancer properties. Although studies mainly investigated extracts and fractions, isolated compounds from algae have also been explored. Notably, polysaccharides, phlorotannins, carotenoids, and terpenes emerge as prominent compounds, collectively representing 42.4% of the investigated compounds.

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