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Therapeutic and Nutritional Uses of Algae

Algae have been used since ancient times as food, fodder, fertilizer and as source of medicine. Nowadays seaweeds represent an unlimited source of the raw materials used in pharmaceutical, food industries, medicine and cosmetics. They are nutritionally valuable as fresh or dried vegetables, or as ingredients in a wide variety of prepared foods. In particular, seaweeds contain significant quantities of protein, lipids, minerals and vitamins. There is limited information about the role of algae and algal metabolites in medicine. Only a few taxa have been studied for their use in medicine. Many traditional cultures report curative powers from selected alga, in particular tropical and subtropical marine forms. This is especially true in the maritime areas of Asia, where the sea plays a significant role in daily activities. Nonetheless, at present, only a few genera and species of algae are involved in aspects of medicine and therapy. Beneficial uses of algae or algal products include those that may mimic specific manifestations of human diseases, production of antibiotic compounds, or improvement of human nutrition in obstetrics, dental research, thallassotherapy, and forensic medicine.
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