Dr. Gundry's private practice: (760) 323-5553

Dr. Gundry (00:00):
… and I’m talking about microalgae. That’s right. Almost invisible to the eye, microalgae are one of the most potent extraordinary sources of bioactives on the planet. Today we’re going to share with what it can do for you.
All right. Welcome back. And Vincent, great to be here. Thank you so much for hosting us.

Vincent Usache (00:00):
Thank you, Steven.

Dr. Gundry (00:27):
This is going to be an exciting hour. So, let’s dive right in. What the heck are algae?

Vincent Usache (00:35):
So algae, and microalgae specifically, are single cell plants that are living in aquatic environment, in different environments. You can find them in the seawater, in fresh water, but also in some specific environment, such as tundra, Arctic tundra as well, and in the desert as well, so pretty much everywhere.
They are there on Earth for a billion years. Actually, they are the origin of the oxygen that we breathe in the atmosphere. They are also the origin of the fuel that we put in our cars, because as a fossilized biomasses, they have generated oil that we are producing today. Naturally, so that’s extremely interesting, to think of those benefits for the humankind that the microalgae have delivered so far. That’s what are microalgae.

Dr. Gundry (01:30):
So microalgae, they’re single-celled organisms. A lot of people can think of a bacteria as a single cell organism.

Vincent Usache (01:39):

Dr. Gundry (01:40):
But they’re like bacteria, but they can have photosynthesis. They can use sunlight and CO2 to produce oxygen. Right?

Vincent Usache (01:53):
Exactly. Exactly. That’s the process that we call photosynthesis. And microalgae are plants, so they are plant-based, meaning that they are able to use the light from the sun to convert this energy from the light and the CO2 and some minerals into biomass and oxygen. In this biomass, specifically, there is a different bioactives, an amazing diversity of bioactive that those different spaces can deliver.

Dr. Gundry (02:29):
Now, some people think about algae, and they say, “Oh, seaweed.” But seaweed is not algae. It’s a bigger form, I guess.

Vincent Usache (02:39):
Yes, exactly. That’s bigger form of microalgae, actually. Microalgae are the foundation of all plants on Earth. Some become seaweed and they stay in the aquatic environment. Some different spaces become the… Specifically the green microalgae become the terrestrial plant that we know and that are surrounding us on a daily basis. So microalgae are the foundation of all plants from Earth, hence you can find pretty much everything that is in the plant, in the seaweed, is also in the microalgae at the origin from the… As the starting point, I would say.

Dr. Gundry (03:24):
How would microalgae be used in our everyday life? How would I be interacting with it without my knowledge?

Vincent Usache (03:34):
As I say, first you breathe every day, so you use the air that which by almost one-third of the Earth, of the oxygen which is presented in the atmosphere is produced by the natural microalgae which are everywhere. So that’s first benefit, as I said.
But on your daily life, microalgae product are increasingly used in a food, cosmetic products. So you have some natural colorants that are made for microalgae. You have some antioxidants, natural antioxidant, that are used in different food supplements, dietary supplements, worldwide. And that’s something which is gaining some interest because there are plenty of biological properties that are scientifically demonstrated now.

Dr. Gundry (04:23):
Can we use these as fuel?

Vincent Usache (04:29):
Yeah. You, you could, actually. That’s possible. Because microalgae are extremely rich in oil. So you could extract oil from those biomasses and turn them into biofuels. Obviously, this is not what we are doing here. What we do is really specific ingredients, especially key ingredients, but by essence, yes, you can really use microalgae to produce oil at [inaudible 00:04:55].

Dr. Gundry (04:55):
There are some companies that are actually looking into that.

Vincent Usache (04:57):
Yes. Yes, indeed. So you need to really… it’s require a lot of space, of volume, and also to be cost effective, because obviously the fuel that you put in your tank has to up at a lower price, even though at current time, the price is going up. But still producing it by microalgae is still a little bit expensive. So I think in my opinion, at least we have 10 to 15 years of research to have some reliable source of biofuels of the microalgae.

Dr. Gundry (05:33):
So a lot of my listeners know about spirulina and chlorella.

Vincent Usache (05:37):

Dr. Gundry (05:39):
And people associate spirulina chlorella with health benefits. Is that just scratching the surface of what you are doing?

Vincent Usache (05:52):
Yes, exactly. I think spirulina and chlorella are great products, really great product. They’re rich in protein, rich in vitamins, minerals, but that’s just two species among the 10,000, 100,000 of species that are reaching other compounds, new compounds that are delivering new and innovative benefits for nutrition and cosmetics. So spirulina and chlorella are, yes, the two most known species in the microalgae world, are extremely good product, but they’re just really the tip of the iceberg, I would say. So yeah.

Dr. Gundry (06:32):
So in fact, you and I are sitting in front of one of your bio reactors. And people, I hope they’re seeing this in the camera, this is not what most of us think of as algae. It’s not green. In fact, it’s reddish brown, I guess, is a nice way of saying it. And these, you’re actually growing algae here that are different colors. And tell me, why would you be interested in a red brown algae instead of a green chlorella?

Vincent Usache (07:12):
Yeah. The color is just a vision that you have, and we relate the color to specific bioactive, of course. Because the color of the microalgae are made by the photosynthetic pigment that they are featuring. And those photosynthetic pigments are really unique and are really dependent on the condition where the microalgae is living.
So as you know, obviously the green microalgae are in the specific environment that you can find in the sea, in the pond, in the lakes, et cetera, and the rivers. Whereas you have in the sea, in the oceans, some different layers of water to which the light from the sun can go through to a certain wavelength. And that will trigger on the microalgae a specific photosynthetic pigment that will absorb the color, the specific color related to this pigment.
So what you see here, the red brown microalgae is the ability of this microalgae to live in a specific environment and to develop specific compounds, thanks to this environment. So we are really interested in those microalgae, green, brown, [inaudible 00:08:45], and spaces that can deliver those bioactives. And they do that thanks to the ability of producing, adapting themselves to the environment, thanks to the metabolic pathway that they will implement.

Dr. Gundry (09:03):
So on a segue to that, a lot of people now know that we can genetically engineer bacteria to produce compounds. Many people know that most insulin is produced by bacteria who have been genetically engineered. There’s nothing genetically engineered behind you, right?

Vincent Usache (09:28):

Dr. Gundry (09:30):
You’re not telling microalgae, by manipulating their genome, to make a compound.

Vincent Usache (09:37):
No, we don’t need that. Actually, we learn from them how to extract naturally the bioactives. So we are just at the start of the domestication of the microalgae. That’s that’s a new industry, which is arriving now. And that’s something that we learn from the algae, from the environment in which they live. And what we try to do here, we try to apply the culture condition-

Vincent Usache (10:00):
And what we tried to do here, we tried to apply the [inaudible 00:10:04] conditions that are mimicking the natural condition where they live, in order to maximize the biological potential of each microalgae. So we don’t to use any genetic modification, we just have to use and to understand how the microalgae naturally develop their [inaudible 00:10:22].

Dr. Gundry (10:23):
So, does your company and I asked this off camera, does your company go out and find an algae, that maybe wasn’t known about what it did, and you grow it here and then you extract the bioactive compounds and you go, “Oh my gosh, look, this is an exciting compound. We know about this compound but we had no idea it was in this.” Is that what you’re doing?

Vincent Usache (10:50):
Yeah, we do that but we do… Actually, we do both things. We either to screen the natural environment, some new environments, we did some screening in [inaudible 00:11:03], in French Vienna, in other places in the world as well. But, we do that with the universities, who is academic partners, that are accessing some new strains, some new environments, and we are more there just to identify the strain and clean it up from the other single cells that were around it and to make sure to fully characterize it and to make it grow. So, our job is more to, really to make sure that from one cell that we are identified, we are going to develop the process that then make real quantity of biomass to develop those ingredients.
So, yes, we can work from nature, identify any nature in the environments, some specific strain. But we do also work from strain collection, that are owned by university everywhere in the world. We have one in Texas University, which are famous one in the states. But, we have different strain collection in the Europe, in Japan, from which we source different microalgae and we screen 10, 15, different microalgae on the specific projector we have in mind. Which is designed by the marketing and the science team at Microphyt. So, obviously every ingredient that we want to launch, we have a specific idea in mind, to deliver specific nutritional benefit or cosmetic benefit.

Dr. Gundry (12:38):
So I think want to know, aside from eating algae, what sort of micronutrients, bioactive compounds, are in microalgae that we should know about and we should be using?

Vincent Usache (12:58):
So, microalgae are extremely diversified. So, there are 20,000, that we know, bioactive compounds and microalgae. But there are some specific compounds, as you can find only microalgae, such as probably the most known omega-3 fatty acid, is our essential lipids, as you know. So, microalgae and algae are the only living organism, that both produce naturally, those omega-3 fatty acids that have a lot of benefits on the cardiovascular health, on…

Dr. Gundry (13:37):
Brain health.

Vincent Usache (13:37):
General health, mental health, brain health, et cetera. So, that’s one example of those specific bioactive and the second example is specific pigment, such as fucoxanthin. Fucoxanthin is a specific xanthophyll, it’s a type of pigment that the microalgae use to capture the light on the specific wave lengths. And this fucoxanthin the molecule, you can only find it in the [inaudible 00:14:09] environment and originally from the microalgae, specifically diatoms and brown microalgae. So this pigment, fucoxanthin, is really something of interest for us at Microphyt. We have developed product out of fucoxanthin, specifically [inaudible 00:14:26], but something that is really unique and in which we have invested a lot of energy to develop sustainable process to produce it.

Dr. Gundry (14:36):
And you’re also using these compounds in cosmetics?

Vincent Usache (14:41):

Dr. Gundry (14:42):
Why would I want to smear algae on my face?

Vincent Usache (14:48):
That’s a good question. It’s true that as soon as you are using natural ingredients, you will have to manage color, taste, specifically when you taste it, or other that may be different from what you are using on a daily life. And the idea is for us, of course, as our job is to provide a hidden agenda that, is easy to use for customers, to develop a formulation that incorporate our hidden agenda that they odorless, that have a nice color, that can stable over time in different condition. Making sure that when you apply the ingredient here from a formulated product, the cosmetic cream, that’s extremely nice to apply. You will test that in our lab later.

Dr. Gundry (15:39):
So, algae obviously absorbs sunlight and these pigments absorb sunlight, so wouldn’t it be great to have an algae on my skin, when I’m out exposed to the sun?

Vincent Usache (15:39):
That’s great.

Dr. Gundry (15:39):
Sounds like a good idea.

Vincent Usache (15:59):
That’s an actually good idea and it’s actually what we do here at Microphyt, is that we are extracting specific pigments from this microalgae by the way, which is a red microalgae. Which is natural environment living in very harsh, extreme environment and it has developed specific molecule [inaudible 00:16:25], that are able to protect it’s DNA, it’s cell content, from the UV’s that are obviously extremely important in the environment to keeps. So, by extracting those compounds naturally, from making the proper condition and integrating that in a cosmetic formulation. Yes, you can develop some sort of product, that is [inaudible 00:16:53] to protect your skin from the UV rays.

Dr. Gundry (16:56):
So, algae are good for the environment, right? They absorb CO2 and they don’t use much water, is that right? They don’t drink a lot?

Vincent Usache (17:11):
No, they don’t drink a lot. Actually, they just use water to live and to develop themselves, but they are not consuming water such as we. Like [inaudible 00:17:24], which are having lunch, water using quicker, are using for textile fibers. What you use here specifically at Microphyt, the way we produce is a control environment, where the water and the [inaudible 00:17:38] are recycled. So we are not using so much water compared to the crops and other plant productions. And yes, you’re right, the way we try to produce microalgae at Microphyt is really in a sustainable mode. Using the natural light, but there’s artificial light, made from renewable energy and we are producing, thanks to this light, the micro algae will convert the CO2 into biomass and oxygen. At the normal scale today, all the microalgae that present in the environment, in the oceans, in the lakes and the rivers are considered one-third of the total CO2 from all the plants. So it’s quite significant and they have the ability to capture all of the CO2.

Dr. Gundry (18:28):
Now you just… You received a large grant from the EU, here at Microphyt. Tell us… We saw the building going up as we entered, what was this grant for? What are you doing?

Vincent Usache (18:44):
The grant was a nice achievement from the team because it was a recognition of… By EU, that what we are doing is really, what do they call it? The flagship technology for European district. So, we did so well last year, which is a $50,000,000 grant, which is one of the most selective process in Europe to get this grant. And we get it last year with the objective to develop the first of it’s kind, plant. What we call the biorefinery, we mean that we are able to produce a large number of microalgae at Microphyt. We are producing between 10 and 15 microalgae, different, new microalgae, new to the world. From those microalgae we are able to develop specific extraction process, sustainable processes, that deliver new product, new inventions. So the idea and the concept of this SCALE program, that we call, is to really be able to have a platform of production, at scale. Which is implementing sustainable process for nutrition, food, cosmetic, but also animal nutrition.

Vincent Usache (20:00):
… nutrition, food, cosmetic, but also animal nutrition. We have partners around that and we will develop one of the biggest plants of microalgea which will have unique properties.

Dr. Gundry (20:14):
I think that’s a good point. You can grow algae as food, either for us, but particularly for animals. I think most people don’t realize that fish are recipients of eating microalgae. And as my viewers know, you are what you eat, but you are what the thing you’re eating ate. And feeding either fish or animals algae may have huge benefits for us, both in it doesn’t cost a lot of land mass and a lot of fertilizer to produce biomass with algae. And the benefit then is in all these bioactive compounds. And is that why the EU is so interested? Because we can’t feed ourselves if we keep doing what we’re doing.

Vincent Usache (21:19):
Yes, exactly. The EU still really is interested in this process. Microalgea are the [inaudible 00:21:28] producer of essential nutrients. We talk about the omega-3 fat acid, but also some mineral, also some specific pigments such [inaudible 00:21:40]. And as you said, those are at the basis of the food chain in the natural environment, so what we are doing here is a shortcut, where we are providing directly to the consumers who are partners with food supplement and labs, with cosmetic care partners, cosmetic brands, we provide a shortcut with this extraordinary, amazing diversity of [inaudible 00:22:07] the microalgea can deliver. We skip the rest of the food chain I would say, meaning that we save also for the humanity, the land which is used, we save a lot of water, a lot of energy. We try to rationalize everything like that. That’s the idea.

Dr. Gundry (22:26):
Now I know a lot of your products are extracted from the algae. And when people hear extraction in the United States, they worry about harsh chemicals like benzine, like chemicals that are also going to be harmful to us and the environment. You don’t do anything like that here.

Vincent Usache (22:47):
No, no, no. We made the choice since the inception of Microphyt to only use green solvents, meaning water and ethynol, which is a bio sourced [inaudible 00:22:59]. And that’s the two solvent that we are using. And that’s more than enough actually, because as you have seen in our factory, by playing on the different parameters, the physical properties of the algeas, you are able to extract pretty much everything you need without any harsh chemicals, anything that could be harmful to the environment and also to the workers that are there, and obviously the consumer. No, we are just using green solvent, and we are also recycling those solvents right now so we are also limiting our environmental impact and the consumption of those product.

Dr. Gundry (23:45):
And one of the things we were touring in your lab, your hatchery, your incubator, and one of the interesting thing is you, each algae has its own wants, in terms of how much carbon dioxide it likes, how much light it likes. And you actually find out the needs of each algae. You’re not just pumping red sludge through these tubes. You found out what this wants to grow.

Vincent Usache (24:16):
Yes, exactly. It’s a little bit more complicated than that. And that’s part of our expertise I would say. That why [inaudible 00:24:25] were recognized by the EU and by also some of the partners to have this expertise on the understanding how the microalgea grow in the best environment possible, making sure that we are extracting out of those bio masses [inaudible 00:24:43] that are safe, that are effective and that are sustainably produced. This is the objective of Microphyt.
But you’re right, for each of those species, we need to develop specific processes. And this is the expertise to understand how to grow the algae by combining the mineral salt, the light, the level of CO2 that we will add in the air that the microalgea will use. Everything, all those parameters are monitored, and we develop the processes for each of those microalgea.

Dr. Gundry (25:18):
Yeah, I think it’s fantastic. Folks, this is not pond scum that they’re pumping around here. This is actually really deep science. And the beauty of what you’re doing is you’re selecting a species of algae, or multiple algaes, for a compound that has either known human benefit or a compound that you suspect is going to have a great human benefit because of what you observe in nature. And now you can grow this at scale, rather than just in a test tube.

Vincent Usache (25:58):
Exactly. That is always part of the strategy of Microphyt, to be able to, from what we do at the lab, to be able to make it at the industrial scale, because ultimately we want to deliver our ingredients at a sufficient volume to be used by our customer, by the food supplement lab, by the cosmetic brands. That’s always part of our [inaudible 00:26:22] development, to sync in term of industrialization and scale up of the processes. That’s really part of our DNA.
That’s the production part, which is really at the center of our strategy. But also this is not enough. What we do as well is to make sure that what we develop as ingredient are effective, are obviously safe, are regulatory approved, but also are effective for our customers and ultimately to the consumer. We develop also the studies, the science around the ingredient in order to make sure that what we can use is really useful and helpful to the benefit of the consumer.

Dr. Gundry (27:08):
Well, let’s talk about one of your new novel compounds for human nutrition, and it’s called BrainPhyt. Tell me about the key molecules that make up BrainPhyt.

Vincent Usache (27:25):
It’s a combination of at least three key molecules. The first one, and I already mentioned about it, it’s fucoxanthin, which is a specific bioactive, a specific pigment from a diatom, a microalgea called phaeodactylum. And this microalgea is naturally producing this fucoxanthin. Fucoxanthin is extremely powerful in term of its natural antioxidant properties, but it does also some anti-inflammatory properties so that’s one of the key molecule that is presented BrainPhyt.
Another one is an omega-3 fatty acid called PPA, which also has some specific biological properties. And a sub family of component is called phycoprostane. And phycoprostane are really specific molecule that you can only find in BrainPhyt. That’s derivative from omega-3 fatty acids, and that are also delivering specific benefits. The combination of those three molecules in BrainPhyt deliver the result, the scientific result that we have demonstrated on brain health.

Dr. Gundry (28:37):
Yeah, and I think these are very important points for my viewers, that plants, particularly algae, as strange as may seem, have to have sunlight. But sunlight, the photons in sunlight, are damaging to the cellular process of algae, to their mitochondria, which are called chloroplasts, so they produce these compounds to stop that damage from sunlight.
And to me, the exciting thing is that when we eat those compounds, or you produce these compounds in a supplement, that we know from my last book, Unlocking the Keto Code, that those phenols, those polyphenols that the plants have produced to protect their mitochondria, we then get the benefit by protecting our mitochondria when we eat these plants. It all comes around in a full circle. You’re right. As much as we don’t realize, we’re dependent on these processes. So good for you. The other thing I want to talk about, we were talking off camera, we’re beginning to realize how little we know about the nutritional-

Dr. Gundry (30:00):
What we know about the nutritional aspects of algae. And I brought up experiment in dolphins in the United States. The United States has dolphin colonies for the U.S. Navy. And I won’t go into why, but there’s a pod of dolphins in the Atlantic ocean and a pod of dolphins in the Pacific ocean. And they’re the same species bottlenose dolphin, but the Pacific dolphins age quite rapidly, and the Pacific dolphins get all the diseases of the west. They get diabetes, they get old age, they don’t think very clearly, but the Atlantic dolphins don’t. They don’t acquire these. And yet they’re the same breed. They live essentially the same salt water.
And these researchers realized that the dolphins on the Atlantic were eating totally different fish than the dolphins in the west coast, in the Pacific. And when they broke down the compounds in these fish, they actually found some odd chain fatty acids that were very prevalent in the diet of the Atlantic dolphins, but not in the Pacific dolphins. And they, it’s like, oh my gosh, you’re on the right track. We need to identify those compounds, speaking of which we know the Japanese who eat a lot of seaweed and a lot of seafood have much higher levels of fucoxanthin in them than we do. And they’re very smart, so I need fucoxanthin, right?

Vincent Usache (31:56):
We all need.

Dr. Gundry (31:56):
We all need this. Yes.

Vincent Usache (31:57):

Dr. Gundry (31:58):
And it’s just this compound in algae.

Vincent Usache (32:00):

Dr. Gundry (32:00):
That… Yeah.

Vincent Usache (32:02):
Yeah. It’s, that’s really interesting situation there. This is true that you can really, from the diet that you have, really understand, although the environment in which you live. So that’s important to be connected to this environment of course, and to understand what you can get from the food that you have. So part of the strategy, of course, from the dietary supplement industries, also to bring some additional bio-active to the food to help people to kind of get what they have to do from what have to get from the food in case is not available in natural food that they’re using every day. Yeah.

Dr. Gundry (32:45):
Yeah. I mean, we all cannot move to Japan or to the south of France and eat the fish that you eat. I’d love to, and I do, but yeah, for me, it’s a supplement company. We all can’t do that. And so if we can deliver the active ingredients that we now know are why the health benefit of a Mediterranean diet, for instance, or an Okinawan diet in Japan, in something that people can take as a supplement, then we all benefit. And obviously that’s what you want to do.

Vincent Usache (33:25):

Dr. Gundry (33:26):
So what else? So, all right, you’re going to feed the world. You’re going to take care of us in our brains. What other exciting product are you doing here?

Vincent Usache (33:38):
We have plenty of new product in the pipeline. At the moment we are working on 35 different new ingredients, both for nutrition and cosmetics. So we have plenty of things that will be launched over the next few years. The next one in nutrition will target… We have a holistic approach on the sport nutrition because we are understanding that sport nutrition is just not sport, it’s also the way that we feel, we react, we interact with other people. So we have a product which called PHYCOACTIVE that will be launched next year, I hope. That will under development at the moment at Microphyt that will target this category of holistic sport nutrition. That’s a new product after BrainPhyt, but we have also a range of skincare ingredients that are development.
And we launch last month Luteana, which is an ingredient targeting the sensitive skin, which is obviously a huge issue in the world. So that’s an ingredient that receive also some award from cosmetic industry. And it’s really promising. And first ingredient that we had in cosmetics, it’s called Renouvellance, and Renouvellance is targeting what we call the human stress protection. So that’s one of those example of ingredient that protect the skin from the effect of UVs and pollution together, so that’s the new ingredient that we have launched just this year.

Dr. Gundry (35:12):
So can you get too much of a good thing? Can I eat too much microalgae? Do you go home for dinner and have a big plate of microalgae? I guess I’m asking.

Vincent Usache (35:26):
I would not recommend so, but I think the idea for, of course, what we do at Microphyt is to, we develop ingredients that have to be used at a specific dose. And the efficacy of those ingredients are developing a specific dosage, which is scientifically established. So you have to follow the astriction of use that the food supplement company are providing on the labels. So that’s something which is quite a straightforward and it’s really recommended to use that at the level of which will benefit from obviously food safety, but also the efficacy of the ingredient.

Dr. Gundry (36:06):
All right. So we’re about out of time, but we have an audience question on every one of our podcasts and this one, I want you to answer as well, and I’ll give my opinion. So the audience question comes from Jeanette Jenky on YouTube, Dr. Joe TV, there is such a thing says spirulina contains pseudo vitamin B12, which is bad. It competes with real vitamin B12 and blocks it to enter the cell. What say you? All right Vincent, what do you think?

Vincent Usache (36:42):
I would agree. I know that from, for fact, my knowledge at least I know that the vitamin B12 in spirulina is this pseudo vitamin B12. So I think it’s probably not really useful to consume spirulina in case you would like to get some vitamin B12, but microalgae, you may find some B12 natural source of B12s that are not B12 that we need to, we can use, yes.

Dr. Gundry (37:15):
Yes. Great answer. Yeah. It was actually thought by vegans, for many years up until about the year 2000, that the B12 and spirulina was available and was B12, and it’s not. The good news is about half of us, or bad news is about half of us have a genetic mutation that prevents us from taking vitamin B12 and converting it into methyl B12, which it’s a active form. So all of my patients, I have them take a methyl B12, a sublingual, put it under their tongue, but no, you can have the spirulina, but please supplement with methyl B12. And we can measure this in everybody’s blood. And it’s amazing how many people are deficient in methyl B12, even among those who are, who are taking B12. So just supplement with it. It’s the easiest way. Well, Vincent, this has been great. Where can listeners learn more about you and Microphyt?

Vincent Usache (38:28):
Well, so the idea of course, is to get in touch and to check out our website and to subscribe on our LinkedIn webpage. You have also a newsletter, so you can get a lot of information on our new product development, the new product launches that will come in the next few months and years. And obviously you can meet us in any industry type show, consumer show in the U.S. and in the Europe.

Dr. Gundry (38:55):
More amazing episodes, just like this one, watch now. So those of you who are using your soda makers at home, please get rid of that. That’s not a health benefit.