Who Knew Algae and Cereal Were the Dynamic Duo We Needed?

Researchers are developing plant-based nutritional supplements tailored for individuals with health conditions like diabetes and cirrhosis. These supplements combine cereal flours with legumes and innovative ingredients.

Who Knew Algae and Cereal Were the Dynamic Duo We Needed?
María Soledad Córdova Aguilar and her ICAT team meticulously examining their latest plant-based nutritional supplement formulations.

Researchers from the Institute of Applied Sciences and Technology (ICAT) of the UNAM are pioneering the development of a new line of nutritional supplements. These supplements are tailored specifically for individuals with diabetes, obesity, and cirrhosis, as well as those who encounter swallowing difficulties.

These aren't just any supplements – they come in the form of powdered blends, beverages, cookies, flours for hotcakes, nutritional bars, and suspended drinks. The versatility of these offerings promises not only health benefits but potential industrial partnerships and expansions.

Plant-based Nutrition

These supplements are grounded in the plant-based movement, combining cereal flours with legumes to optimize nutritional value. The researchers have also integrated unconventional ingredients like algae, mushroom, and even grasshopper flours to elevate the biological worth of their formulations. María Soledad Córdova Aguilar, who leads the project, elaborated on their choice of ingredients, emphasizing their commitment to achieving a high biological value that translates to a rich protein content.

One particularly innovative aspect of these supplements is the use of cactus mucilage as a stabilizer. This substance not only enhances the texture of the products but is currently under the patent process, showcasing the team's dedication to unique, research-backed solutions. Moreover, this utilization of cactus mucilage showcases the team's commitment to sustainability by leveraging agro-industrial waste.

For Aguilar and her team, efficacy, and palatability are of paramount importance. She stressed that while a supplement's primary function is to nourish, if it isn't palatable, it won't be utilized. Thus, the team adopts rigorous sensory tests, collaborating with the General Hospital of Mexico to gauge patient feedback. This hands-on approach has led to the creation of products that have surpassed existing market alternatives, like their vegetarian hamburger.

Scalability: The Next Step

While the experimental phase and laboratory production are complete, the team is now confronted with the challenge of scalability. The ICAT, instrumental in the intellectual protection process, is now pivotal in scouting potential industrial collaborators who can facilitate large-scale production. Isadora Martínez Arellano, another ICAT academic technician, emphasized their ongoing endeavors to ensure the supplements are not just nutritionally robust but also economically accessible. Their focus on cost-reduction extends to the raw materials, processing methods, and even energy consumption.

Additionally, students of chemistry and food and industrial engineering are also making significant contributions. They've played roles in developing equipment crucial for the project, such as specialized grinders, blenders, and incubators to ensure product longevity.

Beverages, cookies, and nutritional bars, set against a laboratory backdrop.
Beverages, cookies, and nutritional bars, set against a laboratory backdrop.


The endeavors of the ICAT team exemplify the convergence of science, health, and business. Their plant-based nutritional supplements offer a promising solution for numerous health challenges. As these products move closer to commercialization, they represent an exciting frontier not only for health-focused consumers but also for industries looking to invest in the future of nutrition.