Restaurateur recycling lobster shells for health supplements

Most diners love lobster, but few realize the shells they toss away are rich in compounds that help fight disease. One innovative restaurant owner in Bangkok, however, saw gold in the red crustaceans and has won an award for recycling those empty shells into a health supplement.

Montira Charoenwal, owner of Lobster Gangsters restaurant, watched with regret every day as her staff threw away piles of empty shells. Although she was a restaurateur, she graduated with a science degree, and she knew from her biology courses the shells are rich in astaxanthin, a carotenoid.

Scientists say that astaxanthin can help boost the immune system, reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease and cancer, and may help delay the onset of Alzheimer’s disease. Montira says that lobster shells contain four times more calcium than milk.

Rather than allow a resource to be wasted, Montira reached out to Thammasat University in Bangkok and convinced its faculty of Science and Technology to launch a research project to make better use of the shells. She worked side-by-side with the scientists and professors there.

“We have found a way to extract astaxanthin and other bio-active compounds, phytochemicals, as well as calcium from lobster shells while maintaining the flavor, aroma, and taste of the lobster, by using a high technology extraction technique,” Montira said.

Just a few months ago, their research garnered a gold medal at the Seoul International Invention Fair 2019 (SIIF 2019) in South Korea. Over 400 inventors and investors from 32 countries attended the fair.

Montira and the team have taken the fruits of their research to the marketplace. They now produce and sell a supplement named Lob-Sa-Taa, and it has a Facebook page.

“Our product is packed with calcium and antioxidants. The powder can be added directly to your food to enhance its flavor and nutrient content and is now available for purchase,” Montira said.

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