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TOKYO (Reuters Life!) - Science class meets sponge cake in one Japanese confectioner's new treat, a cake packed full of a one-celled organism called euglena that is said to contain a wide range of healthful minerals and vitamins.
The unusual variation of kasutera, a brick-sized Japanese sponge cake thought to have originated with the Portuguese missionaries who were the country's first recorded foreign visitors, hopes to take advantage of increasing health consciousness in Japan.
"The euglena are said to contain some 59 different nutrients," said a spokesman at Soke Kutsuwado, the confectioner in Takamatsu, western Japan, that developed the cake with Euglena Co, a Tokyo firm that sells a wide range of products containing euglena including cosmetics and nutritional supplements.
Euglena are one-celled freshwater organisms about 1 mm (0.04 inch) long with a whippy tail referred to variously as protozoans, algae or protists. Many people make their acquaintance in school science classes as part of basic biology instruction.
On its website, Euglena Co says euglena is rich in B vitamins and that it also contains minerals such as magnesium, amino acids and DHA, a compound that fish is particularly rich in and may reduce the risk of heart disease.
A 3 cm (1.2 inch) slice of the cake contains some 220 million euglena, which have been added in powdered form.
"The original flavor with the euglena was definitely a little fishy, so we added powdered green tea for a green tea flavor," the Soke Kutsuwado spokesman said.
One of the euglena-filled cakes goes for 1,995 yen ($23.73) as opposed to 1,050 yen for a more ordinary version, but despite this the company is having trouble keeping up with supply, the spokesman said.
Reporting by Elaine Lies, Editing by Sanjeev Miglani