What is Astaxanthin?
Astaxanthin (pronounced asta-zan-thin) is a naturally occurring carotenoid found in microalgae. Carotenoids are compounds in foods that give them their beautiful colors – such as reds, yellows and greens, and also boast potent antioxidant properties.
The pink in shrimp and salmon – that’s from astaxanthin. In fact, astaxanthin is so potent that it even gives flamingos their bright pink color. Flamingos are actually born white and only become pink when they start eating astaxanthin-rich food!
So not only does it give foods (and even flamingos) their beautiful color, it’s also one of nature’s most powerful antioxidants. It protects us from oxidative damage and is also a potent anti-inflammatory compound. This power antioxidant does wonders for your eyes, skin and immune system. It’s been found effective at drastically reducing the inflammation that chips away at overall health from your head to your toes and from skin deep down to your bones.
With a bevy of health conditions being linked to underlying inflammation and oxidative stress, astaxanthin and its health benefits deserve a closer look.
The 12 Benefits of Astaxanthin
Astaxanthin helps to support a normal inflammatory response in healthy people. At the same time, it helps to protect every cell and tissue from free radical damage.
This powerful antioxidant does all kinds of good things for your body…
The Top Astaxanthin Benefits Backed By Science:
- Improves Heart Health. Astaxanthin helps prevent atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries), improve oxidative stress, decrease inflammation, improve lipid profile and improve glucose metabolism.
- Lowers Oxidative Stress for Overweight or Obese Individuals. Overweight or obese individuals tend to show greater ‘oxidative stress’ response compared to individuals within a normal weight range. In a Korean double blind – Randomized Control Trial (RCT) overweight and obese participants (body mass index [BMI] >25.0 kg/m²) randomly received either 5 mg/day or 20 mg/day of astaxanthin compared to a control group with normal body weights (BMI <25.0kg/m²) who received no intervention. After three weeks, both groups who received astaxanthin interventions showed lower oxidative stress and improved aspects of the antioxidant defense system. The improvements were not significantly better for the 20 mg/day group than the 5 mg/day group.
- Improves Circulation. As we age, red blood cells (RBCs) can be susceptible to attack, resulting in peroxidative damage to the RBC membrane phospholipids. Astaxanthin has been shown to help protect against this while also improving blood rheology (blood flow capacity).
- Blocks Oxidative DNA Damage Caused by Free Radicals. Supports the brain and nervous system by protecting them from free radicals (it’s one of the few carotenoids that can cross the blood-brain barrier).
- Lowers Inflammatory Response. Astaxanthin has been shown to reduce C-reactive protein (CRP), a compound associated with high stress. In the Park – double blind RCT participants received 0, 2 or 8 mg of astaxanthin daily for 8 weeks. While the placebo and 8 mg per day group fell short of statistical significance, the 2/mg per day dose had a significant effect on lowering CRP (a biomarker for systemic inflammation). Although results are still unclear, this may show that a higher dose of astaxanthin doesn’t always show a bigger benefit – as seen with the Korean double blind RCT and the Park double blind RCT.
- Boosts Immunity. In addition to lowering CRP in the Park – double blind RCT, astaxanthin also enhanced the immunity response in young healthy females (participants averaged 21.5 years).
- Improves Cognitive Function. Astaxanthin may improve cognitive function for individuals who have noticed signs of forgetfulness. In a small, open-label trial healthy men from 50-69 years old received 12 mg/day of astaxanthin for 12 weeks. After 12 weeks, participants were measured using a computerized test designed to detect early cognitive deterioration. Participants showed improvement of attention, working memory, and reaction time. While this was only a preliminary study, astaxanthin shows promising brain benefits.
- Improves Vision. Extensive research has been conducted of the benefits of astaxanthin for vision, especially in Japan. In 2009 Yuan and Kajita discussed trials that were published in Japanese and English abstracts. They found that consistently taking 6 mg/day of astaxanthin improved visual sharpness, even in healthy individuals!
- Reduces Wrinkles. Perhaps the fountain of youth is actually a nutrient of youth. Astaxanthin slows age-related decline in functionality and reduces wrinkles and age spots.
- Promotes Bone and Joint Health. Astaxanthin is a potent antioxidant and anti-inflammatory, which helps to lower bone deterioration inflammation. We know that chronic inflammation can contribute to bone loss and therefore, osteoporosis. Astaxanthin is able to neutralize free radicals, which damages your cells – including bone cells!
- Improves Muscle Performance and Endurance. In one double-blind RCT health male students were put through endurance, fitness and strength testing, then randomized to receive either 4 mg/day of astaxanthin or a placebo for 6 months. Following the 6 months, the astaxanthin group showed significant improvement when it came to strength and endurance. Specifically, the maximum number of knee bends (squats) increase by 50% for the astaxanthin group compared to 19% for the placebo group.
- May Boost Fertility in Males. Astaxanthin has been studied to protect sperm function and fertility. In a double-blind RCT, 30 men were recruited from infertile couples where the female partner showed no demonstrable cause of infertility. One group received 16 mg/day of astaxanthin while the other received a placebo for three months. After three months, sperm linear velocity (a measurement of sperm concentration and mobility) increased significantly in the astaxanthin group compared to the placebo. However, the most telling outcome of the trial was that the pregnancy rate for the astaxanthin group was 54.5% compared to 10.5% for the placebo group.
There are over 700 known carotenoids and astaxanthin is one of the strongest and most beneficial! However, humans do not make astaxanthin, so to reap the benefits you’ll have to incorporate more dietary sources, or supplement.
How to Add Astaxanthin to Your Diet
Astaxanthin is almost exclusively found in seafood.
Shrimp, trout and salmon all get their red-pink coloration from astaxanthin from the microalgae they consume. Wild sockeye salmon, in particular, has the highest amounts of this antioxidant. Although other types of salmon such as coho, chinook, and chum contain astaxanthin it is in lower amounts.
Salmon contains between 0.4–3.8 mg of astaxanthin per 3.5 ounces, with sockeye salmon providing the highest amount. Sockeye salmon contains 26–38 mg astaxanthin per kg, which simplified to a 4 ounce serving of salmon is going to be 2.92 to 4.31 mg of astaxanthin. That’s in sockeye salmon, which has the highest concentrations of astaxanthin. From there the amount of this antioxidant is going to be less in other types of salmon, trout, krill, and shrimp.
That means you would have to eat approximately 3-4 ounces of sockeye salmon per day, every day to get the equivalent of 4 mg of an astaxanthin supplement. This can be unrealistic for most.
Furthermore, women who are pregnant, nursing or may become pregnant are advised by the EPA and FDA to eat no more than 2 to 3 servings of salmon a week to minimize mercury exposure while maximizing the health benefits of eating fish.
So for those who dislike fish, allergic/sensitive to fish and shellfish or are pregnant, supplementation is another option.
Astaxanthin dosing in clinical trials have ranged from 1 mg/ day to 40 mg/ day. However, the majority of trials show a 6 mg/ day to 12 mg/day range.
As a dietary supplement, astaxanthin should be taken along with a fat with or immediately prior to a meal for optimal absorption.
There have been no significant side effects reported with astaxanthin in human clinical studies to date. However, at high doses of 50 mg of more, astaxanthin may cause an orange tint to the skin.
Fish oil and astaxanthin make a perfect pair and work synergistically for your health! Astaxanthin keeps the fish oil fresh due to its antioxidant capacity while fish oil increases astaxanthin absorption.
Astaxanthin is an oil-soluble antioxidant. That means astaxanthin absorption improves when it is taken with an oil – making fish oil an ideal nutrient companion.
However, with today’s challenges relating to food supply, stress levels, and health, it’s unlikely and difficult to get an adequate amount of astaxanthin through foods. Thus, taking a fish oil that has added astaxanthin is the perfect solution.
Triple Power Omega 3 Fish Oil provides over 1400 mg of omega 3 fatty acids, 3 mg/day of astaxanthin for a regular daily dose (or 6 mg with a ‘double dose’, for those looking to increase their omega 3 levels) and 100 mg of organic turmeric root extract. Together, this formulation is a triple inflammation fighter that works for you.
It also comes in a delicious, mango flavored emulsion which has been shown in clinical studies to metabolize and digest more completely and quickly than standard fish oils.
Enjoy your fish oil and keep your inflammation in check!
Astaxanthin is a carotenoid that acts as a pigment in microalgae, salmon, trout and shellfish with strong anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties.
Astaxanthin is commercially used as a food dye, but is now being put to better use as a potent anti-inflammatory, antioxidant supplement.
There is no current RDA for astaxanthin. However, the majority of trials showing a 6 mg/day to 12 mg/day range. Although on average, experts recommend 2 to 4 mg of astaxanthin per day for its benefits.The appropriate dose should also depend on the individual’s health, conditions and age.
Krill oil naturally contains astaxanthin, but not as much as you’d think. In fact, most krill oil supplements have to add extra astaxanthin to their supplement. Check out the following blog post Krill Oil vs. Fish Oil for an in-depth analysis.
It is best to purchase a natural astaxanthin supplement, which may be referred to as esterified astaxanthin.
Esterified means that it has a fatty acid attached, which is the way nature intended astaxanthin to be ingested. Synthetic astaxanthin is lab-made, chemically altered petrochemicals created namely to feed farmed fish and thus give their flesh a consumer friendly color. It is neither recommended nor approved for human consumption. Definitely a point of consumer caution as eating farmed salmon fed synthetic astaxanthin results in consuming it by proxy.
Currently natural astaxanthin is being used for both its anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties as part of treatments for Alzheimer’s Disease, Parkinson’s Disease, stroke, dyslipidemia and macular degeneration.