What is Astaxanthin? Uses, Benefits, Side Effects and More!

Nutrition / Omega 3 / February 1, 2019

Astaxanthin

It’s the secret behind a flamingo’s brilliant pink feathers, it’s one of nature’s most powerful antioxidants, and it could provide you with some amazing health benefits!

Yep, astaxanthin is probably one of the most remarkable compounds you’ve never heard of…

We’ll get to the health benefits of astaxanthin in just a moment, but first, let’s explain how astaxanthin is related to flamingos. Here’s the thing; 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.

Now, flamingos are actually gray when they’re born (that’s a fact for your friends!) But a flamingo’s diet consists of a LOT of microalgae that contains astaxanthin, so they gradually turn the beautiful pink color they’re known for. In fact, astaxanthin is responsible for the pink color of shrimp and salmon too. Don’t worry, though, astaxanthin won’t turn you bright pink!

As I mentioned earlier, astaxanthin is one of nature’s most powerful antioxidants. That means it protects you from oxidative damage (more on that in just a moment.) Plus, astaxanthin is also a potent anti-inflammatory compound. Research suggests it’s effective at reducing the inflammation that chips away at overall health from your head to your toes and from skin deep down to your bones.


The Top Astaxanthin Benefits

The greatest attribute of astaxanthin is that it’s both a powerful antioxidant and anti-inflammatory. This means astaxanthin provides two major health benefits in particular:

  1. Combats oxidative stress
  2. Reduces inflammation

Oxidative stress and inflammation are very closely related. When your cells use oxygen to generate energy, they create free radicals as a by-product. At low levels, free radicals are actually beneficial to your health. They support healthy immune function and cellular response. But when your level of free radicals is too high, they begin to generate oxidative stress.

And oxidative stress is very bad news. It can damage all of your cell structures, which is thought to accelerate the aging process! Plus, research suggests oxidative stress could play a role in the development of a whole host of health conditions like cancer and arthritis.

What’s more, oxidative damage caused by oxidative stress can cause your inflammatory response to become “overactive.” This leads to chronic, low-grade inflammation, which has also been associated with several health conditions, including bone loss! Plus, oxidative stress and inflammation accentuate one another to induce further damage in your body.

So astaxanthin helps to balance your levels of free radicals to reduce oxidative stress, and ease inflammation! Quite the win-win.

Now, research into the full scope of astaxanthin’s health benefits is still at a relatively early stage. Pubmed –– a comprehensive database of scientific research and literature –– currently lists less than 2,000 results for work on astaxanthin. That may seem like a lot, but it pales in comparison to the 12,677 there are for curcumin (another powerful anti-inflammatory.)

More comprehensive studies need to be carried out before we can draw definitive conclusions, but this early research suggests astaxanthin could also provide the following health benefits too:

Astaxanthin Benefits

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So, astaxanthin has some pretty amazing potential health benefits. But how much should you get it in your diet? Find out in the next section…

Astaxanthin Dosage

If you recall, we mentioned in the astaxanthin benefits section that research into astaxanthin is still in relatively early stages. For that reason, there is currently no set recommended daily intake for astaxanthin.

Clinical trials so far have used astaxanthin doses ranging from 1 mg per day to 40 mg per day. But the majority of trials have used a dose of astaxanthin between 6 mg per day and 12 mg per day. Plus, a study specifically designed to investigate the safety of astaxanthin concluded that “6 mg of astaxanthin per day from a Haematococcus pluvialis algal (a type of algae) extract can be safely consumed by healthy adults.”

Astaxanthin Side Effects

There have been no significant side effects of astaxanthin reported in human clinical studies to date. Plus, if you recall the last section, a study designed specifically to investigate the safety of astaxanthin for humans concluded that 6 mg of astaxanthin a day is safe for healthy adults.

However, at high doses of 50 mg or more, astaxanthin may cause an orange tint to the skin. But you’d have to consume a ridiculous amount of seafood for that to happen!

Please note: As we’ve outlined, astaxanthin is considered safe for humans to consume. But there’s still not enough research on the safety of astaxanthin for pregnant women. So we advise pregnant women to check with their healthcare provider before adding astaxanthin to their diet in any meaningful amount.

Astaxanthin rich foods

How to Add Astaxanthin to Your Diet

There are over 700 known carotenoids, and astaxanthin is one of the most powerful and beneficial! However, the human body can’t produce astaxanthin. So, to reap the benefits, you’ll have to incorporate food sources of astaxanthin or a supplement into your diet. Now, astaxanthin is almost exclusively found in marine algae and seafood.

Algae is the “original” source of astaxanthin if you will because it can actually produce it. Fish and other marine animals contain astaxanthin because they consume algae in their diets.

The most common dietary sources of astaxanthin you’ll come across are:

  • Salmon
  • Shrimp
  • Crab
  • Lobster
  • Red Trout
  • Krill

So which seafood contains the most astaxanthin? Well, salmon is one of the top sources and contains between 0.4–3.8 mg of astaxanthin per 3.5 ounces. And sockeye salmon contains the most of all the different types of salmon with 26–38 mg astaxanthin per kg (which translates to 2.57 to 3.76 mg per 3.5 ounces serving.)

Shrimp provides 1 to 4 mg of astaxanthin per 4 ounces serving. As for the rest of the list, it’s difficult to say for sure how much astaxanthin is in each.

But can you spot the issue? You’d have to eat a 3-4 ounce serving (about a palm-sized portion) of sockeye salmon every day to get a meaningful amount of astaxanthin in your diet. Even for seafood lovers, that’s a little unrealistic!

What’s more, the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and U.S Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recommend women who are pregnant, nursing or may become pregnant eat no more than 2 to 3 servings of seafood a week to minimize mercury exposure while maximizing the health benefits of eating fish.

But don’t worry, there’s a more realistic (and downright delicious) way to pack a little astaxanthin into your diet every day…


What to Look For in an Astaxanthin Supplement

We established a little earlier that getting a meaningful amount of astaxanthin from food sources alone is rather unrealistic. So astaxanthin supplements are a great alternative!

Now, you may have heard of different forms of astaxanthin, so is one better than the other? Well, the two main types of astaxanthin are esterified astaxanthin and non-esterified astaxanthin. The difference here is that esterified astaxanthin has a fatty molecule attached while non-esterified astaxanthin is “free.” In basic terms, esterified astaxanthin is natural, and non-esterified astaxanthin is largely a synthetic, chemical version (although some natural forms do exist.)

At AlgaeCal, we are firm believers that a natural option is preferable. What’s more, synthetic astaxanthin was developed to feed farmed salmon to give them a desirable, consumer-friendly color. It has not been extensively studied in regards to safety for human consumption.

So ideally, you’ll want to opt for a natural fish oil supplement containing astaxanthin.

Why a fish oil? Astaxanthin is an oil-soluble antioxidant. That means astaxanthin absorption improves when you take it with an oil –– especially omega 3-rich oils –– making fish oil an ideal nutrient companion.

Triple Power Omega 3 Fish Oil provides 3 mg of natural astaxanthin a day in the regular daily dose of one tablespoon, or 6 mg per day, with a ‘double dose’ for those looking to increase their omega 3 levels.

Remember, 6 mg is the dose of astaxanthin the study we mentioned earlier found to be safe for humans to consume. What’s more, Triple Power sources its astaxanthin from Haematococcus pluvialis… the same type of algae the study concluded was a safe source of astaxanthin!

Plus, one tablespoon of Triple Power provides over 1400 mg of omega 3s and 100 mg of another powerful antioxidant –– turmeric curcumin. Together, this formulation helps balance oxidative stress and ease inflammation throughout your body. (Great news for your bones!)

But it gets better…

Triple Power Fish Oil is naturally flavored with mango. A stark improvement from the run-of-the-mill fish oils that taste like… well, fish! It’s so tasty you can take it right off the spoon. In fact, Triple Power will be the best-tasting fish oil you’ve ever tried, and that’s a guarantee!

Enjoy your fish oil, and help ease inflammation!

Comments
Summer
Summer

I have found articles that link Astaxanthin to gynecomastia in men. Do you have anymore I for on this?

Megan AlgaeCal
Megan AlgaeCal

Hi Summer!

It looks like there isn’t enough research on this to confirm a direct link between astaxanthin and gynecomastia. We would recommend checking in with a health professional if you’re concerned about this, particularly if you have hormone disorders or are using medications that can affect hormones. Hope this helps! ❤️

-Megan @ AlgaeCal

Darren Couling
Darren Couling

Do you know if astaxanthin has been studied in human trials for interstitial lung disease?

Megan AlgaeCal
Megan AlgaeCal

Hi Darren,

It looks like the studies on astaxanthin and interstitial lung disease are primarily animal studies and in vitro studies. Hope this helps!

-Megan @ AlgaeCal

Terri
Terri

How much should be taken if your a 21 year old male athlete? For muscle recovery?

Megan AlgaeCal
Megan AlgaeCal

Hi Terri!

Most research studies on exercise recovery use a daily dose of 4mg a day. We recommend consulting a health care professional who is familiar with your medical history before starting a new supplement. Hope this helps!

-Megan @ AlgaeCal

Connie Cavender
Connie Cavender

I read that taking this supplement can make for reddish stools…this happened to me. Do you agree with this finding?

Megan AlgaeCal
Megan AlgaeCal

Hi Connie!

Yes, this can happen with astaxanthin supplements and shouldn’t be a cause for concern. If you are experiencing any other symptoms, however, please do check in with your doctor. ❤️

-Megan @ AlgaeCal

NITHIN
NITHIN

Going through some reddit comments I found that astaxanthin is 5α-Reductase inhibitor is there any study confirm that

Megan AlgaeCal
Megan AlgaeCal

Hi Nithin!

There are some preliminary studies showing that astaxanthin may act as a 5α-Reductase inhibitor. In saying that, more evidence is needed to support this claim.

-Megan @ AlgaeCal

Emee
Emee

I have read that turmeric or curcumin can cause macular degeneration. Do you have any studies or info on this?

Blaire AlgaeCal
Blaire AlgaeCal

Hi Emee,

Thanks for bringing this to our attention!

We’re happy to clear up any confusion – it seems that curcumin can actually be beneficial for macular degeneration. You might find this study informative.

Hope that helps! Please let us know if you have further questions 😊

– Blaire @ AlgaeCal

KRISTA
KRISTA

Hi

I was taking a krill supplement daily and have now started to take 12mg of Astaxanthin. Should I continue to take my fish oil or is this now a suitable subsitute, I do not want to take too many supplements.
Thank you

Megan AlgaeCal
Megan AlgaeCal

Hi Krista, glad you reached out!

You likely do not need to take both your krill oil and fish oil. If you’re interested in a fish oil that includes astaxanthin, as well as the powerful anti-inflammatory turmeric, feel free to learn more about our Triple Power fish Oil here.

Let us know if you have further questions!

-Megan @ AlgaeCal

KRISTA MADDEN
KRISTA MADDEN

Thanks for your reply, I will check it out

Blaire AlgaeCal
Blaire AlgaeCal

Sounds wonderful, Krista! 🙂

– Blaire @ AlgaeCal

Maureen Burley
Maureen Burley

My understanding is that Omega 3’s are ok to take with Astaxanthin, that Omega 3’s, help the absorption of Astaxanthin, because it’s a “good fat”. Also, 12mg of Astaxanthin is a ideal daily dosing, 4mg didn’t prove to show much of the benefits of Astaxanthin.

Diane
Diane

Dr Mercola recommended krill oil with no mention of side effects as you don’t either. I tried krill in place of fish oil and it sent my blood pressure dangerously low and heart rate dangerously high. I have since read the is a side effect.

Megan AlgaeCal
Megan AlgaeCal

Hi Diane, thanks for reaching out.

We’re sorry to hear about your experience with krill oil ❤️ Typically, omega 3s help to lower heart rate and improve blood pressure by lowering it (but not to a dangerously low level). We would recommend checking in with your doctor about any health conditions or medications that may have impacted how your krill oil supplement affected you. Other things to consider are whether your krill supplement contains other ingredients, if you started any other new supplements, or had major changes in lifestyle.

It’s a good idea to discontinue your krill oil if you haven’t already. Please do keep us updated on how you’re doing! If you prefer, we’re available by phone at 1-800-820-0184 🙂

-Megan @ AlgaeCal

Shaheen
Shaheen

Hi Ms. Jenna,
I am taking it from the last 02 days and I found a deep red color oil leakage just before making pressure to move the bowels out. Is this safe? or I have to discontinue? I am taking 08 mg immediately before breakfast. I am thinking that my body is not absorbing Astaxanthin. Why this may happen? I am a frequent smoker and my age is 29 years.
Please suggest me what to do next.
Thank you so much.

Megan AlgaeCal
Megan AlgaeCal

Hi Shaheen,

Sorry to hear that! Please do discontinue use for now. Shaheen, are you able to provide us with more information so that we can better help you? Are you taking a product containing only astaxanthin at 8mg a day?

Thanks and we look forward to helping you along your bone health journey! ❤️

-Megan @ AlgaeCal

Shaheen
Shaheen

Ms. Megan,
Thank you so much for your reply. I am taking the astaxanthin 08 mg in a gelatin capsule form which solely Astaxanthin. I am a male of 29 years old. I noticed after 05 days of serving, the above condition is happening each one day after one day. Total 02 days within 05 days of serving. What does it mean? Am I not eligible to digest it? I am not under any type of medical conditions and drugs. Naturally, I am physically well except for inflammation.
Regards from,
Shaheen

Naomi Johnston
Naomi Johnston

I am 52 years old and after surgery 12 months ago to correct a leg surgery my leg was broken twice then I had metal plate and screws put into my leg. These caused my immune system to break down. While I used to get cold sore once every 6 months now I couldn’t get rid of them I had night sweats and rashs and a constant chest infection which I never had before. One day I went into my health food shop and found the hawaiian astaxanthin and it sounded great. So I started 1 x 12mg capsule a day and was amazed at the results. I became well and got rid of the awful coldsores. Twice I have gone away for a couple days and forgot to take this wonder vitamins and symtoms started straight away and could feel cold sores coming. As soon as I started back on hawaiian astaxanthin my symptoms completely disappeared. I am hoping to get plate and screws out of my leg in next few month’s as I feel this is the problem with my immune system. My physio told me others were affected after there surgery with plate and screws and 1 man got them out and no more problems. Anyway this product is helping me until surgery and I can not believe it’s control on the constant cold sore problems I was facing. Funny enough I have not seen anything where it says it fixs that problem. Worth a try goodluck.
Naomi

Christina
Christina

All this consuming of krill should be examined for its effect on the ocean life. Are we overfishing this resource which is the basic food at the bottom of the food chain.

Von
Von

I read that this may cause loose bowel movements is this true?

Jenna AlgaeCal
Jenna AlgaeCal

Hi Von,

I haven’t heard this from customers who are taking Triple Power Fish Oil which includes astaxanthin! I’m guessing loose bowels could be caused by taking very high doses.

– Jenna @ AlgaeCal

Ashok jain
Ashok jain

Can flaxseed be useful instead of fish

Jenna AlgaeCal
Jenna AlgaeCal

Hi Ashok,

Flaxseed does contain fatty acids so it should help increase the absorption of astaxanthin! If you’re interested, we compare animal vs. plant-based omega 3’s in this blog post.

– Jenna @ AlgaeCal

Patricia Szydlo
Patricia Szydlo

I cannot take Turmeric or Curcumin or any root based herbs or vegetable. Do you carry Astaxanthin as a sole ingredient? Thank you , Patricia

Megan AlgaeCal
Megan AlgaeCal

Hi Patricia, sorry to hear this.

We don’t offer astaxanthin on its own and do apologize for any inconvenience this causes!

-Megan @ AlgaeCal

Norberto Haro
Norberto Haro

I started taking astaxanthin about two months ago,I had teeth work done at the dentist and she said my gums where bleeding unusualy a lot.
So my question is does astaxanthin make your blood thinner?

Jenna AlgaeCal
Jenna AlgaeCal

Hi Norberto,

Astaxanthin is not a blood thinner, but it may increase the risk of bleeding or blood clotting when taken with drugs that increase such risks. So it would be a good idea to check with your doctor if astaxanthin could be interacting with any prescription medications you take.

Hope that helps!

– Jenna @ AlgaeCal

Linda Hoover
Linda Hoover

I would love to take your fish oil and even ordered it once awhile back – but cannot given the sweetener. Please offer this wonderful supplement without the alcohol-based sweeteners so I can use it too! Thanks.

Jenna AlgaeCal
Jenna AlgaeCal

Oh no, sorry to hear that Linda! I’ll share your feedback with the rest of the team — we’d love to carry a fish oil product that suits you. 🙂

– Jenna @ AlgaeCal

Gloria Armstrong
Gloria Armstrong

Will it lower my LDL?

Jenna AlgaeCal
Jenna AlgaeCal

Good question, Gloria.

‘Improved Heart Health’ didn’t make it to our ‘Proven Health Benefits of Astaxanthin’ because the research isn’t super strong. In saying that, some research does show that astaxanthin can inhibit LDL (bad cholesterol).

Hopefully more studies will be done on astaxanthins benefits in the future!

– Jenna @ AlgaeCal

Linda Corsetti
Linda Corsetti

I know fish eat the algae, but I am a vegetarian and do not eat any fish, chicken, beef or anything with a face!
How can I get Astaxanthin in supplement form? I do not take fish oil.
Thank You, Linda

Jenna AlgaeCal
Jenna AlgaeCal

Hi Linda,

I think you’ll be able to find astaxanthin supplements at your local health food store! If not, there are lots of companies selling it online. 🙂

– Jenna @ AlgaeCal

Cheryl Jolley
Cheryl Jolley

I have introduced to Wonderful product and I’m on my second bottle I’ve also started my husband on it as well
I buy mine on line at “Stop Aging” they have very decent cost and this last order was for Two bottles and I received a bottle of Memory Help at not cost . I truly believe I’m feeling better and have more energy and my short term memory is actually coming along well.. Thanks Cheryl Jolley

Maria Baker
Maria Baker

Is any amount of astaxanthin present in AlgaeCal Plus?

Jenna AlgaeCal
Jenna AlgaeCal

Good question, Maria. No, AlgaeCal Plus doesn’t include astaxanthin — it specifically contains the vitamins and minerals essential for strong healthy bones!

We do have a wonderful anti-inflammatory product called Triple Power Omega 3 Fish Oil that contains astaxanthin, turmeric, and omega 3 fatty acids. You can see it here.

– Jenna @ AlgaeCal

Ellouise
Ellouise

I am a vegan. What form of astaxanthin can I take?

Jenna AlgaeCal
Jenna AlgaeCal

Hi Ellouise,

There are vegan supplements available! You can purchase them online or at your local health food store.

– Jenna @ AlgaeCal

Barbara Lamb
Barbara Lamb

Is there a vegetarian source of astaxanthin?

Jenna AlgaeCal
Jenna AlgaeCal

Yes there is Barbara! You can find astaxanthin supplements sourced from marine algae.

– Jenna @ AlgaeCal

Monica
Monica

Can we take Astaxanthin as a life long supplement?????? Can we include this capsule in our diet????

Jenna AlgaeCal
Jenna AlgaeCal

Hi Monica,

More research needs to be done on taking astaxanthin long-term, however, human clinical studies have shown no significant side effects to date!

You should be able to find astaxanthin powder at your local health food store in a capsule or powder form. Astaxanthin is fat soluble so you can increase the absorption by taking it with healthy fats like avocado, wild fatty fish, and coconut. You can also get it preblended with healthy fats in our natural anti-inflammatory Triple Power Fish Oil!

– Jenna @ AlgaeCal

Sonia Joseph
Sonia Joseph

Hi Monica, I have been taking 12mg of Astaxanthin for 8years now. I am 68 and I do not require any medicines. My BP is 118/60. My heart is perfect, All my blood tests come out normal. I am certain this good health is from taking my Astaxanthin and watching what I eat. I do eat healthy lots of vegetables, fruits and all types of meat and fish. I will not stop taking this supplement I believe it is helping me stay healthy!!

Ruth
Ruth

Hello!
I wanted to ask you: for how long it is safe to take astaxanthin?
Is it like the Vitamin A? (that you need to rest from time to time in order to avoid accumulation in the body?)
Thank you in advance!

Jenna AlgaeCal
Jenna AlgaeCal

Hi Ruth,

We aren’t able to give a definitive answer here as there doesn’t appear to be any long-term safety studies done on astaxanthin just yet. We’ll revisit the research on astaxanthin in the future to check-in on new studies. 🙂

In the meantime, you can definitely take breaks from supplementing with astaxanthin if you prefer!

– Jenna @ AlgaeCal

Nailejhcia Crawford
Nailejhcia Crawford

Where can I purchase astaxanthin powder?

Jenna AlgaeCal
Jenna AlgaeCal

Hi Nailejhcia,

You should be able to find astaxanthin powder at your local health food store! Keep in mind, astaxanthin is fat soluble so you can increase the absorption by taking it with healthy fats like avocado, wild fatty fish, and coconut. You can also get it preblended with healthy fats in our super powerful natural anti-inflammatory Triple Power Fish Oil!

– Jenna @ AlgaeCal

Erzsebet NILSSON
Erzsebet NILSSON

SORRY but

2 -4 gram is ( 200 -400 milligram)

what you converted is

2000 -4000 milligram is = 2 -4 Kilogram which is EXTRA ORDINARY AMOUNT
1 kilogram is 1 litre so your converting is like to drink 2 – 4 litre of it which you would not EVEN DO WITH MILK or WATER a DAY so with this would be an VERY DANGEROUS HAZARD OF HEALTH

Jenna AlgaeCal
Jenna AlgaeCal

Sorry if there’s been some confusion, Erzsebet!

You can use this online calculator to see that 2 grams is equal to 2,000 milligrams, or 0.002 kilograms. 🙂

If you have any questions let us know!

– Jenna @ AlgaeCal

Kirk
Kirk

I have Astaxanthin extract powder,what’s the easiest way to injest this? Add it to a drink or food?

Jenna AlgaeCal
Jenna AlgaeCal

Hi Kirk,

Astaxanthin is fat soluble, so to increase absorption it’s best to take with a meal with healthy fats (avocado, wild fatty fish, coconut, etc.) 🙂

– Jenna @ AlgaeCal

Robin Tan
Robin Tan

Great article

Wilibald
Wilibald

I have been trying to take astaxanthin for about four months now, but every time I do I suffer a very bad anal leakage. I began taking 12 mg. a day and have gradually reduced the dose to 2 mg. per day, but the problem persists. I don’t understand how studies have been done using 12 mg. a day for many months, so I suppose there must be something unique about my physiology. I eat only pureed food, so I’m wondering if insufficient dietary ruffage may be producing a bad interaction with astaxanthin.

Jenna AlgaeCal
Jenna AlgaeCal

Hi Wilibald,

So sorry to hear you’re experiencing this when you take astaxanthin. Our best suggestion is to work with a functional medicine doctor who can help you determine what might be causing this for you!

– Jenna @ AlgaeCal

Roger Kingsbury
Roger Kingsbury

I am currently trying to lower my triglyceride level.
It was 239 in September 2018.
I take 4mg of Astaxanthin and 1 fish oil capsule daily.
Does this regimen help lower my triglyceride level?

Jenna AlgaeCal
Jenna AlgaeCal

Hi Roger,

Yes, astaxanthin and fish oil can both help lower triglycerides when taken in the right form and at the right dosage!

For astaxanthin, as we stated in the article, experts recommend 2 to 4mg of astaxanthin per day to experience the benefits. Of course, depending on the condition and individual, this may vary. This study found 12 and 18 mg/day of astaxanthin significantly reduced triglyceride levels.

To experience this benefit with fish oil, the American Heart Association and the European Food Safety Authority recommend 2 to 4 grams (2,000-4,000 milligrams) of EPA and DHA each day for people with high triglyceride levels. For information on getting the right form of omega 3s go here.

And if you’re interested in a product that combines these two ingredients plus turmeric curcumin, we have a fantastic product called Triple Power Fish Oil that you can check out here.

I hope this information is helpful! 🙂

– Jenna @ AlgaeCal

Dagmar
Dagmar

Super informative article! Thank you AlgaeCal team for your great work!!!

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