Astaxanthin 101 Guide
Looking for the latest "cure-all" supplements can often lead us down the wrong path. It takes a lot of research to learn about the supplements available and the pros and cons of taking them. For example, you might not be familiar with the antioxidant Astaxanthin, a substance found in fish like trout and salmon.
As a pigment, Astaxanthin gives the fish its distinct pinkish color. However, it also gives salmon the endurance to swim upstream for up to 2,000 miles during spawning season. It might not be as well-known as Omega 3, but it is another powerful antioxidant offering many health benefits. Here we look at this antioxidant and the many health benefits it provides. (1)
What Is Astaxanthin?
Astaxanthin is a carotenoid pigment that has been used as a dietary supplement for over 30 years. You might recognize the term "carotenoid"; this is a naturally occurring plant pigment that creates the rich yellows, oranges, and reds in the healthy fruits and veggies we should all be eating more often. Astaxanthin is a specific pigment responsible for the pink color we see in fish like salmon, trout, and shrimp. (1,2)
An algae known as Haematococcus Pluvialis contains Astaxanthin's most concentrated natural form. It is a source of Astaxanthin that is minimally processed and unrefined. The whole algae has a unique composition that supports the organism's fibers, essential fatty acids, vitamins, and minerals.
The Astaxanthin from the algae is far more potent than other carotenoids and over 500 times stronger than vitamin E. It is easily absorbed and widely distributed to many tissues offering many health benefits.
Astaxanthin Benefits: Emotional Well-Being
Research suggests a possible link between oxidative stress and emotional well-being. Oxidative stress occurs when you don't have a healthy balance between free radicals and antioxidants. The brain is vulnerable to oxidative stress, which can contribute to psychiatric disorders such as depression and anxiety.
Studies have shown that people suffering from depression have decreased antioxidant defenses. In this way, using antioxidant treatments can have antidepressant effects. Astaxanthin derived from microalgae can cross the blood-brain barrier. Studies on mice revealed a positive impact on depressive-like behavior. (3,4,5)
Astaxanthin Benefits: Mental Fatigue
We are all vulnerable to mental overload. Today, we are constantly bombarding information and tasks that can lead to mental fatigue. Astaxanthin tests showed it helped reduce mental fatigue and improved recovery from mental fatigue. (6)
Astaxanthin Benefits: Immune System Support
Supporting immune health helps us avoid illness caused by viruses, parasites, and bacteria. Our immune system uses antibodies to neutralize pathogens that make us sick. Studies have shown Astaxanthin supports antibody production to boost our immune system. In particular, it increases IgA, which acts to fight pathogens entering our mouth, nose, eyelids, upper airways, and lungs. As well, our white blood cells are key to our immune system. Astaxanthin can help increase T and B white blood cell production. (7)
As mentioned above, an unhealthy balance between free radicals and antioxidants can lead to health issues. Astaxanthin supplements can improve this balance, thereby improving our defenses. In fact, unlike other antioxidants, Astaxanthin has no pro-oxidant activity. "Pro-oxidants" are chemicals that stimulate oxidative stress by either forming toxic reactive oxygen species (ROS) or inhibiting the antioxidant system. (8)
What Are ROS?
Reactive oxygen species (ROS) are molecules needed to send cell signals as part of our normal biologic processes. Although it sounds like they promote health, ROS generation can also cause issues in healthy processes when derived from other sources such as pollutants, heavy metals, tobacco, smoke, drugs, or radiation.
These ROS sources can disrupt normal physiology when we experience imbalances between ROS production and our antioxidant defenses needed to protect our cells. ROS has been linked to various diseases, including cancer, based on certain molecular interactions, the cells' location and even the damage's timing.
Luckily antioxidants look for ROS issues and help limit the amount of toxic damage they can cause. Whole algae aqueous extract can significantly reduce oxidative in human white blood cells and reduce ROS formation. (9)
Astaxanthin Benefits: Inflammatory Health
Inflammation is our natural response to infection and can contribute to the development and progression of the disease. Studies show Astaxanthin acts as an inflammatory reducing agent, helping reduce smoke-induced inflammatory cell infiltration in the lungs. (10)
Astaxanthin Benefits: Breast and Skin Cancer
As a powerful antioxidant, research on the effects of Astaxanthin on various types of cancers is extensive. One study, in particular, found it offers both short- and long-term benefits for treating breast cancer. It was also shown to reduce the growth of breast and skin cancer cells. (11)
Astaxanthin Benefits: Cosmetic Benefits For Skin
As we age, we experience deterioration of our skin. This leads to tell-tale signs of aging, including wrinkles, age spots, and dryer skin. Astaxanthin can be used topically to help smooth wrinkles, diminish age spots, and help skin retain moisture. Studies show Astaxanthin helps suppress hyper-pigmentation, which can cause age spots, as well as inhibiting melanin synthesis and photoaging. (12)
Astaxanthin Benefits: Exercise Supplement
If you live a very active life and participate in sports or fitness programs, Astaxanthin could improve endurance and reduce fatigue following exercise. We've mentioned how it can help with mental exhaustion, but it also helps with physical exhaustion. One study on mice showed Astaxanthin could boost fatty acid use, which in turn supports endurance while preventing damage to bones and muscles. However, it's important to remember human research is required to support these findings. (13,14,15)
Astaxanthin Benefits: Heart Health
We all want to improve heart health. According to research, Astaxanthin helped improve elastin levels and the thickness of arterial walls in rats, which means it could help reduce high blood pressure. (16)
Astaxanthin Benefits: Joint Pain
Joint pain keeps us from living active lives and can greatly limit mobility for some of us. Astaxanthin could offer a possible treatment for joint pain and conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis and carpal tunnel syndrome. Although study results vary, we know it can work as an inflammatory reducing agent. As well some studies found it can also reduce arthritis pain. (10,17)
Astaxanthin Benefits: Male Fertility
A double-blind study found Astaxanthin could help with male fertility. Improvements in sperm count and motility were noted in the men who were given a more potent dose of Astaxanthin. (18)
Astaxanthin Benefits: Vision
Animal studies have shown Astaxanthin helps protect against the following vision issues:
- Photokeratitis (19)
- Cataract formation (20)
- Retinal damage associated with increased intraocular pressure (21)
A dosage of 6 mg/day significantly improves visual accommodation and reduces symptoms of eye fatigue in humans, while 12 mg/day improves far visual acuity and choroidal blood flow. (22,23,24)
Are Astaxanthin Supplements Safe?
Astaxanthin supplements have been used safely for over 30 years, as long as you take a safe dose between 4-18 mg daily. You might experience reddened stool due to the carotenoids. Taking higher levels above the recommended dose can also lead to stomach pain. (25)
Are Astaxanthin And Zeaxanthin The Same?
Yes and no. While both are pigments, Astaxanthin is a red pigment found in fish and algae, while zeaxanthin is yellow and in plant life like vegetables and fruits. Both are also antioxidants and can assist by combating harmful free radicals and oxygen singlets. (26)
What Are Astaxanthin Antioxidant Supplements?
These supplements are produced using a number of natural sources and are often combined with other ingredients to improve their antioxidant properties, such as:
- Dietary Fibers
- Omega-3, 6, 7 and 9
- Fatty Acids
- Amino acids
Which Astaxanthin Is Best?
Products containing the whole natural algae Haematococcus Pluvialis offer the full power of the antioxidant.
How Astaxanthin Works
Astaxanthin has a strong antioxidant effect that helps neutralize free radicals, prevent DNA damage, and support cell mitochondria. The unique structure situated through the cell membrane allows Astaxanthin to help protect cells from both internal and external oxidative stressors. It helps maintain an equilibrium between ROS and antioxidant defenses, which is very important to our immune cells.
Immune cells produce ROS as part of the anti-pathogen to fight illness and therefore are at risk for oxidative stress damage. Astaxanthin is bioavailable in many organs and can cross the blood-brain and blood-retinal barriers. It also bonds with muscle cells and enters skin cells to protect cells from both internal and external oxidative stressors.
Astaxanthin: How Much To Take Daily?
To see the full benefit of astaxanthin supplements, you can take 6 to 12 mg daily.
What Is Astaxanthin Supplement Good For?
Astaxanthin can offer many benefits, including:
- Improved endurance and exercise performance (13,14,15)
- Better brain health and function (3,4,5,6)
- Healthier skin (12)
- Stronger immune system (7,8)
- Better cardiovascular health (16)
- Improved eye health (19,20,21,22,23,24)
- Healthier joints (10,17)
What Are The Benefits Of Haematococcus Pluvialis?
More than half of Haematococcus Pluvialis cells are carbohydrates, including polysaccharides and dietary fibers. This is important as polysaccharides help store energy and positively impact our immune system.
Dietary fibers help promote health by assisting in proper digestion, lowering cholesterol levels, supporting blood sugar levels, and helping us maintain a healthy weight. Haematococcus Pluvialis also contains lipids including Omega-3, 6, 7, and 9 and essential fatty acids (EFAs). EFAs are used throughout the body, including our heart, lungs, skin, eyes, and nerve cells.
Last but not least, Haematococcus Pluvialis contains vitamins B2, B5, B6, B8, B12, and D3, as well as minerals needed to support the proper function of enzymes' cellular processes and communication. They also act as precursors for functional molecules, which means they are required to trigger certain metabolic reactions vital to our bodies.
Astaxanthin supplements can help maintain a healthy balance between free radicals and antioxidants in our bodies, which is crucial to health and longevity. In addition, it reduces oxidative stress and inflammation, which can help us fight mental and physical illness while boosting our immune systems. For these reasons and more, it is worth considering adding an astaxanthin supplement to your daily routine. To learn more about Purity Labs astaxanthin supplements, click here.
- .62-46:45;2014. Rev Biobehav Neurosci? stress much so Why: depression in stress nitrosative & Oxidative. al et. S Moylan. 1:
- Pandya, C.D; Howell KRPA., "Antioxidants as potential therapeutics for neuropsychiatric disorders," 2014;(706):1-23.
- Ke Y. et al., "Preventive and therapeutic effects of astaxanthin on depressive-like behaviors in high-fat diet and streptozotocin-treated rats," Front Pharmacol. 2020;10(January):1-12.
- Harada F, et al. Protective effects of oral astaxanthin nanopowder against ultraviolet-induced photokeratitis in mice. Oxid Med Cell Longev. 2017;2017:1956104.
- Ishikawa S, et al. Effect of Astaxanthin on cataract formation induced by glucocorticoids in the chick embryo. Curr Eye Res. 2015 May;40(5):535-40.
- Cort A, et al. Suppressive effect of Astaxanthin on retinal injury induced by elevated intraocular pressure. Regul Toxicol Pharmacol. 2010 Oct;58(1):121-30.
- Nagaki Y, et al. [The effect of Astaxanthin on retinal capillary blood flow in normal volunteers.] J Clin Ther Med. 2005;21(5):537-42.
- Akira N, et al. Changes in visual function following peroral Astaxanthin. Jap J Clin Ophthalmol. 2004;58(6):1051-4.
- Saito M, et al. Astaxanthin increases choroidal blood flow velocity. Graefes Arch Clin Exp Ophthalmol. 2012 Feb;250(2):239-45.