Grow Youthful: How to Slow Your Aging and Enjoy Extraordinary Health
Grow Youthful: How to Slow Your Aging and Enjoy Extraordinary Health

Astaxanthin - antioxidant and anti-inflammatory

What is astaxanthin?

Problems with carotenoid supplementation

Astaxanthin sources

Astaxanthin benefits

Astaxanthin - Australian distributor

What is astaxanthin?

Astaxanthin (pronounced as-tuh-zan-thin) is a colourful, fat-soluble pigment found in microalgae, yeast, salmon, trout, krill, shrimp, crayfish, crustaceans, and the feathers of some birds.

Carotenoids are naturally-occurring organic pigments in various plants, and some photosynthetic organisms like algae, some types of fungus and bacteria. There are over 600 known carotenoids. They serve two key roles: they absorb light energy for use in photosynthesis, and they protect chlorophyll from sun damage.

Most carotenoids are powerful antioxidants. In a singlet oxygen quenching test, researchers showed astaxanthin to have an antioxidant strength 550 times more potent than vitamin E (4), 11 times stronger than beta-carotene, and 3 times stronger than lutein. A second study compared it with a variety of other antioxidants, and again it came out tops (5).

Problems with carotenoid supplementation

People consuming diets rich in carotenoids from foods such as fruits, vegetables and wild red or pink-coloured fish and shellfish are healthier and have lower mortality from a number of chronic illnesses (2). However, research shows that taking beta-carotene supplements is unlikely to be beneficial and may actually be harmful (3). The reason is that many of the carotenoids convert to vitamin A (retinol) in the body. This vitamin A can build up to toxic levels.

Astaxanthin is a carotenoid, but it does not have the characteristic of converting to vitamin A. Instead, it seems that astaxanthin can be taken in relatively large doses without negative side-effects. I have not been able to find any reports of toxicity or side-effects from taking large doses of astaxanthin.

Astaxanthin sources

Astaxanthin - Australian distributor

The richest natural food sources of astaxanthin are red or pink fish, seafoods and algae sourced from the sea. Wild sockeye salmon has the highest concentration, with a 100gm (3.5oz) serving providing 4mg. Other species of salmon provide only one third to one tenth of this dose.

Being fat-soluble, it is important that it is taken with fat for good absorption by your body. The best way to take it is with a meal, ensuring that the food has some oil or fat content.

The commercial production of astaxanthin comes from both natural and synthetic sources. As usual, I do not recommend using synthetic supplements. The best and purest natural astaxanthin seems to come from ocean-based microalgae grown around Hawaii, Sweden and Israel. There are also commercial operations producing it using krill and prawns.

Astaxanthin health properties / remedies / benefits

References

1. Haematococcus astaxanthin: applications for human health and nutrition. Guerin M, Huntley ME, Olaizola M. Trends Biotechnol. 2003 May;21(5):210-6

2. Functional food science and defence against reactive oxidative species. A. T. Diplock1, J.-L. Charleux, G. Crozier-Willi, F. J. Kok, C. Rice-Evans, M. Roberfroid, W. Stahl, J. Vina-Ribes. British Journal of Nutrition 1998, 80, Suppl. 1, S77-S112

3. Mortality in randomized trials of antioxidant supplements for primary and secondary prevention: systematic review and meta-analysis. Bjelakovic G, et al. (2007). JAMA 297 (8): 842-57

4. Carotenoids as singlet oxygen quenchers in marine organisms. Shimidzu, N., Goto, M., Miki, W. Fisheries Science. 62(1):134-137

5. Oxygen free radical scavenging abilities of vitamins C, E, B-Carotene, Pycnogenol, grape seed proanthocyanidin Extract, astaxanthin and BioAstin in vitro Bagchi, D. Creighton University; on file at Cyanotech Corp.