A member of the carotenoid family, astaxanthin has been identified as the reddish pigmentation in salmon, trout and some other fish. Despite its carotenoid status, astaxanthin does not exhibit vitamin A activity in humans.
Astaxanthin may also be called microalgae. The richest source for astaxanthin is the freshwater microalgae Haematococcus pluvialis, which accumulates astaxanthin in their aplanospores. Red yeast has also been identified as a rich natural source for astaxanthin.
Used mainly in the agricultural industry, astaxanthin may be an essential nutrient for many fish, and may be beneficial for improving the health and egg production of chickens, the fertility and litter survival of pigs, mastitis in cows, and muscular dysfunction in horses. Some preparations use astaxanthin to reduce levels of oxidative stress in farm animals and household pets.
Method of Action
Astaxanthin acts as a potent antioxidant by binding to free oxygen radicals in the bloodstream and endothelial tissue. Because oxidative damage leads to many diseases, like cancer and heart disease, astaxanthin may theoretically slow down the aging process and prevent the development of certain conditions related to oxidative damage. In vitro studies have also indicated that astaxanthin may help to reduce inflammation and boost antibody production.
Once ingested, astaxanthin reaches maximum plasma concentration after about 6 hours (Osterlie, 1999)
Proposed purposes for astaxanthin include:
Alzheimer's Disease/Parkinson's Disease
Reduction of LDL cholesterol
H. pylori infection
However, reliable sources have not yet demonstrated that astaxanthin may be useful for humans.
The typical dose is 2.5 mg astaxanthin (usually in capsular form), taken twice daily, for a total of 5 mg/day.
Researchers have not yet identified interactions and contraindications for astaxanthin. One study indicates that patients may safely take up to, but not exceeding 14.5 mg/day for a period of no longer than two weeks.Abstracts
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Bennedsen M, Wang X, Willen R, Wadstrom T, Andersen LP: Treatment of H. pylori infected mice with antioxidant astaxanthin reduces gastric inflammation, bacterial load and modulates cytokine release by splenocytes, Immunol Lett 1999 Dec 1;70(3):185-9
Chew BP, Wong MW, Park JS, et al. Dietary beta-carotene and astaxanthin but not canthaxanthin stimulate splenocyte function in mice, Anticancer Research 1999; 19; 5223-5228
Christiansen, P., J. Glette, O. Lie, O. J. Torrissen, and R. Waagbo. (1995) Antioxidant statis and immunity in Atlantic Salmon, Salmo salar L., fed semi-purified diets with and without astaxanthin supplementation. J. Fish. Diseases, 18:317-329.
Cyanotech. Cyanotech Launches Natural Astaxanthin as Human Dietary Supplement; Powerful Antioxidant Promises Key Benefits 2000. URL.
Goodwin TW. Metabolism, nutrition, and function of carotenoids. Annu Rev Nutr 1986;6:273-97.
Ito, S., E. Ogata, and M. Yamada. (1999) Anti-stress agent for animals and a method of reducing stress in animals, United States Patent 5,937,790. Showa Denko Kabushiki Kaisha (Tokyo, Japan), United States.
Jyonouchi H, Sun S, Tomita Y, et al. Astaxathin, a carotenoid without vitamin A activity augments antibody responses in cultures including T-helpe cell clones and suboptimal doses of antigen. J Nutr 1995; 125(10):2483-2492
Kobayashi M, Kakizono T, Nishio N, et al. Antioxidant role of astaxanthin in the green alga Haematococcus pluvialis. Applied Microbiology and Biotechnology, 1997;48(3):351-356.
Lignell, ?., and J. Inborr. (1999) Method of the prophylactic treatment of mastitis, Patent Cooperation Treaty application #9930701. AstaCarotene AB, Sweden.
Margalith PZ: Production of ketocarotenoids by microalgae, Appl Microbiol Biotechnol 1999 Apr;51(4):431-8
McMillan DC, Sattar N, Talwar D, O'Reilly DS, McArdle CS: Changes in micronutrient concentrations following anti-inflammatory treatment in patients with gastrointestinal cancer, Nutrition. 2000 Jun;16(6):425-8.
Naguib YM: Antioxidant activities of astaxanthin and related carotenoids, J Agric Food Chem 2000 Apr;48(4):1150-4
Nakano T, Kanmuri T, Sato M, Takeuchi M: Effect of astaxanthin rich red yeast (Phaffia rhodozyma) on oxidative stress in rainbow trout, Biochim Biophys Acta 1999 Jan 4;1426(1):119-25
Osterlie, M., Bjerkeng, B., and Liaaen-Jensen, S. (1999a) On bioavailability and deposition of bent Z-isomers of astaxanthin. Proceedings of the First International Congress on Pigments in Food Technology, Sevilla, Spain, 24-26 March 1999, pp.157-161.
Osterlie, M., Bjerkeng, B., and Liaaen-Jensen, S. (1999b) Blood appearance and distribution of astaxanthin E/Z siomers among plasma lipoproteins in humans adminstered a single meal with astaxanthin. Abstract 2A-13. Abstracts of the Twelfth International Carotenoid Symposium, Cairns, Australia, 18-23 July 1999, p. 72.
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