Astaxanthin Update

December 21, 2011 Written by JP    [Font too small?]

Whether you know it or not, you’ve probably consumed astaxanthin at one point or another in your life. Arctic shrimp and wild salmon are among the most common dietary sources of this crimson colored carotenoid. But, these days you’re also likely to find astaxanthin in everything from multivitamins to sports drinks. In many instances, it’s included as a way of increasing the antioxidant content of functional foods and nutritional supplements. Other times, its primary purpose is to act as natural preservative for delicate fatty acids such as those contained in fish or krill oil.

In previous columns, I’ve discussed the importance of astaxanthin in the management of cardiovascular disease, inflammation and the immune system. Several new publications add to the current level of knowledge about this vibrant pigment that, in supplements, is typically extracted from an algae known as Haematococcus pluvialis. The current batch of research indicates that astaxanthin improves: a) blood flow velocity (a measure of circulatory health) in a safe manner; b) exercise performance as indicated by “increased power output” in cyclists given either 4 mg/day of astaxanthin or a placebo; c) lipid profiles (lowers LDL cholesterol and apolipoprotein A1) and elevates total antioxidant capacity in overweight individuals; d) oxidative status in smokers by “suppressing lipid peroxidation and stimulating the activity of the antioxidant system” in this high risk population. In terms of dosage requirements, a daily intake of at least 4 mg/day appears to be a good starting point. However, some of the trials listed below have utilized up to 20 mg/day without evidence of adverse reactions. All told, I think astaxanthin is one supplement to keep your eye on, particularly if you’re concerned about cardiovascular health.

Note: Please check out the “Comments & Updates” section of this blog – at the bottom of the page. You can find the latest research about this topic there!

To learn more about the studies referenced in today’s column, please click on the following links:

Study 1 – Marine Carotenoids and Cardiovascular Risk Markers (link)

Study 2 – Astaxanthin Increases Choroidal Blood Flow Velocity (link)

Study 3 – Effect of Astaxanthin on Cycling Time Trial Performance(link)

Study 4 – Positive Effects of Astaxanthin on Lipid Profiles and Oxidative (link)

Study 5 – Protective Effects of Haematococcus Astaxanthin on Oxidative (link)

Study 6 – Erythrocytes Carotenoids After Astaxanthin Supplementation (link)

Study 7 – Plasma Carotenoid Concentrations Before and After … (link)

12 mg/day of Astaxanthin Increases Blood Flow to the Eyes

Source: Graefes Arch Clin Exp Ophthalmol. 2011 Nov 10. (link)

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Posted in General Health, Heart Health, Nutritional Supplements

9 Comments & Updates to “Astaxanthin Update”

  1. Rob Says:

    Heard amzing thing about this supplement. I think its being over hyped but still may be a good addiction for those not getting any fish in there diets

  2. JP Says:

    Hi Rob.

    There’s some hype involved, no doubt. Fortunately, it’s easier to identify it as more solid research is published.

    A quick follow up on your fish comment. As you probably know, most fish don’t contain astaxanthin. Salmon and select shell fish (ex. shrimp) are the two most common sources. I just didn’t want anyone to assume otherwise.

    Be well!


  3. Rob Says:

    Yes, meant to say salmon.

    Thanks for claryfying.

  4. Tim Says:

    I was about to buy some Healthy Origins Astaxanthin 4mg and this popped up:

    California Prop 65 WARNING: Chemicals known to the State of California to cause cancer and reproductive toxicity, are present in dietary supplements, nutritional food powders, juice beverages, grocery items (i.e. coffee, fried and baked goods) and other products sold at iHerb. Some or all the products you are ordering from iHerb may contain these chemicals. These chemicals are not added to the products but are naturally occurring in many of the starting raw materials (ingredients) and/or results from the processing (cooking) of some of the food products (i.e. roasted coffees, fried and baked goods). By moving forward with the check out process, you verify that you have read the CA Prop 65 warning, and purchase these products from iHerb with full knowledge.

    Is there a brand that doesn’t have any toxic chemicals in it? Thanks for any info.

  5. JP Says:

    Hi Tim,

    I don’t think there are any brands that can guarantee that they’re 100% toxin free. But, this doesn’t mean that the Healthy Origins astaxanthin or other reputable brands are unsafe. We’re all exposed to a continuous flow of minute amounts of toxins via the environment, food, supplements, etc. on a daily basis. Our bodies are equipped to deal with this reality – in most cases. And, some supplements such as astaxanthin may, in fact, support our bodies in doing so.

    I live in CA and regularly purchase supplements online that carry this (largely meaningless, IMO) warning.

    Some background info:

    Be well!


  6. JP Says:

    Update 07/14/15:

    Arch Med Sci. 2015 Apr 25;11(2):253-66.

    Lipid profile and glucose changes after supplementation with astaxanthin: a systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials.

    INTRODUCTION: Many studies have shown that oral supplementation with astaxanthin may be a novel potential treatment for inflammation and oxidative stress in cardiovascular diseases, but evidence of the effects on lipid profile and glucose is still inconclusive. Therefore, we performed a meta-analysis to evaluate the efficacy of astaxanthin supplementation on plasma lipid and glucose concentrations.

    MATERIAL AND METHODS: The search included PubMed, Cochrane Library, Scopus, and EMBASE (up to November 27, 2014) to identify randomized controlled trials (RCTs) investigating the effects of astaxanthin supplementation on lipid profile and glucose levels. Two independent reviewers extracted data on study characteristics, methods and outcomes.

    RESULTS: Seven studies meeting inclusion criteria with 280 participants were selected for this meta-analysis; 163 participants were allocated to the astaxanthin supplementation group and 117 to the control group. A random-effect meta-analysis of data from 7 RCTs (10 treatment arms) did not show any significant effect of supplementation with astaxanthin on plasma concentrations of total cholesterol (weighted mean difference (WMD): -1.52 mg/dl, 95% CI: -8.69 to -5.66, p = 0.679), LDL-C (WMD: +1.25 mg/dl, 95% CI: -6.70 to +9.21, p = 0.758), HDL-C (WMD: +1.75 mg/dl, 95% CI: -0.92 to +4.42, p = 0.199), triglycerides (WMD: -4.76 mg/dl, 95% CI: -21.52 to +12.00, p = 0.578), or glucose (WMD: -2.65 mg/dl, 95% CI: -5.84 to +0.54, p = 0.103). All these effect sizes were robust, and omission of any of the included studies did not significantly change the overall estimate.

    CONCLUSIONS: This meta-analysis of data from 10 RCT arms did not indicate a significant effect of supplementation with astaxanthin on plasma lipid profile, but a slight glucose-lowering effect was observed. Further, well-designed trials are necessary to validate these results.

    Be well!


  7. JP Says:

    Update 07/14/15:

    Molecules. 2014 Sep 17;19(9):14794-808.

    Enhanced antioxidant capacity and anti-ageing biomarkers after diet micronutrient supplementation.

    A growing number of studies confirm an important effect of diet, lifestyle and physical activity on health status, the ageing process and many metabolic disorders. This study focuses on the influence of a diet supplement, NucleVital®Q10 Complex, on parameters related to redox homeostasis and ageing. An experimental group of 66 healthy volunteer women aged 35-55 supplemented their diet for 12 weeks with the complex, which contained omega-3 acids (1350 mg/day), ubiquinone (300 mg/day), astaxanthin (15 mg/day), lycopene (45 mg/day), lutein palmitate (30 mg/day), zeaxanthine palmitate (6 mg/day), L-selenomethionine (330 mg/day), cholecalciferol (30 µg/day) and α-tocopherol (45 mg/day). We found that NucleVital®Q10 Complex supplementation significantly increased total antioxidant capacity of plasma and activity of erythrocyte superoxide dismutase, with slight effects on oxidative stress biomarkers in erythrocytes; MDA and 4-hydroxyalkene levels. Apart from the observed antioxidative effects, the tested supplement also showed anti-ageing activity. Analysis of expression of SIRT1 and 2 in PBMCs showed significant changes for both genes on a mRNA level. The level of telomerase was also increased by more than 25%, although the length of lymphocyte telomeres, determined by RT-PCR, remained unchanged. Our results demonstrate beneficial effects concerning the antioxidant potential of plasma as well as biomarkers related to ageing even after short term supplementation of diet with NucleVital®Q10 Complex.

    Be well!


  8. JP Says:

    Update 07/14/15:

    J Int Soc Sports Nutr. 2014 Aug 23;11:43.

    Evaluation of Resettin® on serum hormone levels in sedentary males.

    BACKGROUND: Comparisons of hormones such as dihydrotestosterone (DHT), estradiol (E2), and testosterone indicate their impact on metabolism and body composition. While less is known regarding DHT and E2, testosterone is an androgenic metabolic hormone capable of positively regulating a variety of anabolic and androgenic processes in the body. Accordingly, it has been postulated that the age-related reduction in serum testosterone levels leads to reductions in lean muscle mass, bone mineral density, and other physical conditions that impair physical performance and decrease quality of life. Preliminary studies suggest that key ingredients found in Resettin®/MyTosterone™, a natural supplement containing the carotenoid astaxanthin from Haematococcus pluvialis and Saw Palmetto berry lipid extract from Serenoa repens, could positively impact testosterone levels. To investigate the clinical efficacy of Resettin®, the serum profiles of testosterone, E2 and DHT in healthy sedentary males before and after Resettin® treatment were evaluated in a randomized, placebo controlled clinical trial.

    METHOD: Twenty healthy, sedentary men between the ages of 21 and 70 were randomized into either an 800 mg/day or 1200 mg/day Resettin®/MyTosterone™ treatment group or lecithin, which was used as the placebo. After a 14-day treatment period, there was a 14-day washout period. After the wash-out period, participants were crossed over within their respective group to either Resettin®/MyTosterone™ or the lecithin placebo for 14 days.

    RESULTS: After 14 days, participants receiving 800 mg per day of Resettin® had significantly reduced baseline-subtracted serum DHT levels in comparison to the placebo control group. While after 14 days, participants receiving 1200 mg per day of Resettin® had significantly reduced baseline-subtracted serum DHT and E2 levels in comparison to the placebo control group. Moreover, participants receiving 1200 mg per day of Resettin® experienced a 38% increase in serum testosterone levels in comparison to the placebo control group, but the effect did not reach statistical significance.

    CONCLUSION: Although additional studies will be required to evaluate how Resettin® may promote proper testosterone regulation, these findings indicate that Resettin® can favorably influence serum hormone profiles in men.

    Be well!


  9. JP Says:

    Update 07/15/15:

    Evid Based Complement Alternat Med. 2015;2015:783761.

    Effect of Astaxanthin Supplementation on Salivary IgA, Oxidative Stress, and Inflammation in Young Soccer Players.

    The physiologic stress induced by physical activity is reflected in immune system perturbations, oxidative stress, muscle injury, and inflammation. We investigated the effect of astaxanthin (Asx) supplementation on salivary IgA (sIgA) and oxidative stress status in plasma, along with changes in biochemical parameters and total/differential white cell counts. Forty trained male soccer players were randomly assigned to Asx and placebo groups. Asx group was supplemented with 4 mg of Asx. Saliva and blood samples were collected at the baseline and after 90 days of supplementation in preexercise conditions. We observed a rise of sIgA levels at rest after 90 days of Asx supplementation, which was accompanied with a decrease in prooxidant-antioxidant balance. The plasma muscle enzymes levels were reduced significantly by Asx supplementation and by regular training. The increase in neutrophil count and hs-CRP level was found only in placebo group, indicating a significant blunting of the systemic inflammatory response in the subjects taking Asx. This study indicates that Asx supplementation improves sIgA response and attenuates muscle damage, thus preventing inflammation induced by rigorous physical training. Our findings also point that Asx could show significant physiologic modulation in individuals with mucosal immunity impairment or under conditions of increased oxidative stress and inflammation.

    Be well!


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