What Are the Benefits of Astaxanthin? A Scientific Guide to This Powerful Supplement

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    Astaxanthin isn’t the new supplement on the block, in fact, it’s been around for almost a century. Today, people take astaxanthin for a wide range of reasons.

    What is astaxanthin?

    Astaxanthin (pronounced AS-TUH-ZAN-THIN) belongs to the carotenoid family, which is a class of red, yellow, and orange pigments mainly produced by plants and algae. You’ve probably heard of beta-Carotene, which makes carrots orange and converts to vitamin A to support eyes, skin, and the immune system. Astaxanthin is 40 times more powerful than beta-Carotene — it packs a punch. Humans can’t synthesize carotenoids, but we can get them by consuming plants with high carotenoid content (e.g. kale, spinach, and bell peppers).

    Astaxanthin is what gives salmon, coral, and shrimp their pink color. The top four sources of astaxanthin for supplements are: krill, shrimp, yeast, and microalgae. Of these, microalgae contains by far the highest concentration of astaxanthin (around 40,000 PPM).

    What Are the Benefits of Astaxanthin?

    You might not have heard much about astaxanthin before but its powerful antioxidant properties have been shown to help protect the body against oxidative stress, in turn supporting cognitive function, cardiovascular health, and skin hydration. Research exists for many of the potential benefits of astaxanthin. These potential benefits include:

    • Brain Health
    • Heart Health
    • Athletic Performance
    • Skin Health
    • Eye Health

    The wide range of potential benefits stems from the fact that astaxanthin is a carotenoid. Carotenoids are a powerful class of chemical structures with numerous known benefits. These benefits are a direct result of the way in which carotenoids work.

    How does astaxanthin work?

    Astaxanthin has the ability to protect our cells from oxidative stress and boost our immune system, all thanks to its mechanism of action.

    Astaxanthin is a carotenoid. Put simply, carotenoids are pigments that are present in many fruits and vegetables. Carotenoids are best known for the colors that they produce: deep red, yellow, and orange hues. A carrot offers the perfect example of a vegetable that is loaded with carotenoids. Animals cannot generate carotenoids, but they can contain carotenoids because of their diets. Salmon, which have a beautiful pink/red appearance (from carotenoids), are a good example. Carotenoids offer a large range of benefits, but the most important may be their antioxidant properties.

    Astaxanthin is one of the most beneficial carotenoids because of its antioxidant properties. As an antioxidant, astaxanthin works against the process of oxidation. Research shows that antioxidants can help protect our bodies against oxidative stress from free radicals. Our bodies naturally produce free radicals (atoms that can damage cells) as a result of normal processes like metabolism and aging. But added stress, whether physical, mental, or environmental, causes the body to produce too many free radicals. This is known as oxidative stress. Luckily, antioxidants can help counteract free radicals and oxidative stress by bonding with reactive free radicals and neutralizing them before they do too much damage.

    What are the health benefits of astaxanthin?

    Astaxanthin for Skin Health

    Skin health is a large concern for many individuals. Protecting our skin is essential. Astaxanthin is one supplement that may help a person do just that. Research has shown that astaxanthin’s powerful antioxidant properties can help protect skin against oxidative stress, which contributes to premature aging, promote evenness in skin tone, and help keep skin moisturized.

    In one study, participants who supplemented with astaxanthin over 6 weeks reported significant improvements in the appearance of fine lines, as well as more hydrated skin overall.

    Astaxanthin has been shown to contain powerful antioxidant properties that help protect against environmental stress, specifically by managing oxidative injury caused by exposure to reactive oxygen species (ROS). Existing research supports the use of astaxanthin for skin health. A double-blind, placebo-controlled study assigned 66 subjects to three groups: group 1 was a placebo group; group 2 received astaxanthin, vitamin C, and vitamin E; and group 3 received vitamin C and vitamin E. The patients’ skin was reviewed at 4 weeks, 8 weeks, 12 weeks and 20 weeks. Researchers concluded that wrinkle areas and wrinkle volume rates revealed significant improvements in the astaxanthin group compared to the other groups.

    Astaxanthin for Heart Health

    Heart health is an essential part of overall health. Having your blood pressure and cholesterol levels checked are two common methods of gauging your current heart health along with additional yearly blood tests.

    Astaxanthin has been studied for its protective heart benefits in animal studies and human studies. Research shows that astaxanthin can promote healthy cholesterol levels for those whose levels are already within normal range. One study even noted that HDL levels in participants increased after supplementation however additional research needs to be done. And preliminary research also shows potential for astaxanthin to promote healthy blood pressure levels that are already within normal range. However additional research needs to be completed.

    Astaxanthin for Brain Health

    A person’s brain health is equally important. Brain health often becomes a concern for aging individuals. With time, a person’s cognitive abilities often diminish. Therefore, your doctor may recommend supplements such as astaxanthin to promote cognitive performance.

    Astaxanthin has also been studied for its brain benefits. In 2012, a study found that astaxanthin improved patients’ performance on learning and cognitive tests when they took astaxanthin compared to a group taking a placebo.

    What is the best source of astaxanthin?

    Astaxanthin is naturally occurring in many living sources (e.g. sea creatures), but increasing your consumption of those sources may not be ideal. You wouldn’t want to eat shrimp every day just to increase your astaxanthin levels! Therefore, an astaxanthin supplement may be your best option.

    Humans do not produce astaxanthin, but it is produced by fungi, algae, and bacteria. Humans can get astaxanthin from foods such as algae, yeast, salmon, trout, krill, shrimp and crayfish. Consuming these foods consistently may be burdensome, but they are not the only method to get astaxanthin. People may prefer taking an astaxanthin supplement. Supplements allow people to take an accurate and consistent dose of astaxanthin, as long as the supplement is from a reliable supplement company.

    As a reference, it is helpful to know that krill, shrimp, yeast, and microalgae are the top four sources of astaxanthin. Of those, microalgae contains by far the highest concentration.

    Are there any side effects of taking astaxanthin?

    When taken at standard recommended doses, astaxanthin has not been found to have any reported side effects. When taking 30mg of carotenoids or more daily from the diet (orange based foods) the most common issue that can present itself is a change in color of the palms and soles of the feet. They can turn orange in rare cases and simply decreasing your carotenoid intake can help the skin color in these areas return back to normal. It is important to speak with your doctor to determine what dose is best for you.

    Which astaxanthin supplement should I take?

    When purchasing an astaxanthin supplement, be sure to purchase from a reputable company that provides transparent information on the product labeling.

    Care Of’s astaxanthin supplement has a great sourcing story! We harvest our astaxanthin from Himalayan water-fed algae that are photo-tropically grown in a closed system to ensure maximum purity. Our astaxanthin is then extracted from the algae at a state-of-the-art algae facility (yes, that’s a real thing) and turned into a highly concentrated oil. Next we encapsulate it in a softgel, and begin extensive quality and purity testing.

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    Diana Morgan, MS, CISSN
    Head of Scientific & Regulatory Affairs
    Diana Morgan is an innovative and entrepreneurial strategist with over 15 years of experience in the dietary supplement industry in areas such as Regulatory Affairs, Product Development, Technical Services and Sales coupled with a personal passion for nutrition & health.
    Our Editorial Staff
    Freelance Contributor
    The Care/of Editorial Team is made up of writers, experts, and health enthusiasts, all dedicated to giving you the information you need today. Our team is here to answer your biggest wellness questions, read the studies for you, and introduce you to your new favorite product, staying up to date on the latest research, trends, and science. Each article is written by one of our experts, reviewed both for editorial standards by an editor and medical standards by one of our naturopathic doctors, and updated regularly as new information becomes available.