Astaxanthin is a fat-soluble, oxygenated pigment called a xanthophyll and a member of the carotenoid family. It has a unique molecular structure that gives it powerful antioxidant function. It is extracted from salmon, microalgae, and Pfaffia, a yeast. Current research shows that due to astaxanthin’s potent antioxidant activity, it may be beneficial in cardiovascular, immune, anti-inflammatory, and neurodegenerative diseases. Specifically it inhibits lipid peroxidation at the cell level; crosses the blood-brain barrier, effecting treatment of ocular, and neurodegenerative diseases such as glaucoma and Alzheimer's; provides significantly more antioxidant capacity than other carotenoids and antioxidants such as beta-carotene and Vitamin E; entraps free radicals by adding them to its long, double-bonded chain rather than donating an electron; stabilizes the cell membrane like a bridge because its polar end groups span the cell membrane, thus increasing its rigidity and mechanical strength; neutralizes singlet and triplet oxygen (de-charges) generated by UVA and UVB radiation and other sources; binds to a lipoprotein, an efficient transport vehicle, making it more bioavailable; increases immune system function including heightened production of antibody-secreting cells and Interleukin 2 and suppression of Interferon-gamma; inhibits reactive oxygen species that cause inflammation; enhances the antioxidant actions of Vitamin E and Vitamin C and encourages the release of Vitamin A from the liver when needed. Astaxanthin has 100-500 times the antioxidant capacity of Vitamin E and 10 times the antioxidant capacity of beta-carotene. Many laboratory studies also indicate astaxanthin is a stronger antioxidant than lutein, lycopene and tocotrienols.
What is Astaxanthin?
Other names
3,3'-dihydroxy-ß-carotene-4,4'-dione; Astaxanthin (6CI); β-Carotene-4,4'-dione, 3,3'-dihydroxy-, all-trans- (8CI); (3S,3'S)-Astaxanthin; (3S,3'S)-Astaxanthin; (3S,3'S)-all-trans-Astaxanthin; (S,S)-Astaxanthin; Aquasta; AstaREAL; AstaXin; Astared; Astaxanthin, all-trans-; Astots 10O; Astots 5O; BioAstin; BioAstin oleoresin; Carophyll Pink; Lucantin Pink; NatuRose; Natupink; Ovoester; all-trans-Astaxanthin; trans-Astaxanthin

Astaxanthin belongs to a group of pigments (coloring agents) called carotenoids. It is the principal pigment that gives salmonids their pink color. It is produced for addition into fish feed in the latter part of the production cycle to ensure a good flesh color. Astaxanthin is in the class of phytonutrients known as carotenoids, the best known carotenoid is beta-carotene. Astaxanthin is similar in structure with beta-carotene. Other carotenoids include lutein and lycopene. Astaxanthin is another significant and potent carotenoid. Astaxanthin isolated from crustacean wastes or produced synthetically. Astaxanthin can also be farmed from unicellular green alga called Haematococcus pluvialis or certain types of yeast and then prepared for commercial use.

Astaxanthin is the major carotenoid responsible for the pink-red pigmentation of fish and shrimps. Asthaxanthin is an important element of the feed chain of wild and farmed salmon and shrimp. This microalgae is part of the diet of fish or crustaceans and is responsible of the pink coloration in their flesh, through the ingestion of astaxanthin. Astaxanthin benefits fish and shellfish in several ways, including protection against oxidation of essential polyunsaturated fatty acids, protection against the effects of ultra violet light, enhanced immune response and improved reproduction.

Where is it Found?
Astaxanthin is abundant in nature, although mostly in very low concentrations. The greatest source is found in green algae called Haematococcus pluvialis, which also contains other carotenoids such as beta-carotene and lutein.
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Benefits / Uses
Astaxanthin has been shown in the lab to be the strongest natural antioxidant known. It has been measured to be many times more potent in some ways than vitamin E or vitamin C, beta-carotene, lutein or pycnogenol. Several factors help explain this:
arw Astaxanthin can reach into every part of the cell, inside and out, similar to lipoic acid.
arw Astaxanthin can cross the blood-brain barrier to protect the brain and nervous system.
arw Astaxanthin can cross the blood-retinal barrier and bring protection to the eyes.
arw Astaxanthin works in every part of your body, organs and skin.

Astaxanthin for Inflammation
Inflammation is our body's response against infection and the mechanism it uses for repairing injured tissue. When a virus attacks cells, the inflammatory system kicks in to fight it off. If you sprain an ankle, your inflammatory system works to repair the damage. Other examples of inflammation include the swelling from arthritis and sunburn.

While occasional inflammation is a normal, healthy process, chronic inflammation can be devastating. Another term used to describe this condition is systemic or "silent" inflammation. This chronic inflammation is now being associated not just with asthma and arthritis, but also with ailments such as atherosclerosis, strokes, ulcers, Alzheimer's and Parkinson's disease, cancer, diabetes and more.
Common treatments for inflammation include aspirin, acetaminophen and the prescription drug Celebrex. All of these, however, have significant and sometimes dangerous side effects. These side effects result in 103,000 hospitalizations and 16,500 deaths per year in the United States, and represent 43% of drug-related emergency visits.

When you add up the pros and cons of the various anti-inflammatory treatments, astaxanthin is the clear choice. It doesn't work as quickly as an drug, but it's completely safe, and is effective for a large percentage of users.

Astaxanthin for Joint Pain
Astaxanthin has been shown to be a very effective remedy for all types of joint pain, including tennis elbow, carpal tunnel syndrome, arthritis, and joint soreness after strenuous exercise. Astaxanthin can help reduce pain and inflammation in tendons, joints and muscles. A health survey of 247 astaxanthin users showed that over 80 percent of those reporting back pain and symptoms from osteo- or rheumatoid arthritis reported an improvement from supplementing with astaxanthin.

Astaxanthin for Serious Athlete's Secret Weapon
The benefits of astaxanthin for serious athletes are significant. Regular users report that supplementing with astaxanthin:

arw ncreases strength and stamina
arw reduces recovery time
arw prevents joint and muscle soreness after exercise
arw reduces lactic acid levels
Many competitive and endurance athletes have become believers in astaxanthin supplements for all of the above reasons.
Astaxanthin for Youthful, Beautiful Skin
One of the most frequently-reported benefits of astaxanthin is an improvement in skin quality. There is evidence that astaxanthin not only prevents UV sun damage from occurring, but may actually help to reverse external signs of aging from the inside out. This has been clearly demonstrated in human clinical trials. Many users of astaxanthin supplements report that they are able to spend significantly more time out in the sun without burning than they were able to before. This is due to the powerful anti-inflammatory properties that astaxanthin has. A sunburn is essentially an inflammation of your skin. Dr. Nicholas Perricone, one of the world's leading antiaging experts, highly recommends astaxanthin for reducing wrinkles and age spots, improving moisture levels, elasticity and smoothness, and for giving your skin a beautiful, healthy glow. Several cosmetic manufacturers have begun to use astaxanthin as an ingredient in facial and body creams to provide UV protection and heal damaged skin.
Other Benefits of Astaxanthin
Astaxanthin benefits cover virtually the entire spectrum available from antioxidants. Aside from those previously mentioned, here are some other benefits of astaxanthin:
arw boosts immune system by increasing antibodies
arw helps prevent heart attacks
arw helps prevent the initiation of cancer cells
arw helps prevent macular degeneration
arw helps prevent Alzheimer's and Parkinson's
arw normalizes blood pressure
arw relieves prostate problems
arw gives you better resistance to colds
arw prevents and relieves diabetes
arw prevents gum disease
arw enhances reproductive health
arw protects the eyes and skin from UVA and UVB damage
arw protects all parts of the cells from oxidative damage

The recommended dosage of 4-6 mg per day is similar on a weight basis to current doses for beta-carotene and alpha-tocopherol.

Possible Side-Effects / Precautions / Possible Interactions

Side-Effects and Warnings
According to the Code of Federal Regulations, astaxanthin is generally recognized as safe (GRAS) when used as a color additive in salmon foods. Astaxanthin is likely safe when used as an antioxidant and as adjunctive support in cancer treatment, cardiovascular disease treatment and ocular health promotion. Astaxanthin should be used cautiously in patients with hypertension, asthma, parathyroid disorders, or osteoporosis. Avoid use in patients with known allergies to astaxanthin, hormone-sensitive conditions or immune disorders.

Pregnancy and Breastfeeding
Astaxanthin is not recommended for use during pregnancy or breastfeeding. Astaxanthin may be unsafe in pregnant women, as it may affect reproductive hormones. Astaxanthin has been studied as an agent to treat male infertility, although results were not conclusive or of any benefit.

Interactions with Drugs
arw Astaxanthin may decrease blood pressure. Patients currently taking blood pressure lowering medications should consult with a qualified healthcare professional, including a pharmacist.
arw Astaxanthin may have similar effects as the antihistamines etirizine dihydrochloride and azelastine. Caution is advised when using asthmas medications.
arw Astaxanthin may interfere with the way the body processes certain herbs or supplements using the liver's "cytochrome P450" enzyme system. As a result, the levels of other drugs may become too high in the blood. It may also alter the effects that other drugs possibly have on the P450 system.
arw Astaxanthin may inhibit Helicobacter pylori growth and have an additive effect when taken with other medications that have a similar effect.
arw Astaxanthin may have hormonal effects and may interact with other hormone-altering medications, such as medications taken for menopause or birth control pills. It may also interact with immunomodulating medications.
arw Astaxanthin may lower calcium levels in the blood. In theory, it may interact with parathyroid medications and caution is advised.
arw Astaxanthin may decrease low density lipoprotein (LDL) oxidation and may interact with other cholesterol-lowering medications, such asrofecoxib (Vioxx®). Patients taking any medications should consult with a qualified healthcare professional, including a pharmacist.
Research Studies / References
arw SciFinder Web (accessed Sep 28, 2010). Astaxanthin (472-61-7) Name
arw SciFinder Web (accessed Sep 28, 2010). Astaxanthin (472-61-7) Experimental Properties.
arw Hussein, G; Goto, H; Oda, S; et al. Antihypertensive potential and mechanism of astaxanthin: III. Antioxidant and histopathological effects in spontaneously hypertensive rats. Biological and Pharmaceutical Bulletin 2006, 29, 684-688.
arw Carotenoid Introductory
arw Carotenoid - See: Astaxanthin
arw Mortensen, A.; Skibsted, L. H. (1997). "Importance of carotenoid structure in radical scavenging reactions". J. Agric. Food Chem. 45 (8): 2970−2977.
arw "Summary of Color Additives for Use in United States in Foods, Drugs, Cosmetics, and Medical Devices". See Note 1.
arw Currently unlisted. Will look for a better ref.
arw Haematococcus pluvialis
arw Algae
arw Astax
arw Boussiba; Sammy, V.; Avigad, C.; et al. (2000) Procedure for large-scale production of astaxanthin from haematococcus. U. S. Patent 6,022,701.
arw Astaxanthin Source Comparison
arw Anderson, Lyle K. Extraction of Carotenoid Pigment from Shrimp Processing Waste. U.S. Patent 3906112. Sep 16, 1975
arw Leora Eren Frucht; Sharon Kanon (8 May 2005). "Israel grows red algae in the desert to fight disease".
arw Retrieved 14 Oct 2009.
arw Krause, Wolfgang; Henrich, Klaus; Paust, Joachim; et al. Preaparation of Astaxanthin. DE 19509955.9 Mar. 18, 1995
arw US application 20050014824 (online here) (also EP 1442083)
arw Radford, Tim (30 July 2002). "Scientists find why lobsters turn red when cooked". The Guardian.,3604,765263,00.html. Retrieved 18 July 2009.
arw just the egg part
arw Fisheries and Oceans Canada - Aquaculture Issues
arw "Smith & Lowney - Farm-raised Salmon Coloring". 2003. Retrieved 14 Oct 2009.
arw Fassett, Robert G.; Coombes, Jeff S. (2009). "Astaxanthin, oxidative stress, inflammation and cardiovascular disease". Future Cardiology 4 (3): 333–342.
arw Palozza, P.; Torelli, C.; Boninsegna, A.; Simone, R.; Catalano, A.; Mele, M. C.; Picci, N. (2009). "Growth-inhibitory effects of the astaxanthin-rich alga Haematococcus pluvialis in human colon cancer cells". Cancer Lett 283 (1): 108–117. doi:10.1016/j.canlet.2009.03.031. PMID 19423215.
arw NIH:PubMed
arw Guerin, Martin; Huntley, Mark E.; Olaizola, Miguel (2003). Haematococcus astaxanthin: applications for human health and nutrition. Trends in Biotechnology. pp. 210–212.
arw "Pigments in Salmon Aquaculture: How to Grow a Salmon-colored Salmon". Archived from the original on 13 Oct 2007}.
arw Retrieved 18 July 2009.
arw McGraw, Kevin; Hardy, Lisa (2006) (pdf). Astaxanthin is responsible for the pink plumage flush in Franklin's and Ring-billed gulls. Tempe, AZ: School of Life Sciences, Arizona State University. pp. 5.'kjmcgraw/pubs/JFO2006.pdf.
arw "Notes on the effects of Astaxanthin on the plumage of birds". 2006. Retrieved 19 July 2009.