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Astaxanthin's Mechanism of Action

Salmon, Astaxanthin and Our HealthAstaxanthin's molecular structure confers upon it biological activities not observed with other antioxidants or carotenoids. Astaxanthin is a member of a select group of carotenoids known as xanthophylls, or oxygenated carotenoids. Xanthophylls are at the top of the carotenoids pyramid of activity and Astaxanthin is at the top of the xanthophylls.

Astaxanthin 's molecular structure makes it a superior antioxidant - but it also functions through many other mechanisms of action to achieve cell membrane protection, immune protection, and broad protection against degenerative conditions in general.

Astaxanthin's molecular structure is similar to beta-carotene - but there is more. Astaxanthin has thirteen conjugated double bonds, which gives it significantly greater antioxidant capacity than beta-carotene's eleven conjugated double bonds.

Astaxanthin has oxo groups in the 4 and 4 prime position on the cyclohexene ring that again significantly increase its antioxidant activity. Finally, Astaxanthin has hydroxyl groups at the 3 and 3 prime position, making the molecule highly polar. These combined modifications dramatically enhance its membrane function activity and other mechanisms of action to protect against degenerative conditions, not found in other antioxidants.

  • Spans the cell membrane bilayer (fat/fat) because of its polar end groups near the fat/water surface where free radical attack first occurs.
  • Crosses the blood-brain barrier.
  • Inhibits the destruction of the fatty acids and proteins in cell membranes and mitochondrial membranes in cells caused by peroxidation of fats.
  • Stabilizes free radicals by adding them to its structure (long double-bond chain) rather than donating an atom or electron.
  • More resistant to the chain reaction that can occur when a fatty acid is oxidized, thus allowing it to scavenge or quench longer than an antioxidant who cannot stop this chain reaction.

free astaxanthin 

  • Neutralizes singlet and triplet oxygen by de-charging them.
  • Traps more types of radicals (alkoxyl, hydroxyl, peroxyl, singlet and triplet oxygen) than any other antioxidant.
  • Because it binds to a lipid (fat) protein, it travels more readily in the body and is more bioavailable.
  • Spanning the bilayer with its polar end groups may increase cell membrane rigidity and mechanical strength.
  • Inhibits reactive oxygen species that cause inflammation to the cells, thus anti-inflammatory capabilities.
  • Transports alkoxyl radicals along its long chain (like a bridge) to the fat/water interface, where a water-loving antioxidant such as Vitamin C can scavenge it.