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Astaxanthin - Frequently Asked Questions

What is Astaxanthin?

Astaxanthin, a member of the carotenoid family, is an oxygenated pigment called a xanthophyll. It is a fat-soluble nutrient with a molecular weight of 596.8 Da and a long, double-bonded polyene chain with a six-membered ring polar (water-loving) end group. Its unique molecular structure gives it superior antioxidant capacity.

What is the best source of the ingredient Astaxanthin?

There are many sources of Astaxanthin, however an all-natural, renewable material extracted from microalgae known as Haematococcus pluvialis appears to be the best source. Properly extracted it should contain no organic solvents, and is characterized and standardized to ensure the highest quality. To learn more on how to compare astaxanthin products click here.

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How does one source of Astaxanthin differ from other sources of Astaxanthin?

Astaxanthin product should begin with the most highly concentrated natural source of astaxanthin; the Haematococcus pluvialis microalgae. This source is far more concentrated than other sources of astaxanthin as shown below:

Microalgae 15,000-20,000 ppm
Yeast up to 800 ppm
Crustaceans up to 400 ppm
Salmon 3-40 ppm

Astaxanthin is then extracted from the microalgae to further increase the concentration to 10.0% or 100,000 ppm.

Astaxanthin is more stable than the microalgae because the extracted Astaxanthin Complex is better protected within the oleoresin matrix than in the dry form of the microalgae meal. The esterified form of Astaxanthin (as in the microalgae) also contributes to stability; an advantage over extracts of crustaceans, which are not as highly esterified.

In addition, Astaxanthin is also in the same isomeric form found in the most common source consumed by humans - salmon. Astaxanthin found in the yeast, Pfaffia is in the opposite form, and synthetic astaxanthin is a mixture of both forms.

Astaxanthin is a natural complex of carotenoids including astaxanthin, beta-carotene, lutein and canthaxanthin in its own natural oil containing small amounts of omega 3 and 6 fatty acids (essential fatty acids). This complex provides a more desirable group of carotenoids than a single dietary ingredient.

To learn more on how to compare astaxanthin products click here.

Is there scientific support for astaxanthin in the research literature?

Yes. There is a substantial body of literature including in vitro studies, preclinical studies and several human clinical trials. These data consistently suggest that Astaxanthin, with its unique molecular structure and resulting potent antioxidant activity, may be an effective therapeutic modality for a variety of conditions, including cardiovascular, immune, anti-inflammatory, and neurodegenerative.

Have clinical studies been conducted for astaxanthin?

There have been numerous preclinical in vivo and in vitro studies and several human clinical trials to evaluate the efficacy of astaxanthin. A double-blind, placebo-controlled study demonstrated that astaxanthin was found to significantly increase strength and endurance. Another clinical study shows that astaxanthin alleviates symptoms in patients with H. pylori (pre-ulcer indigestion). A third clinical study demonstrated bioavailability in humans. Additional human clinical studies are being sponsored.

What are the major benefits associated with Astaxanthin?

  • Inhibits lipid peroxidation at the cell level, thus protecting the cell membrane and the mitochondrial membrane within the cell.
  • Crosses the blood-brain barrier, which makes it available to the eye, brain and central nervous system to alleviate oxidative stress that contributes to 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 very likely increases cell gap junctional communication, a mechanism thought to inhibit cancer.