What is Astaxanthin?

Astaxanthin is what's known as a carotenoid. Carotenoids are a group of colorful pigments found in various plants and animals. They are responsible for a lot of the coloration in fruits, vegetables, and marine life. While beta-carotene (perhaps the most well known of the carotenoids) is known for its orange color, astaxanthin is responsible for the red-pink hues found in flamingos, salmon, and shrimp. 

A lot of the studies surrounding astaxanthin are in their infancy, but where it does seem quite likely to shine is as an anti oxidant, in terms of it's effects on brain health the results do seem to be in favor of it. And when it comes to skin and eye health, seeing as it follows the same mechanisms as other more well studied carotenoids, the evidence is pretty good. Most of the other claims around it are a bit washy however. 

Sourcing Astaxanthin

Astaxanthin can be found in different sources, both natural and supplemental. The most concentrated naturally occurring source of astaxanthin is a microalgae called Haematococcus pluvialis and this is where most supplements get it from.

The Health Benefits of Astaxanthin

Astaxanthin as a Potent Antioxidant

Astaxanthin's most notable quality is its antioxidant activity. As one of the most powerful antioxidant nutrients, astaxanthin helps combat oxidative stress, a major contributor to various health issues and aging. Its ability to neutralize free radicals makes it a valuable ally in protecting the body against cellular damage and promoting overall health. It has been found to have higher antioxidant activity than other carotenoids like lycopene, β-carotene, and α-carotene, particularly in scavenging peroxyl radicals [1] 

Astaxanthin and Eye Health

Carotenoids, including astaxanthin, play a crucial role in maintaining healthy vision. They contribute to the protection of the retina, specifically the macula, against UV exposure. 

While popular eye supplements often contain beta-carotene and lutein, adding astaxanthin to the mix can provide additional benefits. Research has shown that astaxanthing does cross the blood-retinal barrier and is able to work in this area. Astaxanthin protects against eye strain and supports eye health, making it a valuable nutrient for those spending long hours in front of screens. [2] 

Although once again, the research is still relatively limited, it does look very promising, with it being a more potent option than traditionally used caratenoids.

Astaxanthin for Skin

In the quest for youthful and vibrant skin, astaxanthin emerges as a powerful ally. It helps protect the skin from the harmful effects of UV exposure, a major contributor to skin aging. 

Studies have shown that astaxanthin supplementation can reduce oxidative stress caused by UV exposure, resulting in smoother and more supple skin. This is the real benefit to astaxnthin over other options when it comes to skin health. Although, astaxanthin has also been found to support collagen production and promote a healthy inflammatory response, further enhancing skin health. [3] 

Astaxanthin and Heart Health

Maintaining a healthy heart is crucial for overall well-being, and astaxanthin can play a significant role in supporting cardiovascular health. Its potent antioxidant properties help combat oxidative stress, a major factor in heart disease. Astaxanthin has also been shown to support healthy lipid levels and improve heart efficiency, contributing to optimal cardiovascular function. [4] There is also evidence to suggest it has a benefit on cholesterol, which in turn can benefit heart health further.

Astaxanthin and Liver Health

The liver is a vital organ responsible for numerous metabolic processes in the body. Astaxanthin, with its antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, has been studied for its potential in supporting liver health. By protecting against oxidative stress and promoting a healthy inflammatory response, astaxanthin can help maintain optimal liver function and overall well-being. [5] However, it is important to note that further research is needed to determine the optimal dosage and long-term effects of astaxanthin supplementation for liver health as the studies around this are still relatively new. 

Astaxanthin and the Immune System

A robust immune system is essential for maintaining good health, and astaxanthin can contribute to its optimal functioning. By supporting a healthy inflammatory response and combating oxidative stress, astaxanthin helps fortify the immune system. Studies have shown that astaxanthin supplementation can preserve a healthy immune response, making it a valuable nutrient for immune health maintenance. [6]

Astaxanthin and Weight Loss

Metabolic health plays a vital role in overall well-being, affecting various aspects of the body's functioning. Astaxanthin has been studied for its potential to support healthy carbohydrate and lipid metabolism. There are even some studies to suggest that said increased lipid metabolism can improve muscle recovery.

By promoting efficient metabolism, astaxanthin can contribute to balanced blood sugar levels, healthy lipid profiles, and overall metabolic well-being. [7] 

There are also some studies that have shown that natural astaxanthin can inhibit weight gain and reduce adipose tissue, liver triglycerides, and total cholesterol levels. It also appears to enhance thermogenesis and fat utilization in the body. However, a lot of these are animal or mid to low quality studies.

Although, it should be noted, that this is generally a low concern when it comes to weight loss issues and there are far proven and researched better weight loss aids available than astaxanthin.

Astaxanthin and Brain Health

Cognitive function and brain health are crucial for maintaining a high quality of life. Astaxanthin has shown promise in optimizing brain function and supporting a healthy inflammatory response. Clinical studies have demonstrated that astaxanthin, in combination with other nutrients, can enhance comprehension and cognitive performance, making it a potential supernutrient for brain health. [8]

Astaxanthin and Inflammation

Whilst astaxanthin isn't going to make it into the list of the best anti inflammatory supplements any time soon it has been shown to target inflammatory biomarkers and signaling pathways involved in inflammation, making it effective in reducing inflammation in various diseases. Studies have demonstrated its ability to decrease the expression of inflammatory cytokines and modulate lipid and glucose metabolism. Although that's not where it really shines in this field. It's most interesting around UV-induced inflammation where it has shown to be notably effective. [9]

Recommended Astaxanthin Dose

It is generally recommended to start with a lower dosage and gradually increase as needed. A typical dosage ranges from 4 mg to 12 mg per day. Although this was notably higher in the weight loss astaxanthin studies. 

Side Effects of Astaxanthin

While astaxanthin is generally considered safe, high doses may cause mild gastrointestinal discomfort or changes in skin pigmentation. It is advisable to follow recommended dosages and consult with a healthcare professional if you have any underlying health conditions or are taking medications.


1 - https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC10056084/

2 - https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7281326/

3 - https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5946307/

4 - https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7353230/

5 - https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7293384/

6 - https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8394466/

7 - https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3336927/

8 - https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC9263351/

9 - https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2845588/

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