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Astaxanthin is produced by algae, fungi, and bacteria. Humans do not produce astaxanthin but we get some in our diet when we eat seafood. Crabs, lobsters, salmon, shrimp and other sea creatures owe their red or pinkish color to astaxanthin. The green microalgae Haematococcus pluvialis is considered to be the richest source of astaxanthin. This phytonutrient is available in both natural and synthetic forms, but the synthetic version has not been proven to be efficacious or safe.


In 2012, a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study found that astaxanthin improved patients’ performance on the Groton Maze Learning Test and the CogHealth Battery Test when they took astaxanthin compared to a group taking a placebo. A 2005 animal study also found astaxanthin to have neuroprotective effects in ischemic mice.

  1. Antihypertensive and Neuroprotective Effects of Astaxanthin in Experimental Animals

    Hussein G, Nakamura M, Zhao Q, Iguchi T, Goto H, Sankawa U, and Watanabe H., Biological & Pharmaceutical Bulletin, 2005

  2. Effects of astaxanthin-rich Haematococcus pluvialis extract on cognitive function - a randomised, double-blind, placebo-controlled study

    Katagiri M, Satoh A, Tsuji S and Shirasawa T., Journal of clinical biochemistry and nutrition, 2012


Astaxanthin has been studied for its protective heart benefits in animal studies and human studies. In an animal study (referenced above), astaxanthin was found to lower blood pressure in stroke-prone mice.

A human study on 27 overweight subjects found that astaxanthin lowers LDL cholesterol and apolipoprotein B, but astaxanthin did not affect triglycerides, HDL cholesterol or apolipoprotein A1. Another study on 15 healthy post-menopausal women showed an increase in HDL cholesterol for women taking astaxanthin, but no change to LDL or triglycerides.

A randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study of 61 non-obese subjects showed reduced triglyceride levels and increased HDL cholesterol for the astaxanthin group, while showing no improvement in BMI or LDL cholesterol.

  1. Antihypertensive and Neuroprotective Effects of Astaxanthin in Experimental Animals

    Hussein G, Nakamura M, Zhao Q, Iguchi T, Goto H, Sankawa U, and Watanabe H., Biological & Pharmaceutical Bulletin, 2005

  2. Positive effects of astaxanthin on lipid profiles and oxidative stress in overweight subjects

    Choi HD, Youn YK, Shin WG., Plant Foods for Human Nutrition, 2011

  3. The effects of Astaxanthin supplements on lipid peroxidation and antioxidant status in post-menopausal women

    Kim YK, Chyun, JH., The Korean Nutrition Society, 2004

  4. Administration of natural astaxanthin increases serum HDL-cholesterol and adiponectin in subjects with mild hyperlipidemia

    Yoshida H, Yanai H, Ito K, Tomono Y, Koikeda T, Tsukahara H, Tada N., Atherosclorosis, 2009

Athletic Performance

Astaxanthin has been studied in human and animal studies. Research on this ingredient for athletic performance is fairly new, beginning in 2003 with a study on mice examining the effect of exercise-induced stress in mice that ran on a treadmill until exhaustion. Another study on rats in 2014 showed the astaxanthin group delayed time to exhaustion in a swimming test by 29%.

Studies on athletes have been shown that astaxanthin can also reduce oxidative stress. A 2014 double-blind, placebo controlled study found that astaxanthin increased positive responses to some oxidative stress markers when tested on soccer players. Additionally, a clinical trial on competitive cyclists showed an increase in power output for the group taking astaxanthin.

A 2008 study took 40 healthy paramedic students and split them into two groups: one received 4mg of astaxanthin and one received a placebo. After 6 months, strength, endurance, and explosivity were measured in both groups. The astaxanthin group showed 3 times higher improvement in squatting than the placebo group.

  1. Astaxanthin inhibits nitric oxide production and inflammatory gene expression by suppressing I(kappa)B kinase-dependent NF-kappaB activation.

    Lee SJ, Bai SK, Lee KS, Namkoong S, Na HJ, Ha KS, Han JA, Yim SV, Chang K, Kwon YG, Lee SK, Kim YM., Molecules and cells, 2003

  2. Astaxanthin limits exercise-induced skeletal and cardiac muscle damage in mice

    Aoi W, Naito Y, Sakuma K, Kuchide M, Tokuda H, Maoka T, Toyokuni S, Oka S, Yasuhara M, Yoshikawa T., Antioxidants & Redux Signaling, 2003

  3. Astaxanthin supplementation delays physical exhaustion and prevents redox imbalances in plasma and soleus muscles of Wistar rats

    Polotow TG, Vardaris CV, Mihaliuc AR, Gonçalves MS, Pereira B, Ganini D, Barros MP., Nutrients, 2014

  4. Effect of astaxanthin supplementation on paraoxonase 1 activities and oxidative stress status in young soccer players.

    Baralic I, Djordjevic B, Dikic N, Kotur-Stevuljevic J, Spasic S, Jelic-Ivanovic Z, Radivojevic N, Andjelkovic M, Pejic S., Phytotherapy Research, 2012

  5. Effect of astaxanthin on cycling time trial performance.

    Earnest CP, Lupo M, White KM, Church TS., International journal of sports medicine, 2011

  6. Dietary Supplementation with Astaxanthin-Rich Algal Meal Improves Strength Endurance – A Double Blind Placebo Controlled Study on Male Students.

    Malmstena CL and Lignellb A, Carotenoid Science, 2008

Skin Health

Astaxanthin is a carotenoid that gives marine life their pigmentation; examples would be the pink coral color of shrimp and salmon. The alga, Haematococcus pluvialis, is one of the major producers of this carotenoid. Astaxanthin has been shown to contain powerful antioxidant properties that help protect against environmental stress, specifically by preventing oxidative injury caused by exposure to reactive oxygen species (ROS). Carotenoids have also been shown to have other biological functions such as provitamin A activity, modulation of gene expression and cell-cell communication.

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 patient's’ skin was reviewed at 4 weeks, 8 weeks, 12 weeks and 20 weeks. Ocular inspection from skin photographs and 3 dimensional images of replicas and wrinkle values, measuring wrinkle areas and wrinkle volume rates revealed significant improvements in the astaxanthin group compared to the other groups.

An in-vitro study exposed human dermal fibroblasts (HDF) to moderate doses of UVA light. The fibroblasts were given one of three antioxidants: astaxanthin, canthaxanthin, or beta-carotene. Astaxanthin showed reductions in apoptosis, or cell death and decreases in levels of markers for oxidative stress. Astaxanthin also increased antioxidant enzyme activities. This shows that astaxanthin may reduce oxidative damage on human skin.

A mouse study published in 2017 found that astaxanthin supplementation suppressed photoaging features such as transdermal water loss and wrinkle formation in mice exposed to ultraviolet light.

  1. Anti-aging and functional improvement effects for the skin by functional foods intakes: clinical effects on skin by oral ingestion of preparations containing Astaxanthin and Vitamins C and E.

    Suganuma K, Shiobara M , Sato Y, Nakanuma C, Maekawa T, Ohtsuki M, Yazawa K, Imokawa G, Jichi Medical University Journal, 2012

  2. Astaxanthin, canthaxanthin and b-carotene differently affect UVA-induced oxidative damage and expression of oxidative stress-responsive enzymes

    Camera E, Mastrofrancesco A, Fabbri C, Daubrawa F, Picardo M, Sies H and Stahl W, Experimental Dermatology, 2009

  3. Preventive effect of dietary astaxanthin on UVA-induced skin photoaging in hairless mice.

    Komatsu T, Sasaki S, Manabe Y, Hirata T, Sugawara T., PLoS One, 2017

  4. Antioxidant role of astaxanthin in the green alga Haematococcus pluvialis.

    Kobayashi M, Kakizono T, Nishio N, Nagai S et al. , Appl. Microbiol Biotechnol, 1997

Supports eye health

A randomized, double blind, placebo-controlled, baseline controlled human clinical trial looked at the effect of astaxanthin on accommodation amplitude and responsiveness of the eyes. Twenty-six participants were given 5mg of astaxanthin or 5mg placebo for four weeks. Another set of thirteen individuals, who were not visual display terminal workers, were used as controls and received no supplementation. The control group was placed in there to see the magnitude of accommodation amplitude astaxanthin may cause for an effect, in Visual Display Workers. The two supplemented groups: 5mg Astaxanthin and 5mg Placebo both had significantly lower accommodation amplitude than the control group at baseline. At the end of four weeks, the authors reported a statistically significant larger accommodation amplitude, the adjustment in the lens of the eye that allows it to focus, in subjects who used astaxanthin. They also found a 46% reduction in the number of eye strain subjects in the 5mg of Astaxanthin group. This supports the hypothesis that astaxanthin may help reduce the effects of screen time, such as temporary fatigue, eye strain, and reduction in accommodation, on the eyes. (1).

Astaxanthin’s role in fatigue and eye strain was further displayed in a clinical study done on subjects whose eyes were healthy and were supplemented with 1mg of astaxanthin per day. There were ten participants in this study. Both the treatment and the placebo groups were subjected to heavy visual stimuli to induce eye fatigue, and it was found that the treatment group recovered more quickly. This study suggested that astaxanthin influenced accommodation and reduced accommodative fatigue during the recovery process, which provided relief in fatigue more rapidly. (2).

In addition to supporting occasional eye fatigue and reduced accommodation associated with monitor use, astaxanthin has been shown to improve capillary flow of the retina. Thirty-six volunteers were randomized into two groups: an astaxanthin group that consisted of 18 subjects who received oral astaxanthin, 6mg/day, for 4 weeks and a placebo group that consisted of 18 subjects who received an identical looking placebo for 4 weeks. Retinal capillary blood flow was measured using a Heidelberg Retina Flowmeter, since reproducibility is high. The fasting plasma astaxanthin level in the astaxanthin group was significantly (p<0.001) higher than before supplementation, whereas fasting plasma astaxanthin level in the placebo group remained unchanged. After 4 weeks supplementation, retinal capillary blood flow in the astaxanthin group was significantly (p<0.01) higher than before supplementation in both eyes compared with placebo. Intraocular pressures in both groups remained unchanged during the supplementation period, meaning that astaxanthin increased retinal capillary perfusion without lowering intraocular pressure, a good sign that it is supporting healthy eye function. (3)

  1. Effects of astaxanthin on accommodation, critical flicker fusion, and pattern visual evoked potential in visual display terminal workers

    Nagaki Y, Hayasaka S, Yamada T, Hayasaka Y, Sanada M, and Uonomi T, J.Trad.Med, 2002

  2. The Effects of Astaxanthin on Accommodative Recovery

    Takahashi N and Kajita M, Journal of Clinical Therapeutics & Medicines. 21(4):431-436, 2005

  3. The Effect of Astaxanthin on Retinal Capillary Blood Flow in Normal Volunteers

    Nagaki Y, et al, Journal of Clinical Therapeutics and Medicines Vol. 21, No. 5, 2005