Alison is a freelance writer on health, nutrition, skincare, and pets, especially cats and dogs.
Astaxanthin - What is it? How is it pronounced? What are its uses? These are just a few of the questions that spring to mind on first hearing this word.
It certainly created a stir when it featured in Dr. Oz's show. Read on to have your questions answered about this product which is sure to be a household name in years to come if its amazing properties are all they are claimed to be!
What is Astaxanthin?
Astaxanthin is pronounced as 'asta-zan-thin'. It is a natural antioxidant, one of the carotenoids (the same family that gives us the beta carotene found in carrots).
Astaxanthin is found in shrimp, salmon, crab and lobster etc. and gives their flesh the characteristic pink color. It is also what gives Flamingos their pink plumage. It originates in the algae shown above.
This powerful antioxidant is not as big a part of most people's regular diets as other antioxidants like beta carotene and vitamins C, D and E etc. however, it gives a lot of health benefits to man.
It is 54 times more powerful than beta carotene, 65 times more powerful than vitamin C and 500 times more powerful than vitamin E.
It is of little wonder that it is called the 'King of antioxidants' and the 'Powerhouse antioxidant'.
Where to Buy Astaxanthin
This is one supplement where prices vary a lot for products with exactly the same formulation. In my opinion, one of the best places to get it is online from Amazon.
There are a lot of different products available, so to make it easier, if you use this link, you will see that I have sorted the product page by placing the products with the highest average feedback score and highest number of customer feedbacks - which is a fair indication of the quality and efficacy of the product.
Below, I have provided links to the two products which I feel offer the very best value in terms of quality and price.
One of the Best Value Products Available!
1. Brain Health
Astaxanthin has the property to pass through the blood-brain barrier. This helps the brain to enjoy the antioxidant properties.This results in the improvement of brain health.
A research result published in British Journal of Nutrition says that supplementing 6-12 mg of Astaxanthin contributes to the prevention of dementia and Alzheimer's and lowered the risk levels by 50%.
This has exciting implications for other neurodegenerative diseases including Parkinson's and Huntington's.
2. Heart Health
Cardiovascular disease is extremely common, especially as we grow older.
Hypertension (high blood pressure) is one of the main problems in heart and circulatory diseases. It has been proven that Astaxanthin lowers blood pressure.
Moreover, this antioxidant is popular for its anti inflammatory properties. Inflammation is also another important causative factor for cardiovascular diseases.
These are my Recommendations
3. Skin Health
Everyone wants to look young and beautiful. Skin is the first to show off the signs of aging. Wrinkles, lines and spots etc. are signs of aging that everyone likes to avoid.
Astaxanthin can provide a degree of protection as it blocks some UV light (although not enough to mean you do not need a sunscreen!).
Secondly, it can fight against and neutralize free radicals caused by UV radiation and which cause sun damage to skin.
Finally, it inhibits MMMPs which are matrix metalloproteinases and which are induced by UV light and which are also a contributory factor to sun damage and aging skin.
4. Eye Health
If you were told when you were little, to eat your carrots because you would be able to see in the dark, you probably didn't believe it. However carotenoids, like the beta-carotene in carrots have been proven effective in benefiting eye health.
Astaxanthin is possibly the most powerful of all the carotenoids and has the ability to penetrate into the retinal barrier of your eyes. It helps in the prevention of cataracts and macular degeneration the two main reasons for blindness in the world.
Dr. Mercola points out that 'Astaxanthin is the ultimate carotenoid for eye health and prevention of blindness' and that many eye related problems like cataracts, glaucoma and retinopathy etc. can be prevented or treated with this supplement.
Dr. Mark Tso of the Wilmer Eye Institute, John Hopkins University, conducted a study that shows that Astaxanthin prevents light induced damage, photoreceptor cell damage and damage to the neurons of the retinal layers. Most reassuringly, he also concluded that it does this more effectively and safely than any other carotenoid.
Got an "Itis"? Try Astaxanthin!
5. Liver Health
Preventing oxidative damage is one of the important properties of Astaxanthin.
It protects the liver and improves its functioning by removing dead bacteria, viruses and dead red blood cells etc.
When it is cleansed the health of the liver is automatically improved.
6. Male Fertility
There has been quite a lot of research into the effects of antioxidant therapy for increasing male fertility. Whilst some articles I have read say that the results are 'encouraging but inconclusive, this quote from a pdf published by the reproductive research center clevelandclinic.org (https://www.clevelandclinic.org/reproductiveresearchcenter/docs/agradoc384.pdf) certainly sounds encouraging to me!
" In a recent double-blind randomised con-trolled trial, carotenoid compound Astaxanthin was administered at a dose of 16 mg/d for 3 months, resulting in increased total (54.5% compared to 10.5%) and per cycle (23.1% compared to 3.6%) pregnancy rates compared with a placebo group (Comhaire et al., 2005)."
As you can see, pregnancy rates went up from one in 10 (approx) over the three months on the placebo to one in two (approx) for partners of the men taking Astaxanthin!
7. Prevention of Diabetes
The effect of Astaxanthin on insulin sensitivity and blood glucose could help in the prevention of onset of diabetes. The studies are inconclusive on these grounds. If proved it could be a turning point in prevention of diabetes.
8. Treating Joint Pains
It is very effective in treating joint pains resulting from strenuous exercises, arthritis, tennis elbow and carpal tunnel etc.
The Benefits For Athletes
9. Benefits to Sports People
Astaxanthin builds stamina, improves the immunity, reduces recovery time, increases body strength, boosts endurance and reduces the severity of muscle soreness.
All these properties are beneficial to sports people.
10. Prevention of Cancer
Researchers suggests that Astaxanthin may be have cancer fighting properties. Although there is no suggestion that it can cure cancer, many studies have been done, including one at Washington State University where it was shown that all carotenoids had an effect on inhibiting the growth of tumor cells but that Astaxanthin was best.
In Japan, at the Gifu University School of medicine demonstrated that mice given Astaxanthin in their diets were protected from developing bladder cancer.
11. Improving Memory
The effect of Astaxanthin on memory is just one of the topics discussed in the video (right) which is quite long but well worth a watch. Of particular interest to me is the beneficial effect on memory in cases of Vascular Dementia which was the condition that my Dad had. Since this type of Dementia tends to run in families, I am keen to do what I can to prevent it in my own case.
You might also like to read the HubPages article I wrote some time ago about the benefits of antioxidants in combating the oxidative stress that is one of the factors in the development of Alzheimer's Disease - here is the link
13. Treating Ulcers
Astaxanthin helps in preventing certain types of ulcers. Reported on Mercola.com (http://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2012/01/05/Astaxanthin-reduce-ulcers.aspx), it has been shown to have a protective effect from gastric ulcers caused by taking NSAIDs (non-steroidal anti-inflammatories) and stress. In addition it also helps to reduce the symptoms of acid reflux.
Ok So There Has To Be A Downside - Right?
It is really impressive to see such a long list of Astaxanthin benefits. Now I am sure that you would want to know if there are any contraindications - and of course, there are, nothing is that perfect, or that miraculous! Where there are 'pros' there definitely are a few 'cons'.
What is the Right Astaxanthin Dosage?
Risks of side effects are increased if you exceed the recommended 2-12 mg per day.
The correct dosage depends upon your reason for taking this antioxidant.
- For antioxidant benefits, it is enough if you take 2- 4 mg per day.
- To treat conditions such as arthritis, you may be recommended a dosage of 12 mg.
- If you want to reap maximum benefits, you should take this daily.
- You can split the dosage into two instead of a single dose i.e. if you are taking 2 mg per day, you can take 1 mg twice a day.
What are the Side Effects of Astaxanthin?
It may cause harmless side effects (if slightly alarming!) like orange colored stools and urine.
Apart from this it may cause one or more of the side effects mentioned below.
- It may cause allergies, especially if you are hypersensitive.
- It may decrease the blood pressure levels.
- It may cause hormonal imbalance.
- It may lead to increase in skin pigmentation.
- It may lower the calcium levels in your blood.
- It may decrease LDL oxidation.
Are There any Precautions to be Followed?
It may interact with some medications given to treat conditions like asthma, parathyroid and high cholesterol. Women taking birth control pills and hrt or other medications to treat the symptoms of menopause should avoid Astaxanthin. Prolonged usage should be avoided to reduce the risks of side effects.
Even if you are not hypersensitive and not taking any medications mentioned above, it is better to consult your physician before starting to take Astaxanthin. Remember that your physician has the best knowledge on various supplements, their uses and side effects. Whilst this article is based on my own comprehensive research, it should never be taken as a substitute for medical advice.
Jenna Estefan from Seattle, WA on April 07, 2013:
I had never heard of astaxnanthin before. Tons of great information here!
Alison Graham (author) from UK on April 06, 2013:
Hi Rochelle, thank you, I should have made this clearer in my hub. yes eating shrimp, krill, etc does provide a source of astaxanthin. However, most of us do not eat these more than very infrequently so it is difficult to get the benefits through diet alone.
Rochelle Frank from California Gold Country on April 06, 2013:
Are there natural sources for Astaxanthin? For instance, does eating shrimp, crab, salmon, (flamingo feathers) etc provide the nutritional benefits of the antioxident?