What is astaxanthin?
Astaxanthin is a pigment belonging to the carotenoid family. It is found in crustaceans, fish (especially wild fish), and other animals and vegetables that feature a reddish color.
In crustaceans, it is surrounded by a protein and released by heat – this is why shrimp and lobsters turn red when cooked. The astaxanthin found in the flesh of salmon, particularly wild salmon, enables them to swim upstream to locations more conducive to their reproduction – without it, they would be unable to accomplish this impressive feat.
Astaxanthin is also present in large quantities in the algae Haematococcus pluvialis – which is responsible for the reddish color of the fish that consume it.
Synthetic astaxanthin is produced chemically as well, although it is generally less preferred than astaxanthin from natural sources.
Astaxanthin boosts the health of joints, skin, and the vascular system. It is also one of the only antioxidants that can cross both the blood-brain barrier and the blood-retinal barrier – allowing both the brain and the eyes to enjoy its benefits. All of our internal organs are receptive to it as well.
The benefits of astaxanthin
The benefits of astaxanthin are numerous and are reflected in many forms:
- Antioxidant effects  :
Astaxanthin’s effects are 10 to 100 times as powerful as other antioxidants (such as b-carotene). Its protective effect against oxidation has been proven with regard to damage to membranes, DNA, and the cardiovascular system.
- Cardiovascular effects  :
Astaxanthin helps improve the blood lipid profile – reducing average total cholesterol, LDLc, and triglycerides and increasing HDLc.
It has also been proven to promote arterial health in adults who suffer from metabolic syndrome, and to significantly improve blood flow.
- Anti-inflammatory effects :
Astaxanthin is an anti-inflammatory with no side effects that works by blocking the COX-2 enzyme. It helps protect against mitochondrial oxidation and inflammation. It has also been shown to reduce lactic acid buildup in muscles, thus reducing post-exercise pain.
- Effects on physical performance  :
Astaxanthin helps increase physical strength and minimize muscle recovery time following exertion. It also contributes to increased resistance to fatigue during intense exercise.
- Effects on skin and eyes [5,6] :
Astaxanthin’s properties help protect against damage caused by sunburns and ultraviolet rays. It also helps reduce wrinkles and increase skin hydration.
- Neurological effects  :
Astaxanthin protects cells and the nervous system from oxidative damage. It contributes to the protection of neurological functions, and even helps boost cognitive functions in the elderly.
Astaxanthin has many benefits for one’s entire body. It is soluble in fat, and preferably should be taken with a meal in order to maximize its effects.
Who should take astaxanthin?
Astaxanthin’s many benefits make it a superfood with something for everyone. It is recommended for anyone who:
- seeks to protect their brain
- seeks to protect their eyes
- seeks to protect their skin
- seeks to protect their joints
- has allergies or regularly falls ill
Astaxanthin will be especially beneficial for individuals matching certain profiles with particular needs:
- for active people
Astaxanthin increases endurance and is capable of crossing both the blood-brain and blood-ocular barriers, thus protecting both cerebral and visual functions. Accordingly, it is particularly recommended for those who participate in outdoor endurance activities.
- for athletes post-competition
With its high levels of protein, astaxanthin also aids recovery by helping to replenish the stocks of muscle proteins that are exhausted during exertion.
There are no contraindications, toxicities, or known side effects to taking astaxanthin.
 Shimidzu & al. (1995). Carotenoids as Singlet Oxygen Quenchers in Marine Organisms. Fisheries Science 62(1), 134-137 .
 Pashkow FJ. & al. : Astaxanthin: a novel potential treatment for oxidative stress and inflammation in cardiovasculardisease. Am J Cardiol. 2008 May 22;101(10A):58D-68D. doi: 10.1016/j.amjcard.2008.02.010.
 Park JS. & al. : Astaxanthin decreased oxidative stress and inflammation and enhanced immune response in humans. Nutrition & Metabolism. 2010;7:18. doi:10.1186/1743-7075-7-18.
 Malmsten L. & al. (2018). Dietary Supplementation with Astaxanthin-Rich Algal Meal Improves Strength Endurance – A Double Blind Placebo Controlled Study on Male Students –. 13.
 Tominaga K, Hongo N, Fujishita M, Takahashi Y, Adachi Y. Protective effects of astaxanthin on skin deterioration. Journal of Clinical Biochemistry and Nutrition. 2017;61(1):33-39. doi:10.3164/jcbn.17-35.
 Nakajima Y. & al. : Astaxanthin, a dietary carotenoid, protects retinal cells against oxidative stress in-vitro and in mice in-vivo. J Pharm Pharmacol. 2008 Oct;60(10):1365-74. doi: 10.1211/jpp/60.10.0013.
 Grimmig B. & al. : Neuroprotective mechanisms of astaxanthin: a potential therapeutic role in preserving cognitive function in age and neurodegeneration. Geroscience. 2017 Feb;39(1):19-32. doi: 10.1007/s11357-017-9958-x.