Astaxanthin is a type of antioxidant called a carotenoid. It is widely available as a dietary supplement and is commonly used in cosmetics and healthcare products. Studies on astaxanthin are very promising. Many demonstrate its potential to prevent and treat many conditions, though further studies are needed to confirm safe and therapeutic usage.

Heart Health

Astaxanthin benefits heart health in many ways. It protects LDL or good cholesterol from oxidative stress, helping to prevent clot formation and hardening of the arteries. Studies show that 12 weeks of astaxanthin reduced fatty acids in healthy males. In overweight and obese adults, it reduced signs of oxidative stress, indicating less damage is being done to the cells in the body in people taking the supplement.

doctor checking patient's heart with stethoscope


Diabetes Mellitus

Another condition that astaxanthin has shown promise in treating is diabetes mellitus (DM) or type 2 diabetes. DM is the most common metabolic disease, and studies show that the biological effects of astaxanthin can reduce inflammation and oxidative stress that lead to some complications of DM. For example, astaxanthin protects against secondary conditions like diabetic retinopathy and diabetic neuropathy.

man taking his blood sugar for diabetes



Like many antioxidants, astaxanthin has shown promise as a cancer treatment, though research has been done mainly in rats. One study showed that astaxanthin inhibited rapid cell growth, cell death, and mammary tumors in animal subjects. Another demonstrated the inhibition of colon cancer cells, and a third showed that the carotenoid slowed down viral and cancerous skin growths.

doctor holding chalkboard sign cancer prevention



Studies also show that astaxanthin is an effective treatment for certain liver disorders. It prevents inflammation and improves the metabolism of glycolipids — fats attached to a carbohydrate needed for energy production.

Studies show that astaxanthin can help prevent liver fibrosis, alcoholic liver disease, non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, liver cancer, and drug-induced liver damage. Most of these studies were done with rats and mice.

doctor holding up illustration of healthy liver



Astaxanthin is already used in many cosmetic products, but research proves that it has legitimate cosmetic effects. Studies show that taking oral astaxanthin combined with a topical application in females resulted in significant improvements in wrinkles, elasticity, and texture. A second study done in men and showed similar cosmetic benefits with oral astaxanthin.

older woman applying skin cream in mirror


Immune System

Free radical damage can drastically affect the immune system, and antioxidants like astaxanthin can provide protection. Some studies report that astaxanthin improved immunity in lab animals, but few studies of this nature have been done on humans.

In mice, astaxanthin could protect the immune system more than beta-carotene and stimulate antibody production in aging animals. One human study showed that, after eight weeks of astaxanthin supplements, blood levels of natural killer cells were higher.

immune system sign surrounded by healthy foods


Taking Astaxanthin

Studies show that taking astaxanthin is safe and does not have any side effects when taken with food. Most dosage studies have been done on lab animals. The recommended dose for humans is 2 to 4 mg/day, though one study showed no adverse effects with 6 mg/day.

For best results, take astaxanthin with omega 3-rich foods, like fish, almonds, flaxseed, and walnuts.

dietary supplement capsules on counter with vegetables



Astaxanthin has not been fully studied in humans. While it is widely available as a supplement, these are not regulated, and the quality of and ingredients in some pills are questionable. Many factors, like absorption, toxicity, and tissue distribution, have only been studied in lab animals.

A lot of data is lacking concerning astaxanthin use in humans, and though the research is promising, more clinical studies are needed.

researcher looking through a microscope


More About Carotenoids

Astaxanthin is a carotenoid, a natural pigment primarily found in algae, vegetables, and fruits. Humans do not produce carotenoids naturally. They must ingest them in food or take supplements.

Carotenoids work like other antioxidants, stopping cell damage from free radicals.

astaxanthin written around food sources


Sources of Astaxanthin

Astaxanthin is a red-orange pigment that belongs to the same carotenoid family as other well-known antioxidants, like beta-carotene and lycopene. It was first discovered in lobsters and approved as a food supplement in 1991. Astaxanthin is extracted from many types of seafood, including krill, shrimp, alga, trout, salmon, and red sea bass.

fresh caught lobster


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