Hyperlipidemia is an elevation of one or more of the following: cholesterol, cholesterol esters, phospholipids, or triglycerides. Although cholesterol has received much negative press, in normal quantities, it is essential for life. Cholesterol and triglycerides, as the major plasma lipids, are essential substrates for cell membrane formation, steroidal hormone synthesis, and production of bile acids. Effective management of hypercholesterolemia requires understanding the biochemistry of cholesterol and the importance of cholesterol in normal physiology. In recent years, studies have consistently shown that abnormalities of plasma lipoproteins can result in a predisposition to coronary artery disease, pancreatitis, xanthomas, or neurologic disease. Accumulating evidence has linked elevated total and low-density lipoprotein cholesterol (LDL-C) and reduced high-density lipoprotein cholesterol (HDL-C) to the development of coronary heart disease.
Astaxanthin belongs to a group of compounds called carotenoids. While b-carotene is a vitamin A precursor, astaxanthin cannot be converted to vitamin A. In laboratory studies, astaxanthin has been reported to be typically at least 10 times more potent as an antioxidant than the other standard carotenoids such as canthaxanthin, b-carotene, lutein, lycopene, tunaxanthin and zeaxanthin. Astaxanthin provides the rich pink color observed in various aquatic species including salmon, crabs, lobster, shrimp and even some nonaquatic species such as the flamingo (whose diet includes some astaxanthin-producing organisms). Astaxanthin is an important antioxidant that helps to prevent harmful free radical damage in the body by protecting cell membranes. Studies suggest astaxanthin may be effective in treating a variety of health conditions and diseases, including cardiovascular, immune, inflammation, and neurodegenerative concerns.
A study published in the journal Atherosclerosis investigated whether astaxanthin could be beneficial to patients with mild hyperlipidemia. Other studies have reported astaxanthin improved dyslipidemia and metabolic syndrome in animals. This was the first randomized, placebo-controlled human trial ever performed. Placebo and astaxanthin were administered to 61 non-obese subjects aged 25-60 years at 0, 6, 12, 18 mg/day for 12 weeks. The results were astaxanthin significantly lowered triglyceride levels at a dose of 12 and 18 mg/day and significantly increased HDL-cholesterol at a dose of 6 and 12 mg/day. There was also increased serum adiponectin (protein hormone that plays a role in the suppression of metabolic derangements which could result in type 2 diabetes, obesity, atherosclerosis, and is an independent risk factor for metabolic syndrome) at a dose of 12 and 18 mg/day which correlated positively with HDL-cholesterol changes. These findings suggest that astaxanthin supplementation may be beneficial in reducing symptoms of mild hyperlipidemia.1
1 Yoshida H, Yanai H, Ito K, et al. Administration of natural astaxanthin increases serum HDL-cholesterol and adiponectin in subjects with mild hyperlipidemia. Atherosclerosis. Apr2010;209(2):520-3.