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).
There is a substantial body of literature including in vitro studies, pre-clinical studies and several human clinical trials that support the use of astaxanthin as a dietary supplement. The data consistently suggests that astaxanthin may be an effective therapeutic tool for a variety of conditions and diseases, including cardiovascular, immune, inflammation, and neuro-degenerative concerns. Chronic bacterial (H. pylori) infection causes the production of DNA-damaging free radicals. Recent experimental studies, both in vivo and in vitro, have shown that vitamin C and astaxanthin are not only free radical scavengers but also show antimicrobial activity against H. pylori. A human study was conducted with astaxanthin being tested in H. pylori -positive patients. When administered five times per day for three weeks (8 mg doses), astaxanthin significantly decreased gastritis in all subjects, even though they remained positive for H. pylori.
A study published in the journal Nutrition & Metabolism investigated the action of astaxanthin in oxidative stress, inflammation and immune response in young healthy women. This was a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial in which the subjects were administered 0, 2, or 8 mg of astaxanthin for 8 weeks. Results were the researchers noted there was a significant increase in blood levels of astaxantin in both of the astaxanthin groups but not in the control group. DNA damage was 32 percent lower in the 2 mg astaxanthin group and 43 percent lower in the 8 mg astaxanthin group in comparison to the placebo group. Inflammation was also lower in both of the astaxanthin groups. In conclusion the researchers stated that astaxanthin supplementation decreased DNA damage, decreased inflammation and enhanced immune response in young women.1
1 Park JS, Chyun JH, Kim YK, et al. Astaxanthin decreased oxidative stress and inflammation and enhanced immune response in humans. Nutr Metab. Mar2010;7:18.