Astaxanthin Supplements and Benefits

Benefits of AstaxanthinAstaxanthin or AXT is a carotenoid. It is a pigment found throughout nature in anything red-ish orange, but particularly in proteins that are colored pink-ish orange such as certain seafood and ocean algae.

It doesn’t occur naturally in humans, but astaxanthin is one of the strongest antioxidants in the world – in fact, it has over 6,000 times the free radical scavenging capacity of vitamin C!

This should give you a hint about what astaxanthin is good for – quenching free radicals, regulating oxidative stress, reducing inflammation and protecting the body against all types of stress.

Benefits of Astaxanthin – The 5 Most Notable

Astaxanthin for Eye Health

Astaxanthin is found in high concentrations in the blood vessels near the retina of the eye. It possesses a unique ability to pass through a protective, blood-ocular membrane – it is one of only a few nutrients that can move between circulation straight into the eyes. The membrane prevents most harmful drugs and many nutrients from entering the eyes, but astaxanthin is small enough to pass through the barrier. From there, it flows into the aqueous fluid and retina where it protects the macula and optic nerve against oxidative damage [1].

Oxidative stress is a major cause of damage in the eye tissues, but what is it exactly? You’ve probably heard about free radicals – molecules that freely attack other molecules and cause radical damage to cells, tissues and organs. Antioxidants like astaxanthin are able to stop this damage in its tracks. But oxidative stress occurs when there is an imbalance of free radical activity to antioxidants. An escalation of oxidative stress naturally occurs as the body ages, but this can be accelerated by common sources of free radicals in the eyes:

  • UV exposure
  • Infections
  • Electrolyte imbalances
  • Toxic effects of cigarette smoke, including passive smoke exposure
  • Inadequate antioxidant intake through the diet [2]

Oxidative stress has been linked to serious eye conditions including:

  • Cataracts
  • Glaucoma
  • Age-related macular degeneration
  • Night blindness
  • Dry eye syndrome
  • Blepharitis and conjunctivitis

Astaxanthin may keep free radicals under control, reduce oxidative stress, and help to prevent these conditions.

  • One study from 2013 investigated the impact of astaxanthin supplementation on the levels of this antioxidant within the eyes, and whether it helped to relieve oxidative stress there. Patients who were undergoing bilateral cataract surgery volunteered for the research. During the surgery on the first eye, surgeons took a sample of aqueous humor (fluid) from within the eye. The participants were then instructed to take a dose of 6mg of supplemental astaxanthin every day for 2 weeks. Another sample of aqueous humor was taken during the surgery on the other eye, and the fluid was compared to the original sample. Sure enough, there was a huge increase in antioxidant activity within the second sample, showing that just 2 weeks of taking an astaxanthin supplement can protect the eyes against oxidative damage. [1]

Astaxanthin for Vision

Not only can astaxanthin help to protect again serious eye conditions, it may help to improve vision.

  • In 2002, a study found that people who work at computer screens could improve their vision by taking 5mg of astaxanthin for four weeks. Supplementing with astaxanthin made it easier for the participants to focus on close objects by supporting the flexibility of their eye lenses. The participants reported feeling like their vision was more “sharp”, experiencing less blurring and eye fatigue. [3]
  • A later study in 2009 found higher doses of astaxanthin can cause an even greater improvement to vision. Middle-aged and older people with symptoms of eye strain were given 6mg of astaxanthin each day for four weeks. The participants reported that their symptoms had improved and they felt they had sharper vision – these findings were backed up by objective vision measurements [4].

Astaxanthin for Cardiovascular Health

Cardiovascular diseases (CVDs) such as heart attack, stroke and peripheral vascular disease were responsible for over 16 million deaths worldwide in 2010. These and other CVDs are usually caused by or linked to atherosclerosis, a thickening and hardening of the walls of the arteries.

A driving force behind this is – you guessed it – oxidative stress.

Free radicals can cause direct damage to the walls of the arteries, increasing inflammation and scar tissue. Oxidative stress also damages LDL-cholesterol while it is in the blood stream – once it has been oxidized, LDL-cholesterol is more likely to stick to the walls of the arteries where it thickens and causes plaque to build up. [8]

Antioxidants such as vitamin C, vitamin E and beta-carotene have long been known to prevent atherosclerosis, and now researchers are investigating the potential for astaxanthin to protect against arterial damage and preserve LDL-cholesterol carriers.

  • Human studies are in early stages, but so far they have shown that astaxanthin can be absorbed into LDL-cholesterol, decrease the oxidation of fats, and even reduce the total level of LDL-cholesterol found in the blood [5 – 7].

Astaxanthin for Exercise Recovery

Muscle damage, immune system stress, and fatigue are all driven by oxidative stress overwhelming the available antioxidant processes in the body. If you’re looking for a way to train harder for longer, astaxanthin may be the answer.

  • A 2012 study investigated the use of astaxanthin supplements to prevent muscle damage in elite young soccer players. A group of thirty-two young men were given either an astaxanthin supplement, or a placebo, to take for three months. Measurements of their athletic performance were taken before and after the study period, and showed that compared to the placebo taking astaxanthin significantly protected the muscles against damage [8].
  • In 2015, researchers from this study went on to investigate why that might be. They found that astaxanthin significantly reduces inflammation and markers of oxidative stress (no surprise there), and significantly boosts the immune system. Further studies suggest that it takes 3 – 5 weeks of consistent intake, but supplementation can improve energy metabolism, performance and recovery [12].

Translation: astaxanthin supplements may help to prevent the onset of sickness, injury and stiffness from overtraining! [9]

Astaxanthin for Brain Health & Mood

Ageing is the primary risk factor for neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s disease. Researchers believe this is because ageing leads to inflammation, a loss of antioxidant activity, and elevated levels of oxidative stress in the brain.

For example, reactive oxygen species are a type of free radical that have important roles in normal brain function – but as antioxidant levels naturally fall in the brain, the number of reactive oxygen species increases, leading to oxidative stress, tissue damage and nerve dysfunction. This is a nasty recipe for neuro-degeneration, dementia, and poor learning abilities.

Astaxanthin may help to reverse this aging process. The evidence shows that astaxanthin can quell the toxic effects of inflammation in the brain, and protect DNA. It may even help the brain to remain “elastic” and promote the growth of new brain cells in the areas of the brain responsible for memory and learning! [11]

  • A small, double-blind placebo-controlled study of 96 elderly participants showed supplementing with astaxanthin for 12 weeks significantly improved cognitive function, learning, working memory, reaction time and attention [13].

As an anti-inflammatory agent, astaxanthin may help to boost mood, too. There is a growing body of research that shows a link between inflammation and sadness, anger, and symptoms of depression and anxiety, and early studies are suggesting that astaxanthin may provide some relief [14].

How to Take Astaxanthin

Astaxanthin is generally harvested from Haemotococeus lacustris algae, but may come from krill. This powerful antioxidant doesn’t come cheap – be prepared to pay a premium for this incredible nutrient, and steer clear of any products that are suspiciously cheap…

Bulk powders with a low price tag are often sold as “fish food” – these are usually synthetic astaxanthin made from petrochemicals, designed to turn farm-raised salmon an attractive shade of pink to mimic the natural pink of free salmon that eat genuine astaxanthin.

Dosage ranges are wildly different from one study to the next. Some use a single dose of 100mg, while others go as low as 3mg for 2 weeks. The average effective dose appears to be 6mg.

Like all carotenoids, astaxanthin is more effective when taken with other antioxidants. Some supplements will include these in their formulations, or single astaxanthin can be taken with a meal that includes lots of colorful vegetables to ensure it has plenty of antioxidant friends to work with.

Editors Note: No serious side effects or adverse reactions have been reported from taking astaxanthin, but speak to a qualified naturopath or nutritionist for personalized advice.

The Best 5 Astaxanthin Supplements

#5 DEVA Astaxanthin (4mg, 30 capsules)

Deva AstaxanthinDEVA have packed a good dose of 4mg of astaxanthin in each vegan-friendly capsule. Just one a day will provide a low but effective therapeutic dose, or double-up for a stronger antioxidant hit. With just astaxanthin in the ingredients list, this is an affordable choice but it’s a good idea to take it with a meal that contains other antioxidant foods and healthy fats.

#4 Helios Astaxanthin (12mg, 60 capsules)

Quality Astaxanthin SupplementsHello, therapeutic dose! Each capsule of Helios Astaxanthin contains 12mg of astaxanthin from Haemotococeus lacustris. Cold pressed extra virgin olive oil has been added as a delivering agent for the fat-soluble astaxanthin. This product is non-GMO and formulated without synthetic ingredients, fillers or gluten. The only hesitation we have about this supplement is the gelatin capsule – no good for vegans.

#3 BioAstin Hawaiian Astaxanthin (12mg, 50 capsules)

Bio Astin AstanxanthinThis vegan formulation contains Haemotococeus lacustris with a combination of healthy oils and vitamin E tocopherols in a vegan-friendly capsule. Each soft gel contains 12mg of astaxanthin from algae grown and harvested in Kona, Hawaii. The product is one of the most popular on the market and has plenty of 5 star reviews on Amazon. Check it out.

#2 Sports Research Astaxanthin with Coconut Oil (12mg, 60 capsules)

Sports Research Astaxanthin SupplementSports Research have combined Haemotococeus lacustris astaxanthin with coconut oil to boost its absorption into the blood. They’ve also included natural vitamin E tocopherols in a vegan-friendly capsule to protect the astaxanthin from oxidation. Each capsule delivers a whopping 12mg of astaxanthin – it just takes one per day to get a therapeutic dose, and you don’t need to take this supplement with food. Easy!

#1 Vision Max 20/20 (3mg, 60 capsules)

Saffron Vision MaxIf you’re looking for an astaxanthin supplement for eye health, you’ve found it – each capsule of Vision Max 20/20 contains 3mg of Haemotococeus lacustris-derived astaxanthin, along with strong doses of vision-supporting ingredients including carotenoids, saffron, and curcuminoids from turmeric. This formulation isn’t just for vision, though – this is a powerful combination of anti-inflammatory antioxidants for immune support, exercise recovery and brain health. The capsules are vegan-friendly, non-GMO, gluten-free and made in the USA.


About James Lyons

James Lyons (BHSc Nutritional Medicine) is a clinical nutritionist, medical writer, and educator. He specialises in plant-based nutrition and is passionate about improving public access to reliable and accurate health information.

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