What Are the Benefits of Astaxanthin?

Astaxanthin has been around a long, long time, but it has only recently begun to be recognized as the super-antioxidant that it really is. This reddish-colored pigment is produced by microalgae, and ingested by several different forms of marine life, including salmon, lobster, shrimp, and other red-hued organisms.

Often called "the king of the carotenoids," astaxanthin is 10 to 100 times more powerful than other carotenoids like beta-carotene and lycopene. Plus, unlike several other antioxidants, astaxanthin does not become pro-oxidant in the body. This makes it one of the most potent and powerfully effective antioxidants that one can ingest. 

Astaxanthin is an antioxidant, so it naturally reduces free radicals in the body. But besides that, it also significantly reduces the oxidative load in the body by protecting the cells against oxidation. Because of astaxanthin's unique molecular structure, this red-colored pigment is an extremely powerful antioxidant that is very effective against singlet oxygen. It has a powerful scavenging ability for lipid and free radicals, and effectively breaks peroxide chain reactions.

The following list represents just a few examples of how astaxanthin positively affects the body, and benefits one's health:

Astaxanthin and the immune system

Astaxanthin has been shown to reduce induced swelling in rats while vitamin E has no effect. It also helps fight the symptoms of ulcer disease related to Helicobacter pylori. It reduces the symptoms of gastric inflammation and is also associated with a modification of the response to inflammation. Astaxanthin's antioxidant properties may explain its role in inflammation.

A number of in vitro and in vivo assays in animal models have shown that astaxanthin significantly influences immune function. In vitro, astaxanthin stimulates antibody production by mouse spleen cells stimulated with sheep red blood cells. This action is at least partly exerted on T cells and, more particularly, on T helper cells. In aged mice, astaxanthin can partially restore the impaired humoral immune response. In vitro studies on human blood cells have shown that astaxanthin stimulates immunoglobulin production in response to T cell-dependent stimuli.


There is considerable evidence that certain carotenoids may be involved in protecting the retina from oxidative damage. A study on rats shows that astaxanthin effectively attenuates retinal lesions while protecting photoreceptors from degeneration.

The results of this study suggest that astaxanthin may be beneficial in the prevention and treatment of neuronal damage associated with age-related macular degeneration.

The photoreceptors of the astaxanthin-fed animals were less damaged by UV attack and healed faster than those of rats not fed astaxanthin.

The structure of astaxanthin is similar to lutein and zeaxanthin, two antioxidants that have been shown to reduce the risk of nuclear cataracts. But, while similar, astaxanthin has a stronger antioxidant activity and UV-light protection effect, both of which point to it being an excellent supplement for eye health maintenance.  It increases retinal capillary blood flow and blood flow velocity to the eyes while improving depth perception.


Astaxanthin has natural anti-inflammatory properties, but unlike prescription analgesics, it comes with no risk of addiction, heartburn, or gastrointestinal ulcers. Specifically, natural forms of astaxanthin block inflammatory COX2 enzymes, while at the same time suppressing serum levels of nitric oxide, interleukin 1B, prostaglandin E2, C Reactive Protein (CRP), and TNF-alpha (tumor necrosis factor alpha).

A double-blind, placebo-controlled clinical study was conducted and showed excellent results with astaxanthin.

Astaxanthin painlessly improved grip strength by 93% in 8 weeks in people suffering from tendonitis.


In humans, astaxanthin is transported by VLDL, LDL and HDL. In an in vitro assay and a human study, daily ingestion of 3.6 mg of astaxanthin for two consecutive weeks protected LDL-cholesterol from in vitro-induced oxidation. In an animal model study, astaxanthin supplementation resulted in increased blood levels of HDL-cholesterol, the form of blood cholesterol inversely associated with cardiovascular disease.

Astaxanthin could thus have a beneficial effect on heart health by modifying the levels of LDL and HDL cholesterol, but also by reducing the inflammation supposedly associated with the development of cardiovascular diseases.


One of the reasons why salmon is red in color has to do with the high levels of astaxanthin that it contains. Astaxanthin has powerful UV-blocking properties that help protect the fish eggs from sun-related damage. Taking astaxanthin can also provide humans with similar health benefits. As a side benefit, the antioxidant has also been shown to improve skin moisture levels, elasticity and smoothness while reducing wrinkles, freckles, and spots.


Sockeye salmon has some of the highest levels of astaxanthin found in nature, with the exception of the purest form of the pigment. In fact, this is the reason behind the vibrant red flesh of the fish. Astaxanthin is also considered the primary reason why salmon have the energy it takes to make their arduous upstream voyages each year. Natural forms of this antioxidant also provide humans with increased strength, while also offering increased recovery from exercise.  It promotes fast recovery from exercise, improves endurance and strength, decreases lactic acid levels and prevents muscle fatigue as well as joint and muscle soreness after exercise.

Astaxanthin's antioxidant properties have also been shown to help improve heart heath, cellular health, brain health, the immune system and it protects cells as well as the nervous system from oxidate damage.

Astaxanthin Supplements

The sources of astaxanthin that are found in nature are not where the highest concentrations of this antioxidant come from, in terms of human consumption. While humans can enjoy the health benefits of astaxanthin by eating plenty of salmon, algae, and shellfish, the greatest concentration for humans comes in the form of all-natural astaxanthin supplements, like those manufactured by Gandalf Astaxanthin in Canada.