Astaxanthin is a super potent antioxidant that’s one of the most popular anti-aging and anti-inflammatory supplements out there.
It’s one of the core ingredients that gives compounds like krill oil their powerful antioxidant effects, and it works great as a free-standing supplement in its own right.
If you want to leverage the power of astaxanthin for your longevity, anti-aging, or overall wellness routine, check out these key benefits supported by scientific research.
1. Astaxanthin is one of the most powerful antioxidants out there
Astaxanthin is found in a lot of marine animals and plants and may contribute to why these foods are particularly healthy.
It is commonly referred to as “the king of carotenoids” and the best part is that it doesn’t cause harmful oxidation in the body.
It gives the red-pink pigment in different seafoods, and is also seen in the feathers of quails and flamingos. While it is similar in structure to beta-carotene, it is very much safer than the latter.
2. Astaxanthin has been heavily studied for its health benefits
There have been over 500 different studies conducted on astaxanthin and its medical uses and benefits.
A research published in the Journal of Nutrition and Metabolism, stated that astaxanthin could reduce stress and inflammation while strengthening the immune system (1).
Different studies have also stated that astaxanthin can be as much as: 6000 more potent than vitamin C, 800 times more powerful than CoQ10, and 550 times stronger than Vitamin E.
Astaxanthin was also found to be at least 500 times stronger than the catechins that are found in green tea.
It is truly the king of all carotenoids, and has a long list of amazing health benefits. There are very few supplements that offer the range of health benefits offered by astaxanthin. So let’s take a more detailed look at its many amazing health benefits.
3. The antioxidant properties of astaxanthin my help slow the aging process
Research in lab animals shows that a 20mg daily astaxanthin supplement for 4 months can enhance cellular function in white blood cells, and leads to higher glutathione levels (2).
Scientists also found that it helped repair damage to the DNA and protein of animals, which is closely linked to the aging process in the body.
Astaxanthin was considered as a food supplement in the 1990s, and there wasn’t much research available on its beta carotene or carotenoids properties. After numerous hundred studies, were conducted on it, did the anti-inflammatory properties gain more exposure.
4. Astaxanthin can improve skin elasticity and texture
In a study conducted in Japan, scientists gave 3 mg of astaxanthin to 30 women, who were between the ages of 20 and 55 at the end of dinner and breakfast (3). The researchers found that astaxanthin actually improved the women’s skin by removing wrinkles, age spots, and making the texture better.
Other studies have found that astaxanthin may actually be the most powerful anti-aging antioxidant found in the world (4) and has a whole host of other benefits such as improved endurance and energy.
5. Astaxanthin may reduce your risk factors for heart disease
As with other antioxidants, such as those found in fruits and vegetables or green superfood drinks, astaxanthin has long been suspected of helping to reduce risk factors for heart disease, because many of these risk factors are linked to systemic inflammation in your body.
A study published in 2009 in the journal Future Cardiology outlines three reasons astaxanthin should be considered as a supplement for reducing heart disease risk (5).
First, numerous studies showing a link between inflammation and heart disease.
Second, astaxanthin has potent antioxidant effects of astaxanthin, including a clinical study on nearly 200 human subjects that has found that astaxanthin increased biomarkers of antioxidants.
Third, it pointed to studies on animal models of heart disease, where astaxanthin was found to exert a direct effect on the cellular mechanisms that lead to heart disease.
While astaxanthin has not been studied in large clinical research on its direct effect on heart disease to the extent of, for example, fish oil, these preliminary results show that it holds a lot of promise as a potential supplement for reducing the risk of heart disease.
6. Astaxanthin may slow cognitive decline and improve brain function
Heart disease is just one chronic disease that’s been linked to high levels of inflammation in the body. Another common long-term health problem that appears to be associated with inflammation is cognitive decline (for example, from Alzheimer’s disease).
Some research on rats suggests that astaxanthin increases the expression of specific genes in the brain that have neuroprotective effects, providing preliminary evidence that astaxanthin could be useful in reducing or preventing cognitive decline (6).
Another study published on healthy older adults found that taking a supplement containing 12 mg of astaxanthin per day for 12 weeks was an effective way to boost cognitive function in older adults, albeit healthy ones who did not have diagnosed cognitive decline or dementia.
While there’s more research to be done here, astaxanthin is definitely an antioxidant that should be considered for its potential ability to improve cognitive function and protect the brain.
Astaxanthin side effects
The best part about astaxanthin is that there isn’t a study today that has anything bad to say about it.
Research shows astaxanthin is safe at a wide range of doses. Remarkably, it is completely safe to be consumed as a supplement, and has been taken safely in doses ranging from 4 to 40mg on a daily basis for around 12 weeks. It has also been used safely with other carotenoids, minerals, and vitamins as well.
Don’t take astaxanthin if you are pregnant or nursing, since it hasn’t been researched in these settings. Women that are pregnant or breast-feeding need to be careful about taking the astaxanthin supplement, since there is not enough research conducted on the effects of astaxanthin during breast-feeding or pregnancy.
Talk with your doctor if you are taking certain medications, like warfarin or MAOIs, that might interact with astaxanthin. These medications are known to interact with a wide range of supplements, and while there isn’t any info on astaxanthin specifically, it’s still a smart decision to talk with your doctor first in these cases.
Aim for at least 4 mg of astaxanthin per day. Astaxanthin has been studied in doses ranging from four milligrams all the way up to 40 mg of supplemental astaxanthin per day.
The benefits of astaxanthin in the context of diets rich in seafood can be achieved with a supplement that provides at least 4 mg of astaxanthin per day.
Some studies have used doses of up to 12 mg per day. If you are looking for more powerful antioxidant effects, you may consider a dose of up to 9-12 mg per day, though doses above and beyond this have not been demonstrated as effective in clinical research done so far (7).
The high end of this dosage range (i.e. 12 mg per day) may be necessary to get benefits on cognitive function, while lower doses (i.e. 4 mg per day) appear sufficient to get skin health benefits.
Astaxanthin benefits FAQ
Q: Is astaxanthin bad for you?
A: In terms of its safety and side effect profile, astaxanthin is quite safe according to research conducted to date. One study published in the journal Marine Drugs noted that no adverse effects of astaxanthin have been reported in clinical studies, and numerous studies have reported that it reduces biomarkers of oxidative stress or risk factors for chronic diseases like heart disease (8). Given its excellent safety profile, it’s pretty easy to say that no, astaxanthin is not bad.
Q: Can you get astaxanthin in fish oil?
A: Because astaxanthin is only found in small amounts in the most common sources of fish oil, a fish oil supplement is not the best way to get astaxanthin into your supplementation routine.
However, the same is not true for krill oil: because krill is rich in astaxanthin, krill oil is another way to incorporate astaxanthin into your daily diet.
Q: Why is astaxanthin red?
A: The deep red color of astaxanthin comes from its molecular structure, and is closely related to its antioxidant capabilities. Like many other foods with bright or deep colors (berries, spinach, broccoli, etc.), the vivid color of astaxanthin is caused by the antioxidant capabilities of the molecule, which capture certain wavelengths of light.
The red color of astaxanthin is also what gives the orange or red hue to many different marine-based foods, like salmon, shrimp, and krill oil.
Q: What are some astaxanthin sources?
A: In nature, astaxanthin occurs almost exclusively in seafood. Common sources include salmon, shrimp, and krill (the deep red color of krill oil is due to the presence of astaxanthin). If you can think of a seafood that is red or orange, it probably has a lot of astaxanthin in it.
Astaxanthin also occurs in some microalgae and fungi, though these are far less common sources for getting astaxanthin in a typical diet. If your diet is not very high in seafood and you still want the benefits of astaxanthin, taking an astaxanthin supplement is an easy way to get it.
One four milligram capsule of an astaxanthin supplement has about as much astaxanthin in it as a six-ounce salmon steak (and eating one of those per day could get expensive).
Related: Our best astaxanthin picks
If you’re serious about supplementing for long-term health, astaxanthin is a great addition.
Its powerful antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties make it great for sustaining cognitive function in old age, fighting risk factors for heart disease, and slowing down aging-related changes in skin and immune system function.