Astaxanthin

What other names is Astaxanthin known by?

Astaxanthine, Astaxantina, Dihydroxy-3,3' dioxo-4,4' bêta-carotène, Microalgae, Microalgue, Micro-Algue, Ovoester, 3,3'-dihydroxy-4,4'-diketo-beta-carotene, 3S,3'S-astaxanthin, 3R,3'R-astaxanthin, 3R,3'S-astaxanthin.

What is Astaxanthin?

Astaxanthin is a reddish pigment that belongs to a group of chemicals called carotenoids. It occurs naturally in certain algae and causes the pink or red color in salmon, trout, lobster, shrimp, and other seafood.

Astaxanthin is taken by mouth for treating Alzheimer's disease, Parkinson's disease, stroke, high cholesterol, age-related macular degeneration (age-related vision loss), and preventing cancer. It is also used for metabolic syndrome, which is a group of conditions that increase the risk of heart disease, stroke and diabetes. It is also used for improving exercise performance, decreasing muscle damage after exercise, and decreasing muscle soreness after exercise. Also, astaxanthin is taken by mouth for carpal tunnel syndrome, dyspepsia, male infertility, symptoms of menopause, and rheumatoid arthritis.

Astaxanthin is applied directly to the skin to protect against sunburn, to reduce wrinkles, and for other cosmetic benefits. In food, it may be used as a feed supplement and food coloring additive for salmon, crabs, shrimp, chicken, and egg production.

Insufficient Evidence to Rate Effectiveness for...

  • Age-related macular degeneration (age-related vision loss). Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) occurs when a portion of retina becomes damaged. Early research shows that taking a product containing astaxanthin, lutein, zeaxanthin, vitamin E, vitamin C, zinc, and copper (Azyr by Sifi S.p.A) by mouth daily for 12 months improves damage in the center of the retina in people with AMD. It does not improve damage in the outer areas of the retina.
  • Carpal tunnel syndrome. Early research suggests that taking a combination product containing astaxanthin, lutein, beta-carotene, and vitamin E (BioAstin by Cyanotech) by mouth 3 times daily for 8 weeks does not reduce pain in people with carpal tunnel syndrome.
  • Indigestion (dyspepsia). Early research shows that taking 40 mg of astaxanthin (AstaCarox by AstaReal AB) daily for 4 weeks reduces reflux symptoms in people with indigestion. It seems to work best in people with indigestion due to H. pylori infection. A lower dose of 16 mg daily does not improve reflux symptoms. Neither dose reduces stomach pain, indigestion, or the amount of H. pylori bacteria in the stomach of people with indigestion.
  • Muscle damage caused by exercise. Early research shows that taking 4 mg of astaxanthin for 90 days does not reduce muscle damage caused by exercise in male soccer players.
  • Muscle soreness caused by exercise. Early research shows that taking a product containing astaxanthin, lutein, and safflower oil (BioAstin by Cyanotech) by mouth daily for 3 weeks does not reduce muscle soreness or improve muscle performance 4 days after exercise compared to taking only safflower oil.
  • Exercise performance. Research regarding the effects of astaxanthin on exercise performance is conflicting. Some early research shows that taking 4 mg of astaxanthin for 4 weeks decreases the time needed to complete a cycling exercise in trained male athletes. But other research shows that using a higher dose of astaxanthin daily for 4 weeks does not improve the time needed to complete a timed exercise.
  • High cholesterol. Early research suggests that taking 6-18 mg of astaxanthin (AstaReal Astaxanthin by Fuji Chemical Industry) daily for 12 weeks reduces blood fats called triglycerides and increases high-density lipoprotein (HDL or "good") cholesterol in people with high cholesterol. Other early research shows that taking a combination of astaxanthin, berberine, policosanol, red yeast rice, coenzyme Q10, and folic acid (Armolipid Plus by Rottapharm S.p.A.) by mouth for 4 weeks increases HDL cholesterol levels and lowers total cholesterol, low-density lipoprotein (LDL or "bad") cholesterol, and triglycerides in people with abnormal cholesterol levels.
  • Male infertility. Early research suggests that taking astaxanthin (AstaCarox by AstaReal AB) daily for 3 months increases the pregnancy rates of men considered to be infertile.
  • Menopausal symptoms. Early research suggests that taking a product containing astaxanthin, vitamin D3, lycopene, and citrus bioflavonoids (MF Afragil by Cor.Con. International Srl) daily for 8 weeks reduces menopausal symptoms such as hot flashes, joint pain, moodiness, and bladder problems.
  • Rheumatoid arthritis (RA). Early research shows that taking a product containing astaxanthin, lutein, vitamin A, vitamin E, and safflower oil (BioAstin by Cyanotech) 3 times daily for 8 weeks reduces pain and improves feelings of satisfaction in people with RA.
  • Wrinkled skin. Early research shows that taking 2-3 mg of astaxanthin by mouth twice daily for 6 weeks improves skin elasticity and reduces fine lines and wrinkles in middle-aged women and men. It also seems to improve the moisture content in the skin. Specific astaxanthin products have been evaluated (Astavita Astaxanthin by Astavita; AstaReal Oil 50F by Fuji Chemical Industry). Other research shows that taking astaxanthin by mouth twice daily along with applying1 mL of astaxanthin cream to the face twice daily for 8 weeks improves the appearance of skin wrinkles.
  • Other conditions.
More evidence is needed to rate the effectiveness of astaxanthin for these uses.

Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database rates effectiveness based on scientific evidence according to the following scale: Effective, Likely Effective, Possibly Effective, Possibly Ineffective, Likely Ineffective, and Insufficient Evidence to Rate (detailed description of each of the ratings).

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How does Astaxanthin work?

Astaxanthin is an antioxidant. This effect might protect cells from damage. Astaxanthin might also improve the way the immune system functions.

Are there safety concerns?

Astaxanthin is LIKELY SAFE when it is consumed in amounts found in food.

Astaxanthin is POSSIBLY SAFE when taken by mouth as a supplement. Astaxanthin has been used safely by itself in doses of 4 to 40 mg daily for up to 12 weeks. It has been used safely in combination with other carotenoids, vitamins, and minerals at 4 mg daily for up to 12 months. Side effects of astaxanthin may include increased bowel movements and red stool color. High doses of astaxanthin may cause stomach pain.

Special Precautions & Warnings:

Pregnancy and breast-feeding: Not enough is known about the use of astaxanthin during pregnancy and breast-feeding. Stay on the safe side and avoid use.

Are there any interactions with medications?



Medications changed by the liver (Cytochrome P450 2B6 [CYP2B6] substrates)
Interaction Rating: Moderate Be cautious with this combination.
Talk with your health provider.

Some medications are changed and broken down by the liver. Astaxanthin might increase how quickly the liver breaks down some medications. This might decrease the effectiveness of these medications. Before taking astaxanthin, talk to your healthcare provider if you are taking any medications that are changed by the liver.
Some medications changed by the liver include ketamine (Ketalar), phenobarbital, orphenadrine (Norflex), secobarbital (Seconal), and dexamethasone (Decadron).



Medications changed by the liver (Cytochrome P450 3A4 [CYP3A4] substrates)
Interaction Rating: Moderate Be cautious with this combination.
Talk with your health provider.

Some medications are changed and broken down by the liver. Astaxanthin might increase how quickly the liver breaks down some medications. This might decrease the effectiveness of these medications. Before taking astaxanthin, talk to your healthcare provider if you are taking any medications that are changed by the liver.
Some medications changed by the liver include some calcium channel blockers (diltiazem, nicardipine, verapamil), chemotherapeutic agents (etoposide, paclitaxel, vinblastine, vincristine, vindesine), antifungals (ketoconazole, itraconazole), glucocorticoids, fentanyl (Abstral, Actiq, Duragesic, Fentora, Sublimaze, others), losartan (Cozaar), fluoxetine (Prozac), midazolam (Versed), omeprazole (Prilosec), ondansetron (Zofran), propranolol (Inderal), fexofenadine (Allegra), and many others.

Dosing considerations for Astaxanthin.

The appropriate dose of astaxanthin depends on several factors such as the user's age, health, and several other conditions. At this time there is not enough scientific information to determine an appropriate range of doses for astaxanthin. Keep in mind that natural products are not always necessarily safe and dosages can be important. Be sure to follow relevant directions on product labels and consult your pharmacist or physician or other healthcare professional before using.

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Last Editorial Review: 3/29/2011

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