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Astaxanthin

Astaxanthin is an aquatic carotenoid like fucoxanthin, but is the red pigment in salmon and krill; the most stable of all carotenoids and touted to aid in eye health. Limited human evidence suggests that it has some positive effects on oxidative stress, but it's unclear if it's particularly effective for any health outcomes.

Our evidence-based analysis on astaxanthin features 123 unique references to scientific papers.

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Summary of Astaxanthin

Primary information, health benefits, side effects, usage, and other important details

What is Astaxanthin?

Astaxanthin is a red-pink pigment found in various seafoods, and also in the feathers of flamingos and quails. It is structurally similar to beta-carotene (pro-vitamin A) but has some chemical differences which may make it safer.

What are Astaxanthin's benefits?

It seems to reduce markers of oxidative stress, though it's unclear how potent it is and to what extent this translates to health benefits. It could possibly reduce oxidation of LDL and DNA damage, making it potentially good for cardiovascular health and anti-aging, though much more research is needed. It also may improve photoprotection and overall skin health, but again, much more research is needed.

What are Astaxanthin's side effects and drawbacks?

It's currently unknown if it has notable side effects, though large doses of antioxidants have been known to impair some of the adaptations to exercise such as mitochondrial biogenesis. Being a potent antioxidant, it's possible that even the small doses of astaxanthin commonly taken could have this effect, but we won't know until research properly tests it.

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How to Take

Medical Disclaimer

Recommended dosage, active amounts, other details

Astaxanthin appears to be recommended in the dosage range of 6-8mg daily, which is low enough that an enriched salmon oil or krill oil supplement may contain adequate levels. Doses of up to 20-50mg astaxanthin have been tolerated, although the exact toxicity and upper limit is not known.

Despite the above recommendations, the ideal dose of astaxanthin is currently not known.

Due to being a carotenoid, and related to the metabolism of Vitamin A (a fat soluble vitamin) it would be prudent to take astaxanthin alongside a meal.

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Human Effect Matrix

The Human Effect Matrix looks at human studies (it excludes animal and in vitro studies) to tell you what effects astaxanthin has on your body, and how strong these effects are.
Grade Level of Evidence
Robust research conducted with repeated double-blind clinical trials
Multiple studies where at least two are double-blind and placebo controlled
Single double-blind study or multiple cohort studies
Uncontrolled or observational studies only
Level of Evidence
? The amount of high quality evidence. The more evidence, the more we can trust the results.
Outcome Magnitude of effect
? The direction and size of the supplement's impact on each outcome. Some supplements can have an increasing effect, others have a decreasing effect, and others have no effect.
Consistency of research results
? Scientific research does not always agree. HIGH or VERY HIGH means that most of the scientific research agrees.
Notes
grade-b Minor High See all 5 studies
General reductions in oxidative stress have been found with supplementation of 4-20 mg of astaxanthin, though the expected effect size is unclear and much more research is needed.
grade-b Minor High See all 7 studies
Studies generally support a small-modest reduction in lipid peroxidation. More research is needed in various different health conditions.
grade-b - Very High See all 6 studies
Overall, studies don't support the effect of astaxanthin across a variety of doses and health conditions.
grade-b - Very High See all 8 studies
Most studies don't support an effect, though two studies support a small effect in the case of either type 2 diabetes or smoking, circumstances in which oxidative stress is elevated. Much more research is needed, however.
grade-b - High See all 11 studies
Studies don't support the use of astaxanthin for increasing HDL-C, though more studies in people with low HDL are needed.
grade-b - High See all 9 studies
Studies don't suggest an improvement in LDL-cholesterol overall. There are a couple of studies where there was a small reduction in people with elevated levels, but this needs to be researched far more.
grade-b - Very High See all 8 studies
No apparent effect from many studies, however, studies in which the participants' livers are considerably damaged are needed.
grade-b - Very High See all 11 studies
No apparent effect from many studies, however, more trials with people with hyperlipidemia are needed.
grade-b - High See all 12 studies
Studies generally don't support an effect, though a small reduction is possible in people with type 2 diabetes or hyperlipidemia. More studies are needed.
grade-b - Very High See all 3 studies
No apparent effect.
grade-c Notable Very High See all 3 studies
Superoxide dismutase seems to be notably increased by astaxanthin at doses as low as 5 mg, with unclear benefits from higher doses.
grade-c Notable - See study
One study found an increase in the pregnancy rate of couples when the man took astaxanthin and was previously described as being infertile. Much more research is needed.
grade-c Notable - See study
Notable reduction in one study and simultaneous improvement in fertility.
grade-c Notable - See study
One study found a notable increase compared with placebo. More research is needed.
grade-c Minor Very High See 2 studies
One study found a notable increase in groups with 6, 12, and 18 mg doses, and the greatest in the 12 mg group. Another study barely found a change. More research is needed.
grade-c Minor Very High See 2 studies
There's a possible improvement in endurance running, but more research is needed.
grade-c Minor - See study
There was a small decrease in one study in overweight subjects.
grade-c - Minor - See study
One study found an improvement in endurance during a 20 km cycling time trial. Much more research is needed.
grade-c Minor - See 2 studies
Two studies found a decrease in women and no effect in infertile men. More research is needed for both sexes.
grade-c Minor Very High See 2 studies
One study found a reduction in muscle damage in young soccer players over the course of 90 days. Another didn't find an effect in normal, healthy subjects.
grade-c Minor - See study
One study found an increase in power output during a VO2 max test. More research is needed.
grade-c Minor Very High See 2 studies
Two studies have found improvements from supplementation (both studies) and an astaxanthin-containing group (one study).
grade-c Minor - See 2 studies
One study failed to find an increase in total moisture, though it did find a reduction in total epidermal water loss, while another study did find an increase in moisture in irradiated skin.
grade-c Minor Very High See 2 studies
One study found a reduction in wrinkles and improvement in elasticity, while another found a reduction in roughness and improvement in subjectively rated texture.
grade-c Minor - See study
One study found a reduction in seminal reactive oxygen species, but no other changes.
grade-c - High See all 4 studies
Inconsistent effects and more evidence opposes an effect than supports it.
grade-c - - See study
No apparent effect in one study in overweight subjects.
grade-c - - See 2 studies
No apparent effect on flow-mediated dilation in one study, but an increase in blood transit time in another. More research is needed.
grade-c - Very High See all 5 studies
Studies overall don't support an effect, though the one study in type 2 diabetes did. It's possible that astaxanthin has an effect through reducing hyperglycemia-related endothelial damage, but much more research is needed.
grade-c - Moderate See all 5 studies
Evidence is mixed, and it's possible that it could have a reduction through reducing oxidative stress, though much more research is needed, and the study in smokers failed to find an effect.
grade-c - Very High See all 6 studies
No apparent effect in 6 studies.
grade-c - - See study
No apparent effect in one study.
grade-c - - See study
No apparent effect in one study.
grade-c - - See study
No apparent effect in one study.
grade-c - Very High See all 3 studies
No apparent effect in 3 studies.
grade-c - Very High See 2 studies
No apparent effect at rest or during exercise.
grade-c - Very High See all 5 studies
No apparent effect across 5 studies.
grade-c - - See study
No apparent effect in one study.
grade-c - - See study
No ap[parent effect in one study.
grade-c - - See study
No apparent effect during exercise in one study.
grade-c - Very High See all 3 studies
No apparent effect in 3 studies.
grade-c - - See study
No apparent effect in one study.
grade-c - Very High See all 5 studies
No apparent effect in most studies. The one study in smokers found a notable increase, however.
grade-c - Very High See all 3 studies
No apparent effect in 3 studies.
grade-c - - See study
No apparent effect in one study.
grade-c - - See study
No apparent effect in one study.
grade-c - - See study
No apparent effect in one study.
grade-c - Very High See 2 studies
No apparent effect in 2 studies.
grade-c - Very High See all 5 studies
No apparent effect in 5 studies.
grade-c - Very High See all 4 studies
The one study in smokers found an increase, but the 3 other studies didn't. More research is needed.
grade-d Notable Very High See 2 studies
One study found a large reduction in 8-hydroxy-2'-deoxyguanosine, while the other found a small effect. More research is needed,
grade-d Notable - See study
One study found a notable reduction compared with placebo. More research is needed.
grade-d Notable - See study
One study found a considerable decrease in an astaxanthin-only group, a group that combined it with chocolate, and one that utilized chocolate to increase absorption, with no notable differences between them, but the difference was statistically significant compared with placebo.
grade-d Minor - See study
One study found a reduction from 8 mg but not 2 or 0. More research is needed.
grade-d Minor - See study
One study found an increase in estradiol in menopausal women. More research is needed.
grade-d Minor - See study
One study found a considerable increase from 8 mg but not 2 or 0. More research is needed.
grade-d Minor - See study
One study found an increase in the 6 mg group compared with 0, but not the 12 mg group. More research is needed.
grade-d Minor Moderate See 2 studies
One study found no effect in a 2 mg group, but a considerable increase in an 8 mg group. More research is needed.
grade-d Minor - See study
One study found a somewhat greater increase than the placebo, which was statistically significant. More research is needed.
grade-d Minor - See study
One study found an increase from astaxanthin on its own, or combined with dark chocolate compared with chocolate alone in aging participants.
grade-d
Minor
- See study
One study found a small decrease in a 2 mg group and an increase in an 8 mg group, compared with a smaller increase in the placebo group. More research is needed.
grade-d Minor - See study
There was an increase in one study in renal transplant patients over the course of a year
grade-d Minor - See study
Small reduction in one study.
grade-d
Minor
- See study
No apparent effect in H. Pylori negative participants, but a reduction in positive participants.
grade-d Minor - See study
There was somewhat of an increase in one study compared with placebo.
grade-d Minor - See study
One study didn't find a difference compared with placebo for 2 mg, but found a greater increase from 8 mg.
grade-d Minor - See study
There was a reduction in one study. More research is needed.
grade-d Minor - See study
There was a small reduction in one study, which wasn't statistically significant.
grade-d - - See study
No apparent effect in one year-long study.
grade-d - - See study
There was possibly a small reduction in one year-long study in transplant patients, but the difference wasn't statistically significant. More research is needed.
grade-d - - See study
No apparent effect in one study.
grade-d - Very High See 2 studies
Two studies failed to find effects during exercise.
grade-d - - See study
No apparent effect in type 2 diabetics over the course of 8 weeks, eating what they chose.
grade-d - - See study
No apparent effect in one study.
grade-d - - See study
No apparent effect in one study.
grade-d - - See study
No apparent effect in one study during exercise.
grade-d - Moderate See 2 studies
No apparent effect in one study, and an effect only in the low dose group but not the high dose group in another.
grade-d - - See study
No apparent effect in one study.
grade-d - Very High See all 3 studies
No apparent effect in 3 studies.
grade-d - - See study
No apparent effect in one study, whether H. Pylori positive or negative, though reflux was reduced.
grade-d - Very High See 2 studies
No apparent effect on gastric inflammation in one study, while there was a reduction in Pentraxin-3 but not c-reactive protein in another.
grade-d - - See study
No apparent effect in one study.
grade-d - - See study
No apparent effect in one study.
grade-d - Moderate See 2 studies
One study found a small increase while another didn't. More research is needed.
grade-d - - See study
No apparent effect.
grade-d - - See study
No apparent effect in one study.
grade-d - Very High See 2 studies
No apparent effect in two studies.
grade-d - - See study
No apparent effect in one study.
grade-d - - See study
No apparent effect in one study, not during exercise.
grade-d - - See study
No apparent effect in one study.
grade-d - - See study
No apparent effect in one study.
grade-d - - See study
There was a small, nonsignificant reduction in one study
grade-d - - See study
No apparent effect in one study.
grade-d - - See study
No apparent effect in one study.
grade-d - - See study
No apparent effect in one study.
grade-d - - See study
No apparent effect in one study.

Studies Excluded from Consideration

  • Confounded with a variety of other supplements[1]

  • Confounded with lutein [2]

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Things to Note

Is a Form Of

Other Functions:

Also Known As

Cardax (Disodium Disuccinate Astaxanthin), 3, 3′-dihydroxy-b, b-carotene-4, 4′-dione

Do Not Confuse With

Ashwagandha, Astralagus

  • Various sources of astaxanthin (food, bacterial, synthetic) may have different bioavailabilities and mixture of isomers.

  • Astaxanthin is fat soluble, and should be taken with food

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Click here to see all 123 references.