What is Astaxanthin?


Astaxanthin  is showing the ability to help keep your heart pumping powerfully, your vision clear as crystal, your brain witty and fast–and SO MUCH MORE. Today I want to introduce you to what some doctors think could be the defining natural miracle of the 21st century.

It’s called astaxanthin, but I call it “THE ALPHA ANTIOXIDANT”because the strength with which it hunts down age-inducing free radicals–is something we’ve never seen before.

And there’s one more piece of good news you might be interested in. This is a true anti-aging miracle–that is downright affordable. In fact, this revolutionary marvel comes from one of the most affordable sources on Earth.

Scientists long ago discovered that a class of naturally occurring pigments called carotenoids held powerful antioxidant properties that are crucial for your health. Carotenoids are the compounds in your foods that give you that vibrant cornucopia of color—from green grasses to red beets, to the spectacular yellows and oranges of bell peppers—as well as all of the beautiful flowers in your garden. Only recently has astaxanthin jumped to the front of the line in terms of its status as a “supernutrient,” becoming the focus of a large and growing number of peer-reviewed scientific studies.

There are only two main sources of astaxanthin—(1) the microalgae that produce it, and (2) the sea creatures that consume the algae (such as salmon, shellfish, and krill).

Of these, the microalgae, called H. pluvialis, is the most potent source. The algae produce astaxanthin in response to stressors such as excessive sunlight, changes in the water pH, or lack of nutrients. The astaxanthin offers such potent antioxidant protection, these algae can survive up to 30 years without water during times of drought. Once the water reappears, the algae pops back to life. Compared gram for gram:

  • Salmon contains 5-40 parts per million of astaxanthin
  • Krill contains about 120 parts per million of astaxanthin
  • Shrimp provides about 1,200 parts per million, and
  • Microalgae (H. pluvalis) contains 40,000 parts per million

“Astaxanthin serves as a “force field” to protect … for 30 years!”


Astaxanthin is now thought to be the most powerful antioxidant found in nature. This pigment is the most commonly occurring red carotenoid in marine and aquatic animals and is what gives salmon their characteristic pink color.

Astaxanthin is leaps and bounds more powerful than beta-carotene, alpha-tocopherol, lycopene and lutein, other members of its chemical family. It exhibits VERY STRONG free radical scavenging activity and helps protect your cells, organs and body tissues from oxidative damage and inflammation.

What Makes Astaxanthin Special?

  • Astaxanthin is by far the most powerful carotenoid antioxidant when it comes to free radical scavenging:  6,000 times stronger than vitamin C, 500 times stronger than vitamin E , and 3,000 times stronger than resveratrol and quercetin.



  • Astaxanthin crosses the blood-brain barrier AND the blood-retinal barrier (beta carotene and lycopene do not), which brings antioxidant and anti-inflammatory protection to your eyes, brain and central nervous system and reducing your risk for cataracts, macular degeneration,blindnessdementia and Alzheimer’s disease.
  • And how about some more great news? There have been no adverse reactions found for people taking astaxanthin.



  • Astaxanthin is soluble in lipids, so it incorporates into cell membranes.

  • It’s a potent UVB absorber and reduces DNA damage.

  • It’s a very potent natural antiinflammatory.


Silent inflammation is the “evil twin” of oxidation.


Although having a red, swollen and painful sprained ankle is a clear sign you are experiencing inflammation, you may have an undercurrent of inflammation in your body and not know it. And silence can be deadly.

Inflammation comes and goes in your body as part of the normal healing process. However, prolonged inflammation can be devastating.

Many people are experiencing ongoing, low-level inflammation without knowing it—a crucial factor behind chronic disease.  This systemic or “silent” inflammation is the evil twin of oxidation, and where you find one, you nearly always find the other. But this type of inflammation doesn’t cause you any pain—it lives “under the radar,” quietly lingering for years and even decades, where it silently injures your heart, brain and immune system.

Left unchecked, systemic inflammation can lead to anything from asthma to rheumatoid arthritis to Alzheimer’s disease. In fact, the number of diseases linked to chronic inflammation is staggering.Unfortunately, Americans have the highest levels of silent inflammation in the world, with over 75 percent of people afflicted.




Two words: diet and lifestyle. Some of the largest contributors to chronic inflammation aresmoking; a diet high in sugarfried foods and trans fats; inadequate exercise; stress; and vitamin D deficiency. There are a couple of ways to measure how much inflammation is silently occurring in your body.

One blood test measures a substance called C-reactive protein (CRP), which might actually be a better predictor of your heart attack risk than lipids. Another test is called Sed Rate (or ESR for “erythrocyte sedimentation rate”), which is especially helpful in monitoring rheumatoid arthritis and other autoimmune diseases.

CRP is produced in your liver and coronary arteries, then released into your bloodstream when your body is fighting inflammation. In one study, natural astaxanthin was found to reduce CRP levels by 20 percent in just eight weeks. Another study found astaxanthin caused 43 percent of people with high CRP levels to drop into the average-risk range.

Clearly, this powerful agent has a remarkable ability to cool down the inflammatory process, thereby decreasing your body’s need to produce CRP.

By decreasing inflammation, astaxanthin can help prevent, and treat, a number of problems that result directly from inflammation, including rheumatoid arthritis, tennis elbow, carpal tunnel syndrome and other repetitive stress injuries.  


Anti-Inflammatory Drugs are Definitely NOT the Answer


Anti-inflammatories have gotten a bad reputation. This is due to the fact that most of the compounds people commonly recognize as anti-inflammatories are DRUGS, rather than natural agents. Natural anti-inflammatories, on the other hand, can be very beneficial and lack the adverse side effects of anti-inflammatory drugs.  As a quick review, let’s review the truth about some anti-inflammatory drugs:

• Aspirin can cause your stomach to bleed
• Tylenol (acetaminophen) can damage your liver
• Vioxx and Celebrex (non-steroidal anti-inflammatories, or NSAIDS) can cause heart problems

In 1999, the New England Journal of Medicine stated that NSAIDS have caused as many deaths as AIDS. Vioxx alone has killed more than 60,000 people!

I urge you to avoid these dangerous anti-inflammatory drugs since they have the potential to cause very serious side effects and even death. But astaxanthin is a different story–it will not harm you. Astaxanthin affects a wide range of mediators, but in a gentler, less concentrated manner and without the negative side effects. And it works for a high percentage of people. In one study, more than 80 percent of arthritis sufferers improved with astaxanthin–that is four out of five people, that is impressive!

So, what sorts of conditions can astaxanthin treat?  The evidence is very positive for astaxanthin’s effects on a variety of inflammatory disorders. Let’s take a look at the human clinical studies related to four common inflammatory complaints:  tennis elbow, carpal tunnel, and rheumatoid arthritis.

    1. Tennis elbow (tendonitis): Caused by inflamed tendons, tennis elbow results in pain and decreased grip strength when gripping something with your hand. A study by the Health Research and Studies Center involved giving tennis elbow sufferers an eight-week course of astaxanthin showed a 93 percent improvement in grip strength, as well as decreased pain.

2. Carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS), aka “repetitive stress injury”: CTS is a debilitating disease of the wrist that manifests as numbness, pain, and even paralysis. A study by the above group found eight weeks of astaxanthin supplementation resulted in significant pain reduction, both in terms of severity and duration, leaving researchers concluding that astaxanthin might be a viable alternative to surgery.

3. Rheumatoid arthritis: RA is a painful and disfiguring autoimmune disorder. After receiving astaxanthin for only eight weeks, RA sufferers showed a 35 percent improvement in pain levels, as well as a 40 percent improvement in their ability to perform daily activities. [Journal of the American College of Nutrition. 21(5):Oct, 2002.]  




So it appears that this amazing nutrient can help you, whether you have mild overuse symptoms or a major inflammatory illness!  Make sure your astaxanthin is the natural variety from marine algae—NOT Synthetic. Unfortunately, synthetic astaxanthin still dominates the farmed salmon industry worldwide.  If your salmon label does not read “wild” or “naturally colored,” you’re probably going to be eating a coloring agent somewhat closer to motor oil than antioxidant.

Wild salmon are 400 percent higher in astaxanthin than farmed salmon, and 100 percent of their pigment is natural astaxanthin, rather than synthetic. Plus, wild salmon have much higher levels of omega-3 fatty acids than the farmed version. But even if you are successful in purchasing genuine wild salmon, there is the problem with high levels of mercury and other unwanted toxins, not to mention the skyrocketing prices.

“Astaxanthin has already shown that it can affect a variety of different clinical conditions and health conditions,” furthermore; “It showed a lot of efficacy in cardiovascular disease… There are studies from Yoshida, Park and Fassett that have shown that astaxanthin at 12 milligrams per day can increase your HDL cholesterol, which is the good cholesterol, by 15 percent. It can reduce triglycerides by up to 25 percent. So, as a cardiovascular dose, I recommend 12 milligrams, because that’s what the studies have shown to be efficacious.”

“Age-related macular degeneration is the number one cause of blindness here in the U.S. for people who are over 65 years old. And we don’t have a cure for it.” We now know that lutein, zeaxanthin, and astaxanthin protect the macula from further deterioration. It has a very exciting future for the protection of our eyesight. “For the eyes, I think six milligrams would be the level that I’d stop at, but it’s anywhere between four to six milligrams for eyes.”

Research has found that there is an abnormal accumulation of hydroperoxides within red blood cells in people who have dementia and Alzheimer’s. We now know that if you give these patientsastaxanthin, the amount of peroxides – harmful free radicals – is reduced by 50 percent. That’s a significant reduction, and that is at a dose of 12 milligrams.

Personally I take 12 milligrams. I want to have essential nervous and cardiovascular protection. I also want the increased energy, and it protects my mitochondria. I think 12 milligrams really covers everything. If you want to just take it as a general antioxidant, I believe between four and six milligrams will be adequate. Once again, depending on the condition that you are really trying to target, you can tailor your dose.

Final Recommendations
You may recognize the name astaxanthin because it is often mentioned in reference to krill oil, my favorite source of animal based omega-3 fatty acids. One of the reasons I am such a fan of krill is that it naturally contains astaxanthin. But, as high as it is, new research suggests you could enjoy even MORE benefits by further increasing your astaxanthin, even if you are already taking a krill oil supplement.

If you decide to give astaxanthin a try, on average I recommend a dose of 8 mg per day. If you are on a krill oil supplement, take that into consideration; different krill products have different concentrations of astaxanthin, so check your label. I’ve listed some of my favorite brands on the right.