What is Astaxanthin?Astaxanthin is a red carotenoid pigment. Astaxanthin is similar in structure than beta-carotene. The small differences in structure causes large differences in the chemical properties.
DistributionAstaxanthin is produced by microscopic small plants: the micro-alga Haematococcus pluvialis. Haematococcus algae can contain up to 30 g of astaxanthin per kg dried algae. These micro-alga are eaten by marine animals including fish, crawfish, crabs and lobster. The Astaxanthin is responsible for the red colour of these animals. Another commercial source is from the ink coloured yeast Xanthophyllomyces dendrorhous.
Health Benefits of AstaxanthinAstaxanthin is a powerful antioxidant that may improve our immune system and may protect against neurodegenerative conditions, against UV-light effects and against cancer.
Astaxanthin is a powerful antioxidant and may protect against oxidative damage to body tissues. The free radical scavenging activity of astaxanthin protects lipids from peroxidation and reduces oxidative damage of LDL-cholesterol (thereby reducing arterial plaque formation), cells, cell membranes, mitochondrial membranes. Daily intake of astaxanthin might be a beneficial strategy in health management.
Astaxanthin seems to improve the immune response by increasing the number of antibody producing cells. Astaxanthin enhances antibody production by exerting actions on T-cells and T-helper cells. It may also protect immune cells against oxidative stress and membrane damage.
Many studies indicate that astaxanthin may be a potential candidate to treat neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer and Parkinson disease.
Exposure of our skin to UVA-light may result in sunburn, inflammation, ageing and skin cancer. In-vitro studies have shown that astaxanthin could reduce this damage.
Many studies have demonstrated the anti-cancer effects of astaxanthin in rodents. The inhibitory effect of astaxanthin on cancer is stronger than that of beta-carotene. This phytochemical may be involved in the regulation of cell communication at gap junctions, induction of apoptosis, modulation of immune response and induction of xenobiotic metabolizing enzymes.
Astaxanthin could be beneficial for heart health by reducing inflammation, preventing oxidation of cholesterol and by modifying blood levels of cholesterol. Oxidative stress and inflammation, mainly caused reactive oxygen species and reactive nitrogen species, are implicated in atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease. These oxidants regulate transcriptional messengers, such as nuclear factor-kappaB, which influence endothelial dysfunction.
Facts about AstaxanthinMost Astaxanthin is not extracted from the marine plants but is chemically produced. In commercial fish and crustacean farms, chemically produced astaxanthin is added to feeds in order to improve the colour.