Astaxanthin a naturally occurring carotenoid pigment is a powerful biological antioxidant. Astaxanthin exhibits strong free radical scavenging activity and protects against lipid peroxidation and oxidative damage of LDL-cholesterol cell membranes cells and tissues. Astaxanthin has been the focus of a large and growing number of peer-reviewed scientific publications.
This informational website is dedicated to reviewing and summarizing published scientific information about astaxanthin. Astaxanthin's biological properties safety for humans and possible applications for human health are included. Research on the mode of action of antioxidants and astaxanthin as well as their possible role(s) in oxidative stress cancer cardiovascular diseases eye health neurodegenerative diseases aging immune response exercise and animal health are summarized.
NOTE: 'Mera Pharmaceuticals Inc. calls to readers' attention that some of the products protocols and uses of astaxanthin which are described herein are or may be subject to various restrictions or limitations because of patents exclusive or nonexclusive licenses confidentiality agreements and other intellectual property or equivalent rights. Readers are advised to make an early and thorough investigation and inquiry into any product protocol or use in which they may be interested to see if any such rights might be applicable.'
Astaxanthin - a superb natural antioxidant:
ASTAXANTHIN a member of the carotenoid family is a dark-red pigment which is the main carotenoid found in the marine world of algae and aquatic animals. ASTAXANTHIN is present in many types of seafood including salmon trout red sea bream shrimp and lobster as well as in birds such as flamingo and quail. This pigment is commercially produced from the microalga Haematococcus pluvialis the richest known natural source for ASTAXANTHIN.
Carotenoids are lipid-soluble pigments and antioxidants which participate as accessory pigments in the light-absorption process of photosynthetic organisms. To date over 600 natural carotenoids have been identified. They are responsible for the orange and red colors in plants and algae and for the wide range of blue purple and reddish colors in aquatic animals. Only phytoplankton algae plants and certain bacteria and fungi synthesize carotenoids. Animals including humans must consume carotenoids as part of their diet and rely on this external supply.
Recent scientific findings indicate that ASTAXANTHIN is a powerful antioxidant and can serve as a potent free-radical scavenger. Moreover ASTAXANTHIN has been found to provide many essential biological functions including protection against lipid-membrane peroxidation of essential polyunsaturated fatty acids and proteins DNA damage and UV light effects; it also plays an important role in immunological defense.
Oxygen is necessary for the metabolic production of energy in our bodies. Mitochondria through the electron-transport chain use oxygen to oxidize certain molecules and generate energy in the form of ATP. During this process oxygen is reduced to water producing several oxygen-derived free radicals or reactive oxygen species (ROS) which play an important role in various diseases. Normally oxygen free radicals are neutralized by natural antioxidants such as vitamin E or enzymes such as superoxide dismutase (SOD). However ROS become a problem when either a decrease in their removal or their overproduction occurs resulting in oxidative stress. This stress and the resultant damage have been implicated in many diseases and a wealth of preventative drugs and treatments are currently being studied.
ASTAXANTHIN’s powerful antioxidant activity has been demonstrated in numerous studies showing the detrimental effects of free-radical-induced oxidative stress and ASTAXANTHIN’s potential to target many important health conditions.
There is increasing testimonial evidence that ASTAXANTHIN may be effective in enhancing general well-being improving the quality of life and enhancing the immune system. Recent studies have shown enhanced immune response and decreased DNA damage in human subjects following ASTAXANTHIN administration. ASTAXANTHIN is capable of crossing the blood-brain barrier in mammals a unique and important property in the realm of antioxidants. This characteristic allows ASTAXANTHIN to extend its superior antioxidant activity to the central nervous system which being rich in unsaturated fatty acids is highly susceptible to oxidative damage by ROS.
Astaxanthin Provides Antioxidant
Protection for Cells:
Astaxanthin is the carotenoid responsible for the pink pigmentation in the flesh of salmon lobster krill and other aquatic animals and plants. Carotenoids like astaxanthin are the red orange and yellow plant pigments that give fruits and vegetables their vivid colors. Many carotenoids such as astaxanthin act as antioxidants to protect our cells from free radicals.
In animals and humans astaxanthin works in conjunction with other antioxidants to protect the membranes of cells as well as the mitochondria the tiny energy factories inside cells. Astaxanthin is derived from a vegetarian source - marine algae cultivated in the warm waters of Hawaii's Kona Coast.
Astaxanthin is a Powerful Carotenoid:
Astaxanthin is a powerful antioxidant carotenoid that is closely related to the better-known beta carotene. Astaxanthin is unique in the range of its antioxidant activity. Astaxanthin provides protection from more types of free radicals (aldoxyl hydroxyl peroxyl singles and triplex oxygen) than many other antioxidants. Recent studies have indictated that astaxanthin is more powerful than its carotenoid cousin beta carotene at neutralizing singlet oxygen.
Free radicals are atoms or compounds containing one or more unpaired electrons; they will capture electrons from the first place they can to complete the pair. When taken from proteins electron loss can cause protein cross-linking (a key action of stiffening tissues) disable hormones and enzymes and damage cell structures. Free radicals can even take electrons from DNA which may cause genetic alterations.
Unique Mechanisms of Astaxanthin Action:
- Astaxanthin spans the cell membrane bilayer (fat/water) because of its polar end groups attached near the fat/water surface where free radical attack first occurs.
- Astaxanthin crosses the blood brain barrier... 1 of only 4 antioxidants known to do that.
- Astaxanthin inhibits the destruction of the fatty acids and proteins in the cell membrane and the mitochondrial membranes in the cells caused by peroxidation of fats.
- Astaxanthin stabilizes free radicals by adding them to its structure (long double-bonded chain) rather than donating an atom or electron.
- Astaxanthin is more resistant to chain reactions that can occur when fatty acids are oxidized thus allowing it to scavenge or quench longer than an antioxidant who cannot stop this chain reaction.
- Astaxanthin neutralizes singlet and triplet oxygen by de-charging them.
- Astaxanthin traps more types of radicals (alkoxyl hydroxyl peroxyl and singlet and triplet oxygen).
- Because it binds to a lipid (fat) protein Astaxanthin travels more readily in the body and is more available for use.
- Spanning the bilayer with its polar end groups Astaxanthin may increase cell membrane rigidity and mechanical strength.
- Astaxanthin inhibits reactive oxygen species that causes inflammation to the cells thus anti-inflammatory capabilities.
- Astaxanthin transports alkoxyl radicals along its long chain (like a bridge) to fat/water interface where water soluble antioxidants such as Vitamin C can scavenge them.
Astaxanthin Effectiveness and Synergy:
- Astaxanthin is at least 10 times more effective as an antioxidant than beta-carotene.
- Astaxanthin is 100 to 500 times more effective in inhibiting lipid peroxidation as an antioxidant than Vitamin E.
- Astaxanthin has greater anti-inflammatory capability than Vitamin E.
- Astaxanthin has at least 4 times the antioxidant capacity of lutein.
- Astaxanthin provides superior protection against UVA light-induced oxidative stress.
- Astaxanthin is more stable in scavenging and quenching than beta-carotene canthaxanthin and zeaxanthin.
- Astaxanthin is the most potent antioxidant in enhancing T1 helper cells and suppressing interferon-gamma.
- Astaxanthin is more effective than lycopene lutein and beta-carotene in immune protection against initiation and promotion of tumors.
- Astaxanthin enhances the actions of Vitamins C and E in the body.
- Astaxanthin enhances the release of retinol (Vitamin A) from the liver when needed.
Unique Molecular Structure of
In vitro (laboratory) and animal studies suggest that astaxanthin may have a wide range of antioxidative benefits for humans. Astaxanthin's powerful antioxidant properties are related to its unique molecular structure. Astaxanthin has polar end groups that allow it to span across the cell membrane's bilayer. This means astaxanthin is available to work near the fat/water interface where free radical attack first occurs. Astaxanthin stabilizes free radicals by adding them to its structure effectively quenching their potential to do damage.
Astaxanthin In Nature:
Astaxanthin is the main carotenoid pigment found in aquatic animals.
Studies suggest that it can be 10 times more powerful than other carotenoids and more than 100 times than vitamin E as a biological antioxidant.
It plays a role in many essential metabolic functions in animals: protection against oxidation and UV light vision immune response pigmentation and communication reproduction and development.
In some species it has been attributed to have vitamin-like properties and is believed to be essential to normal growth and survival.
The micro-alga Haematococcus pluvialis holds nature record of astaxanthin concentration at more than 3% of dry biomass.
The main astaxanthin isomer found in Haematococcus is the same as the one found in salmon. The main form of astaxanthin in Haematococcus is the esterified form also found in several aquatic species. It is the more stable natural form.
What is Astaxanthin?
Astaxanthin is the main carotenoid pigment found in aquatic animals.1 This red-orange pigment is closely related to other well-known carotenoids (Fig. 1) such as beta-carotene or lutein but has stronger antioxidant activity (10 times higher than beta-carotene) 1. Studies suggest that astaxanthin can be more than 100 times more effective as antioxidant than vitamin E.7
In many of the aquatic animals in which it is found astaxanthin has a number of essential biological functions ranging from protection against oxidation of essential polyunsaturated fatty acids protection against UV light effects pro-vitamin A activity immune response pigmentation and communication to reproductive behaviour and improved reproduction.2 In species such as salmon or shrimp astaxanthin is considered essential to normal growth and survival and has been attributed vitamin-like properties.
Some of these unique properties have also been found to be effective in mammals3-7 and open very promising possibilities for nutraceutical and pharmaceutical applications of astaxanthin in humans.
Astaxanthin a member of the carotenoid (carotenes as in carrots other orange vegetables and fruit and deep green vegetables) family is an oxygenated pigment called a xanthophyll. It is a fat-soluble nutrient with a molecular weight of 596.8 Da and a long double-bonded polyene chain with a six-membered ring polar (water-loving) end group. Its unique molecular structure gives it superior antioxidant capacity.
It is an all-natural renewable material extracted from microalgae grown on the Kona Coast of Hawaii using a nontraditional proprietary method. The extract contains no organic solvents and is characterized and standardized to ensure the highest quality.
After ingestion Astaxanthin is absorbed by the duodenal mucosa and transported to the liver where it binds with a lipoprotein for transport through the body to the cells. The polar end groups attach to the outer and inner side of the cell membrane where free radical attack first occurs. The hydroxy and carbonyl groups in astaxanthin help to anchor this molecule to the cell membrane thus strengthening it.
Astaxanthin is an oxygenated carotenoid called a xanthophyll. Because it is oxygenated a xanthophyll has greater antioxidant capacity than many other carotenoids. Within the xanthophylls the astaxanthin molecule contains the longest conjugated double-bond polyene chain along with both hydroxy and carbonyl groups at each end. This configuration supports the greatest antioxidant capacity its peroxyl radical chain-breaking abilities its incorporation of free radicals into its polyene chain (thereby more effectively trapping them) and its enhancement of Vitamin C as an antioxidant. While other carotenoids and antioxidants may perform one or two of these functions astaxanthin does them all and in most cases does them better.
In addition to entrapping free radicals astaxanthin also de-charges singlet and triplet oxygen and inhibits reactive oxygen giving it anti-inflammatory properties. Astaxanthin may also increase gap junctional communication between cells which is a mechanism in the body thought to inhibit the growth of cancer cells.
What Forms of Astaxanthin are Found in Nature?
Form and level of deposition of astaxanthin differ between tissues and species (cf. Tables 1 & 2). In salmon esterified astaxanthin predominates in the skin teguments and eggs while free astaxanthin is the main form in the flesh serum and other internal organs.2 In shrimp esterified astaxanthin predominates except in the ovaries and eggs.1718 In red seabream mostly esterified astaxanthin is found in the skin.1415 The more stable esterified form is believed to be an adaptive feature to be able to store astaxanthin in tissues without excessive oxidation.1 Esterified astaxanthin is the main form found in Haematococcus pluvialis.
Although they have the same chemical composition 3 of the astaxanthin molecule can be found in nature. They are the 3S3'S 3R3'S and 3R3'R stereoisomers characterized by the configuration of the two hydroxyl groups on the molecule (cf. Fig. 2). A recent study by the FDA concluded that the 3S3'S is the main stereoisomer found in wild Pacific and Atlantic salmon species and that in order to achieve the same astaxanthin stereoisomer profile as their wild counterparts farmed salmon should be fed a diet containing the same astaxanthin stereoisomers as in the natural diet of wild salmon.16
The 3S3'S stereoisomer is the main form found in Haematococcus pluvialis while synthetic astaxanthin contains primarily the 3R3'S stereoisomer. Salmon appear unable to convert the 3R3?I>S stereoisomer into the more common 3S3'S form. In fact the FDA study clearly showed that farmed salmon could be easily distinguished from the wild salmon because the farmed salmon are fed synthetic astaxanthin and accumulate astaxanthin isomers in the flesh in the same ratio as is found in their diet. This suggests that consumers may prefer to eat farmed salmon fed a natural form of astaxanthin.
Why is Astaxanthin considered the 'ultimate' antioxidant?
Astaxanthin has 100-500 times the antioxidant capacity of Vitamin E and 10 times the antioxidant capacity of beta-carotene. Many laboratory studies also indicate astaxanthin is a stronger antioxidant than lutein lycopene and tocotrienols.
Astaxanthin Additional Notes:
Laboratory studies reveal that Astaxanthin is more effective than vitamins A and E and traditional carotenoids like lutein and beta-carotene in scavenging damaging oxidants. In one in vitro study the effective dose of Astaxanthin was 100 times lower than that of vitamin E and beta-carotene. The unique structure of Astaxanthin allows it to exist in both lipid and aqueous environments. As a resultAstaxanthin is a far-reaching antioxidant active in all parts of the body. In addition to its high potency as an antioxidantAstaxanthin may help the body maximize its use of other antioxidants prolonging the functional life of vitamin E beta-carotene lycopene and glutathione by switching them back 'on' after they’ve become spent. Research shows that Astaxanthin may also enhance the skin’s natural protection by acting like vitamin A which accumulates in the skin and decreases the production of free radicals which can lead to tissue and DNA damage.
Natural astaxanthin is considered the ultimate antioxidant with many other important health benefits that relate to anti-aging. It is a more powerful than beta-carotene lutein lycopene and vitamin E and most other antioxidants. It freely crosses the blood-brain and blood-retina barriers to provide powerful support for eye and nervous system health. Betaxanthin is a scientific formulation of two of the most effective immune support compounds ever discovered. Betaxanthin's components have been shown to be safe and nontoxic. Betaxanthin supports a healthy immune system and helps to protect the skin from environ-mental damage. Betaxanthin's astaxanthin component is all natural and is extracted from vegetable sources using pure carbon dioxide eliminating any dangerous organic solvents.
In nature the highest concentration is found in the green unicellular alga Haematococcus pluvialis where the astaxanthin content can be as high 7 % of the dry weight. Lying unassumingly at the bottom of the food chain single-cell microalgae plants take energy from the sun and combine it with organic waste to produce nearly all living material and food on earth. In the alga astaxanthin is accumulated in lipid vesicles during times of nutrient deficiency and environmental stress. Astaxanthin functions to protect the cell nucleus against UV induced oxidative stress that would otherwise damage its DNA and energy resevoirs would undergo lipid peroxidation.
Its unique chemical structure as a carotenoid with superior positioning and orientation in the cell membrane it has been shown that it is:
550 times stronger than Vitamin E (α-tocopherol)
40 times stronger than Beta-Carotene
17 times more potent than Grape Seed Extracts
Potent antiperoxidative membrance activity
Inhibits NF-κB inflammatory gene expression
Suppresses DNA damage (8-OHdG)
ULTIMATE SYNERGISTIC PROTECTION:
Nature's powerful carotenoid:
Astaxanthin belongs to a group of compounds called carotenoids. In nature there are more than 700 different carotenoids which are responsible for the dazzling array of colours to plants and the animal kingdom.
Astaxanthin is present as a vibrant red pigment in birds fish crustaceans and shellfish. Even certain plants and bacteria produce it. The antioxidative properties of astaxanthin are very powerful as shown in trials comparing it with other fat-soluble antioxidants such as Vitamin E and ß-carotene. AstaReal’s research focus on the biological effects of astaxanthin as a potent antioxidant.
Part of the explanation for the biological effect of astaxanthin is its ability to protect cell membranes in all organs of the body. Unlike ß-carotene and vitamin C which respectively only reside inside or outside the lipid bilayer of the cell membrane the astaxanthin molecule has the unique ability to reside both in and outside the bilipid membrane therefore giving the cell better overall protection. Furthermore it can also function as a bridge by transporting trapped free radicals to the aqueous (polar) regions of the cell thus making them available to water soluble antioxidants.