Home Medicines Astaxanthin: effect, areas of application, side effects

Astaxanthin: effect, areas of application, side effects

by Josephine Andrews
Published: Last Updated on 279 views

Astaxanthin is a natural substance from the class of carotenoids. It is found naturally in algae, fish, crustaceans and the feathers of some birds. Because of its potential health benefits, it is sold as a dietary supplement. It is not approved as a medicinal product. Here you can read everything interesting about the effects of astaxanthin, side effects and areas of application.

This is how astaxanthin works

Astaxanthin is a carotenoid (group of natural fat-soluble pigments) with antioxidant properties. Other described effects include antimicrobial, anti-inflammatory or neuroprotective nature.

So far, astaxanthin has mainly been tested for its effectiveness in animals. Its effect on humans can, but does not have to be, identical.

Due to the lack of studies, astaxanthin is not registered as a drug, but only as a dietary supplement.

Antioxidant effect

Astaxanthin has a very similar structure to other carotenoids, such as the well-known beta-carotene (provitamin A, a precursor of vitamin A ). Although it cannot be converted into vitamin A by the human body like this, it also acts as a so-called antioxidant.

This means that it can prevent cell damage caused by reactive oxygen particles or UV light . This also reduces premature cell aging caused by this “oxidative stress”.

Some studies also indicate that astaxanthin can reduce serious cell damage, which can sometimes lead to cancer.

Immune system and inflammatory diseases

Several animal studies have shown that astaxanthin prevents the release of some inflammatory mediators. The mechanism of action was similar to that of cortisone and antiallergic agents, but was weaker. Asthmatics, for example, could benefit from this effect.


The increased blood sugar level in type 2 diabetics puts the insulin-releasing cells of the pancreas under additional oxidative stress. This damages the cells and is, as scientists suspect, also the reason for the kidney dysfunctions in the further course of diabetes.

In a study on mice, astaxanthin was able to reduce the progression of these damaging processes.

Hypertension and cardiovascular system

Astaxanthin has multiple effects on the cardiovascular system. For example, it leads to a reduction in blood pressure by dilating the vessels in different ways.

Astaxanthin was also able to slow down the gradual adverse remodeling of the heart, which leads to further functional impairment of the heart in various cardiovascular diseases such as high blood pressure .

In addition, fewer vascular deposits form and existing deposits are stabilized. This prevents blood clots from forming, which could break off and clog subsequent smaller vessels (as in heart attacks and strokes).

More Effects

Numerous other positive effects for astaxanthin have been described in studies, including the prevention of UV damage to the eye , faster regeneration of skeletal muscles after exercise, increased skin resistance to damage from UV light, improved sperm quality and a more extensive Brain regeneration after stroke.

intake, degradation and excretion

Since astaxanthin and related carotenoids are very poorly water-soluble, absorption in the intestine is rather poor, but can be improved with high-fat meals. Once ingested, it (like cholesterol and fats) is transported in the blood in microscopic fat droplets .

It is metabolized in the liver with the help of different liver enzymes. The breakdown products are then excreted via the bile with the stool.

When is astaxanthin used?

The natural product astaxanthin is not approved for any specific medical application. It is only used as a dietary supplement against many of the diseases described above in addition to conventional medical treatment.

The use of serious illnesses as well as long-term use should be discussed with a doctor in any case.

How is astaxanthin used?

The carotenoid is mainly offered in the form of astaxanthin capsules. The dosage is usually in the single-digit milligram range. Since astaxanthin is very easily fat-soluble, absorption in the intestine is improved, as with beta-carotene, if a fatty food is also consumed.

What side effects does astaxanthin have?

A clinical study on humans showed that taking an algae extract with six milligrams of astaxanthin for eight weeks was tolerated without any problems.

For people with allergies to crustaceans, it should be clarified in advance where the astaxanthin in the preparation to be taken comes from. If it is obtained from crustaceans, traces of it can be found in the preparation and lead to allergic reactions.

According to the current study situation, no other side effects are known, but this does not necessarily mean that there are none.

What should be considered when taking astaxanthin?

Studies have shown that astaxanthin has an effect on liver enzymes: when it is taken, there is an increase in the so-called cytochrome P450 enzymes, which, among other things, break down many drugs. Such medicines are then broken down more quickly, which can affect their effectiveness.

Let your doctor know if you are taking astaxanthin.

age restriction

Since there are no studies on the use of astaxanthin in children and adolescents, it should only be taken after consulting a doctor.

pregnancy and breast feeding period

There is no data on use during pregnancy and lactation. For this reason, astaxanthin should not be taken to be on the safe side.

How to get supplements with astaxanthin

Preparations with astaxanthin are not subject to any pharmaceutical regulations in Germany, Austria and Switzerland and can be freely sold as dietary supplements.

Since when is astaxanthin known?

As one of the more than 600 known carotenoids, the structure of astaxanthin was first deciphered by British scientist Prof. Basil Weedon in 1975.

In the EU, astaxanthin is approved as a food coloring with the E number E161j, but in the US only as a food coloring for pet food.

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