Astaxanthin linked to improved heart health

By Stephen Daniells

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Fatty acids Fatty acid Nutrition

Astaxanthin, the nutrient that gives salmon its pink colour, may
also have heart health benefits, suggests a new study from Finland.

Results from the randomised, double-blind study, published in the International Journal of Vitamin and Nutrition Research , indicated that a daily supplement of the carotenoid, alone or in combination with omega-3, reduced plasma hydroxyl fatty acids levels, indicating that astaxanthin protects sensitive fatty acids from oxidation "We propose that astaxanthin supplementation may decrease in vivo lipid peroxidation in healthy men," wrote lead author Jouni Karppi from the University of Kuopio. Astaxanthin, the antioxidant carotenoid most commonly linked to eye health, has been found to be a potent antioxidant, with tests suggesting that it may have a free radical fighting capacity worth 500 times that of vitamin E. The carotenoid is produced by the Haematacoccus pluvialis algae when water supplies in its habitat dry up to protect itself against the effects of UV radiation.

Research has shown it to have a similar structure to lutein and zeaxanthin, but there are indications that it has an even stronger antioxidant activity.

The new study assigned 40 young, healthy men (average age 24.4, average BMI 23.8 kg per sq m) to receive daily supplements of astaxanthin (8 mg per day, Astaxin, BioReal) or placebo (microcrystalline cellulose) for three months.

At the end of the study, Karppi and co-workers report that blood astaxanthin levels increased in the carotenoid-supplemented group to 0.032 micromoles per litre.

Blood levels of 12- and 15-hydroxy fatty acids were also significantly reduced, relative to the placebo group.

"Plasma 15-hydroxy fatty acid is formed by oxidation of polyunsaturated linolenic and linoleic acids, which are the fatty acids most sensitive to oxidation," explained Karppi.

The study also supported the safety of astaxanthin as a dietary supplement, with no gastrointestinal tract distress reported, nor were there any changes in markers of inflammation or blood pressure.

"In the present study, the intervention group received four milligrams of astaxanthin twice daily for three months.

The dose lowered plasma 12- and 15-hydroxy fatty acid levels, whereas there was no effect on the lag time of combined LDL + VLDL fraction ex vivo," wrote the authors.

"It may be possible that the astaxanthin dose must be higher than eight milligrams to achieve any impact on the lag time."

"The present study indicates clearly that astaxanthin was absorbed well from capsules and was safe," they concluded.

The study was co-funded by BioReal and the Academy of Finland.

Åke Lignell, general manager of BioReal Sweden, told "From our point the results are promising showing that supplementation with Astaxin can have a protective role in the prevention of heart and vascular disease.

"The results show that Astaxin protect the most sensible fatty acids in plasma from oxidation which also indicates the synergistic effect it can be to combine astaxanthin with omega-3 fatty acids.

This is a combination often found in the marine environment like in wild salmon."

Lignell added that the results are in line with research from the company Cardax in developing astaxanthin formulations to be used in prevention of reperfusion injury.

Research on animals and some human clinical trials have suggested that the carotenoid may help protect against cataracts and UVA damage to the skin, as well as a number of other serious conditions such as stroke.

Recently, a study from Tokyo University of Marine Science and Technology indicated that the carotenoid may also provide benefits for weight control (Bioscience, Biotechnology, and Biochemistry, Vol. 71, pp 60521-1 to 60521-7) Annual growth of the global market for astaxanthin for human use is thought to be at least 15 per cent, with current estimates valuing the market at $15-20m (€12.4-16.6m) per year.

Source: International Journal of Vitamin and Nutrition Research Volume 77, Number 1, Pages 3-11 "Effects of Astaxanthin supplementation on lipid peroxidation" Authors: J. Karppi, T.H. Rissanen, K. Nyyssonen, J. Kaikkonen, A.G. Olsson, S. Voutilainen, J.T. Salonen

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