Astaxanthin is a nutrient of the carotenoid group. Previously, I discussed the carotenoids lutein and zeaxanthin. The carotenoids are important as a nutrient for their anti-oxidant capability to neutralize free radicals, made by the process of cellular metabolism, that have the potential to damage cells. This has important implications for those with eye disease, as a supplement to decrease cellular damage.
Astaxanthin, lutein, and zeaxanthin are carotenoids that are not converted to vitamin A. This is important for those that are sensitive to the effects of vitamin A. (Stargardt’s disease)
Astaxanthin is found naturally in marine organisms such as algae, salmon, krill, shrimp, crayfish, and lobsters. Like many other carotenoids, astaxanthin is a pigment molecule. You can actually see the red color of astaxanthin in the pink shrimp, salmon, and lobster. Astaxanthin has been credited with making flamingoes pink, because of the shrimp they eat!
Similar to the other carotenoids, astaxanthin has anti-oxidant, anti-inflammatory, and immune stimulating effects. Although it has not been as thoroughly studied as other carotenoids, it has possible beneficial effects for cancer treatment, cardiovascular health, memory and brain function, skin anti-aging, and eye health.
Astaxanthin and the Eye
Lutein and zeazanthin are the two carotenoids studied in the second Age Related Eye Disease Study (AREDS 2). Astaxanthin has been studied in smaller research projects, and not as extensively as other carotenoids. The benefits of astaxanthin for eye health is still in the early stages.
Because it is an anti-oxidant and has been shown to have UV absorbing capabilities, it is thought to benefit those with age related macular degeneration. It has also been studied as a supplement to reduce cataracts and diabetic retinopathy.
Another study sought to show astaxanthin supplementation helps to reduce eye strain.
Astaxanthin has properties that suggest that it’s anti-oxidant potential may be the most potent among carotenoids. It is not generally included in those vitamins that are labeled eye vitamins . Most human trial studies used dosages of 4 to 12 mg per day. Astaxanthin will be found commercially as a lone supplement, but is thought to be most effective when combined with other nutrients. It is most commonly found as 4 mg capsules to be taken once daily. The best way to get astaxanthin is in its natural form by ingesting seafood.