Astaxanthin is a type of carotenoid found in certain kinds of seafood.
Carotenoids are plant pigments giving fruits and vegetables their bright red, yellow, and orange color.
So, when you hear carotenoid, you may likely think about beta carotene in carrots, lutein, and zeaxanthin in leafy greens, or lycopene in tomatoes.
But astaxanthin is a bit more exclusive and is sourced primarily from marine foods such as krill, lobster, algae, and salmon.
This powerful pigment provides these types of marine life its distinct red-orange hue.
Wild salmon obtain this carotenoid naturally from their diet of shrimp and small fish.
On the other hand, farmed salmon lack this carotenoid as they follow a diet of fish meal and oils, giving them a greyish hue.
Humans and animals cannot synthesize carotenoids and must source them from the diet. They need to be consumed with a fat to be absorbed by the body.
Structurally, astaxanthin appears similar to beta carotene, but with some minor chemical differences.
When compared with some of the other potent antioxidants in nature, astaxanthin comes out a winner given its powerful ability to fight free radicals.
Studies suggest that astaxanthin can be several times more potent than vitamins C and E as well as beta carotene when it comes to free radical fighting capacity.
There are several reasons why people may start including astaxanthin into their dietary regimen.
The main functioning mechanisms are its antioxidant and anti-inflammatory activity, which can benefit various areas of health.
We looked at the astaxanthin clinical studies to understand how it works and which benefits it provides.
While there are many, here are the most prominent and well-researched astaxanthin health benefits:
1. Astaxanthin Fights Metabolic Syndrome
Various age-related chronic diseases can be traced to a cluster of disorders referred to as a metabolic syndrome.
This includes concerns like hypertension, insulin resistance, elevated cholesterol, and obesity, among others.
In this scenario, astaxanthin supplementation can help lower blood glucose levels and reduce insulin resistance.
Astaxanthin also holds the potential to scavenge free radicals, which damage lipids and lower insulin sensitivity.
At the same time, it also preserves the ability of the pancreas to manufacture more insulin on its own. 
2. Astaxanthin Enhances Brain Health
Some research has linked the antioxidant activity of astaxanthin to neuroprotective functioning.  
Because oxidative stress is a normal part of aging and is linked to many disease conditions, astaxanthin supplementation is seen as helpful in reducing markers of oxidative damage.
For instance, both Alzheimer’s and dementia are conditions linked to oxidative stress.
Some studies suggest that astaxanthin can help preserve neural functioning in middle and elderly subjects. 
However, study samples for this research are small, and more investigation is needed.
3. Cardioprotective Benefits
Another area where research seems promising is boosting heart health.
Most of the concerns in this area arise from oxidative stress, and inflammation and astaxanthin seem to offer some much-needed help. 
Areas of cardiovascular health include blood pressure, atherosclerosis, and cholesterol levels.
This carotenoid is believed to promote blood flow due to its antioxidant properties as excessive oxidization can be responsible for impaired blood flow.
Animal studies show that oral administration of astaxanthin in hypertensive rats results in reductions in BP.
Another study investigated the effects of astaxanthin on overweight and obese adults with results suggesting supplementary astaxanthin having a positive effect on LDL cholesterol levels and oxidative stress biomarkers. 
4. Skin Benefits
Alongside brain and heart health, astaxanthin also provides benefits to the skin.
Not only does it enhance the appearance of the skin, but may also hold the potential to treat specific skin conditions.
A topical application of this carotenoid seems to improve skin elasticity and symptoms of skin aging. 
Its skin health-boosting properties also include its potential to increase skin moisture, moisture retention and promote smoothness.
Astaxanthin also has UV blocking properties offering protection against sun-related damage. 
And if you refer back to the earlier point of astaxanthin promoting blood flow and circulation, it translates to helping the skin have improved circulation as well.
This activity helps the skin by increasing cell turnover, amplified elasticity, and increased water retention.
5. Astaxanthin Reduces Exercise-related Fatigue
Astaxanthin has also shown potential in improving energy levels and reducing post-exercise fatigue.
Athletes at any level need a reliable source of energy to keep performing at their peak.
The challenge arises when athletes work their muscles hard, and cell-damaging substances called free radicals are produced.
When the level of free radicals becomes excessive, with the body being unable to keep up and detoxify or eliminate the damaging substances, you get in a state of oxidative stress.
Being an athlete, your body undergoes inflammation along with muscle soreness, fatigue, weakness, and pain.
Astaxanthin supplement can help manage this cumulative effect of oxidative stress.
It does so by preventing the body from overproducing free radicals and getting the balance right.
If you exhaust yourself times and again, you become more liable to cause muscle and tissue damage.
But if you work hard enough to regulate the expression of cell-defending antioxidants in the face of free radicals with some help from astaxanthin, your body learns to cope with the oxidative stress of exercise.
At the same time, exercise also depletes your glycogen stores leading you to fatigue quickly. But with astaxanthin supplementation, you can utilize lipids or fatty acids as an energy source instead.
This activity spares the glycogen stores and keeps fueling your workout.
So, using up the fatty acids instead of glycogen earlier on in the workout lets them be stored for later use. This mechanism helps to delay the onset of fatigue.
6. Astaxanthin Improves Joint Health
The first line of treatment for most people suffering from joint pain is using painkillers.
However, these can soon become addictive and present plenty of adverse side effects.
Research in this field suggests that a potential answer lies in astaxanthin.
Given its powerful anti-inflammatory potential, its use has grown in popularity with medical evidence supporting its benefits.
Working similarly to fish oil, astaxanthin seems to target joint pain, stiffness, and mobility problems associated with the two most common types of arthritis, including osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis.
The anti-inflammatory properties of this carotenoid reduce joint swelling and pain.
For osteoarthritis patients, this may mean relief from the associated pain and tenderness of the condition while improving flexibility.
For people living with rheumatoid arthritis, relief also centers on reduced inflammation and some pain relief.
Although both conditions are non-reversible, using astaxanthin may help with symptom management.
Other similar conditions that may benefit from astaxanthin supplementation include carpal tunnel syndrome.
7. Astaxanthin Helps With Improving Our Vision
Age-associated vision problems like cataracts, glaucoma, and macular degeneration are commonplace and can cause several uncomfortable symptoms like blurry vision to a complete loss of vision.
Supplementing with astaxanthin can help improve eye health.
It can work to protect retinal cells against oxidative damage as well as against eye fatigue and strain.
8. Astaxanthin Offers Immune Support
The immune system slowly loses its potential to manufacture protective antibodies as it ages. At the same time, it also develops a tendency to produce adverse autoimmune reactions.
To counter this effect with antioxidant activity, astaxanthin boosts the bodily generation of antibodies as a response to foreign microbes.
It also modifies how immune system cells react to foreign invasions. 
Astaxanthin Side Effects
Generally tolerated well when consumed from whole foods, astaxanthin may present some side effects when taken in supplemental form.
These can include:
- an increase in skin pigmentation
- changes in hormone levels
- increased hair growth
Other reported side effects include a reduction in calcium blood levels, low blood pressure, and some changes in sex drive.
Since research on the safety of astaxanthin supplementation is limited to pregnant or nursing women, it is a better idea to source this carotenoid from natural foods.
Astaxanthin In Food
People who prefer to keep their diet all-natural without relying on supplementation can get their daily dose of astaxanthin from various types of seafood.
The highest concentrations of this carotenoid are found in wild Pacific sockeye salmon.
However, this isn’t restricted to this species alone. All salmon species have some levels of this antioxidant with the wild-caught varieties having a lot more than their farm-raised counterparts.
While wild salmon feeds directly on krill, shrimp and algae, farm-raised fish are given pellets carrying the synthetic version to give their flesh the pink hue associated with salmon.
And then there’s the Alaskan wild salmon which is naturally gray since it doesn’t include red crustaceans in its diet.
If you find this variety sold as red in the market, it’s due to added coloring.
Fish aside, the only other sources of astaxanthin are marine or land animals that eat it. This means that even if a specific type of marine species doesn’t directly eat plants, it may eat other animals which does lower down the food chain.
That is why seafood is the most common source of astaxanthin in food.
The only other land-based plant that produces it is phaffia yeast. 
Given the limitations, astaxanthin may become challenging to source from food alone. That’s why using it as an astaxanthin supplement alongside your food sources may be a good idea.
Astaxanthin Dosage & Suggested Use
Ideally, your daily dose of astaxanthin should come from natural, whole food sources.
Getting astaxanthin this way is also beneficial as these foods will also cater to other essential nutrients such as minerals, vitamins, and omega 3s alongside astaxanthin.
However, if you don’t like including seafood in your diet, you can also do so in supplemental form.
The recommended dosage for astaxanthin is suggested at between 6-8 mg daily, which is easy enough to obtain from an enriched salmon or krill oil supplement.
It is extracted from astaxanthin-rich algae and converted in capsule form for a quick, concentrated dose.
This is the same algae that fish and other seafood feed on.
So by going directly to the primary source, you are not only able to get exceptionally higher concentrations, but avoid the hazards of mercury as well as other metals associated with fish consumption.
However, be careful when selecting astaxanthin supplements as astaxanthin is also available in synthetic varieties.
These synthetic versions will have additives included to maximize health benefits. Some research indicates that artificial variety may not be suitable for human consumption.
When choosing astaxanthin supplements, take care to follow the manufacturer’s instructions regarding dosage.
And because it is fat-soluble, it makes sense to take your supplements with a meal, including fats.
Where To Buy Astaxanthin?
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Now, do I recommend taking Astaxanthin in capsules? Absolutely, I see no reason against it.
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