Astaxanthin is one of the most powerful antioxidants out there. It’s thousands of times more potent than vitamin C and it towers over many other well-known antioxidants.1
How do you pronounce astaxanthin? We know, it’s a mouthful! Phonetically it’s pronounced as-ta-xan-thin. And because of its potency, astaxanthin has become the focus of numerous studies and clinical trials examining its use for a broad range of health applications, including eye health and age-related vision changes, as well as brain, heart and skin health, plus more.1,2
Thankfully, the benefits of astaxanthin are well within reach for us all. Despite its exotic-sounding name, you can get astaxanthin from many different nutritional sources and whole foods if you know where to look, including from astaxanthin supplements. So, let’s talk about what astaxanthin is, why you need it, and how to get the benefits of astaxanthin for your eyes and beyond.
What is Astaxanthin?
Astaxanthin is one of many carotenoids pigments (along with beta-carotene, zeaxanthin, lutein, lycopene and others). Carotenoids lend color to the foods that contain them and may offer protective antioxidant benefits to those of us who consume them.3
Just as beta-carotene gives carrots its orange hue, and lycopene contributes to the red color of tomatoes, astaxanthin is responsible for the vibrant color of krill, lobster, salmon, red snapper, algae, and many other ocean-dwellers.
Astaxanthin, as you may have guessed, is a bright shade of orange-red. These pigments have antioxidant effects, potentially helping our bodies fight free radicals.4 Some of them may have an affinity for specific areas of the body and others, like astaxanthin, promote health in multiple ways.
Benefits of Astaxanthin for Eyes and Beyond
Astaxanthin offers many benefits and it is continuously being studied by researchers and in clinical trials to better understand its potential for numerous applications.5 Research thus far has shown that astaxanthin may benefit the following areas of health:
- Vision health
- Cardiovascular health
- Cognitive health
- Skin, including anti-aging of skin
- Athletic endurance
More details on how astaxanthin helps in each of these areas is included below, along with research highlights and the astaxanthin dosage used in studies for specific benefits, but always follow to the directions on your product label unless your physician recommends otherwise.
Astaxanthin for Vision Health
For many people, eye health is an increasing concern as we age. More than 6.5 million Americans over 65 experience various eye health problems.6 And there is increasing evidence of antioxidant carotenoids playing important roles in keeping our eyes healthy.
As the most powerful carotenoid out there, astaxanthin is no exception. Early studies have shown astaxanthin may help maintain eye health and promote healthy vision, potentially slowing down symptoms of age-related eye concerns.7,8,9 And it may even help reduce eye strain and fatigue.10
Astaxanthin may also help defend against oxidative damage from exposure to blue light from digital devices, energy-efficient light bulbs and the sun, along with other eye-supporting nutrients lutein and zeaxanthin. Swanson Health’s astaxanthin supplements for eyes are available in softgels ranging from 4 mg to 12 mg to be taken once per day, which is the same dosage range researchers say have produced the best results.9
Read more about blue light exposure and its long-term effects on vision health in the article Important Facts about Blue Light and Eye Health.
Astaxanthin for Cognitive Health
According to researchers, the human brain is highly prone to oxidative stress, and without sufficient antioxidant defenses, that oxidative stress may contribute to cognitive health concerns, especially as we age.11 The antioxidant carotenoid astaxanthin (along with omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids) may play a central role in helping to protect against oxidative stress in the brain.11
In addition, a preliminary, placebo-controlled clinical trial involving a group of healthy men between the ages of 50-69 who had complained of forgetfulness took 12 mg of astaxanthin per day for 12 weeks, and following the astaxanthin trial the men who took astaxanthin showed improvements in reaction time, attention and memory tests.12
Astaxanthin for Heart Health
Oxidative stress and other related factors also contribute to concerns within our arteries and throughout our cardiovascular system.13 The potent antioxidant astaxanthin may play important roles here too—from helping to improve blood flow, supporting healthy blood lipid levels, positively impacting the heart’s mitochondrial membrane, promoting healthy arteries and more.14
The benefits of astaxanthin for heart health and cardiovascular nutrition are still being explored, with more and more research is being conducted in this realm of health than ever before.14 Astaxanthin dosages used in cardiovascular health studies thus far have ranged between 1.8 mg and 21.6 mg per day.14
Astaxanthin for Skin
Astaxanthin can be used both orally and topically for promoting skin health and may help reduce wrinkles and age spots while improving the texture and moisture level of skin.15 The antioxidant benefits of astaxanthin shine when it comes to skin health as well, helping to combat free radical damage to the skin from environmental exposures.
Astaxanthin skin benefits have been reported in studies for both men and women.16 In one study, a group of healthy women received an oral dose of 6 mg of astaxanthin per day for 8 weeks, combined with 2 ml topical astaxanthin applied daily and noted significant improvements in wrinkles, age spots, skin elasticity and texture, as well as skin hydration.16
In another study, a group of healthy men received 6 mg of oral astaxanthin daily for 6 weeks, and noted improvements in crow’s feet wrinkles, elasticity and skin hydration.16 Other studies have used astaxanthin dosages ranging between 4 mg to 12 mg per day for anti-aging benefits.2
Astaxanthin for Exercise & Athletes
Exercise is amazing for our bodies and overall wellbeing, but the bodies of athletes and regular exercisers are exposed to a lot of oxidative stress. Astaxanthin may help fight exercise-induced oxidative damage, as well as combat exercise fatigue and positively affect endurance.2,17
Astaxanthin dosage in trials related to exercise and athletes is commonly 4 mg per day.2,17 One study using 20 mg per day for four weeks did not note improved results.17
Most natural food sources of astaxanthin come from the ocean, and most of them are easy to identify because of their bright reddish-orange color. Here are some natural sources of astaxanthin.18
- Red Yeast
- Red Snapper
- Rainbow Trout
- Coho Salmon
- Atlantic Salmon
- Arctic Char
- Sockeye Salmon (contains more astaxanthin than other types of salmon)
- Pink Salmon
- Chinook Salmon
- Chum Salmon (aka Keta Salmon)
- Masu Salmon
If you are aiming to get your astaxanthin from seafood, opt for wild-caught seafood as often as possible. Some farm-raised salmon is artificially colored with synthetic carotenoids, and may not provide the same benefits.19
While salmon, shrimp, lobster and other astaxanthin-rich foods are delicious and healthy, eating them every single day may not be practical nor affordable for everyone. For those days when you won’t get your daily dose of astaxanthin from food sources, consider taking an astaxanthin supplement to get the benefits of astaxanthin.
Astaxanthin supplements are available in doses from 4 mg to 12 mg per capsule, so you can customize your intake based on your individual needs. Here are some of our favorite astaxanthin supplements from Swanson Health.
Swanson Ultra Astaxanthin
This supplement offers 4 mg of astaxanthin from a natural astaxanthin complex sourced from haematococcus pluvialis algae to boost antioxidant activity, protecting against free radical damage and helping to support immune system health.
Swanson Ultra Astaxanthin Maximum Strength
Delivers a maximum-potency dose of antioxidant protection at 12 mg astaxanthin per serving sourced from haematococcus pluvialis algea fortified with medium-chain triglycerides to enhance bioavailability.
Swanson Ultra High Potency Astaxanthin
Provides 8 mg astaxanthin from natural astaxanthin complex extracted from haematococcus pluvialis algea using advanced supercritical CO2 extraction methods that do not require chemical solvents and it’s fortified with medium-chain triglycerides to ensure bioavailability of this fat-soluble nutrient.
Swanson EFAs Krill Oil & Astaxanthin
Made from 100% pure Superba2™ Antarctic krill oil, this essential fatty acid supplement is a great way to get your daily dose of omega-3 fatty acids in a way that is easy for your body to digest and use, along with a boost of 4 mg astaxanthin.
The recommended dosage range for astaxanthin is between 4 mg and 12 mg per day.20 Most of the studies mentioned above stay within that range, but some have gone beyond the recommended amount. Doses of up to 50 mg have been tolerated, but an upper toxicity limit for astaxanthin is not known.20
Always follow the directions on your product label and use the smallest effective astaxanthin dose unless a physician recommends otherwise.
Here’s a recap of the doses mentioned from studies above:
- Astaxanthin dosage for vision health: researchers recommend 4 mg to 12 mg per day
- Astaxanthin dosage for cognitive health: studies used 12 mg per day
- Astaxanthin dosage for heart health: studies used between 1.8 mg and 21.6 mg per day
- Astaxanthin dosage for skin: studies used 6 mg orally, with or without 2 ml topical astaxanthin cream
- Astaxanthin dosage for exercise and athletes: studies used between 4 mg and 20 mg per day
Astaxanthin Side Effects & Interactions
Astaxanthin has been used safely when taken alone in doses of between 4 mg and 40 mg daily for up to 12 weeks in studies, and at 4 mg daily when taken in combination with other carotenoids, vitamins and minerals for 12 months.21
Let your doctor know which supplements you are taking, especially if you are prescription medications, to avoid potential interactions. Astaxanthin may interact with certain hormone-altering drugs.21
When taken in extreme doses of 48 mg per day, the red pigmentation in astaxanthin may cause feces to turn a reddish hue.20
Benefits of Astaxanthin Recap
Astaxanthin is an increasingly studied carotenoid with numerous potential health benefits. Research shows that astaxanthin may benefit vision, skin, brain health, cardiovascular health and support athletic nutrition. You can add astaxanthin to your diet by increasing your daily consumption of foods containing astaxanthin, or by opting for a daily supplement to get more of this potent antioxidant conveniently every day.
To learn more about carotenoids that benefit your eyes and why eye nutrition is so important, read Build Xtraordinary Eyes: Nutrition for Eye Health and
You may also be interested in What are Carotenoids? for a deeper dive into this class of nutrients.
Lindsey is a nationally recognized registered dietitian and nutritionist with a soft spot for ice cream. She empowers people to take charge of their health by finding the balance between the pleasure and nourishment in food.
Her philosophy is that you should take care of your body because it’s the only permanent home you have. It’s what inspired her to pursue a career in nutrition and, ultimately, led her to Swanson Health.
1 Astaxanthin: An Antioxidant Powerhouse. Nutraceuticals World. https://www.nutraceuticalsworld.com/contents/view_online-exclusives/2018-04-25/astaxanthin-an-antioxidant-powerhouse/991 (Accessed 5/25/2018)
2 Astaxanthin. University of Michigan Medicine. https://www.uofmhealth.org/health-library/hn-10011674 (Accessed 5/25/2018)
3 Carotenoids—Antioxidant Properties. US National Library of Medicine. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5836018/ (Accessed 5/25/2018)
4 Potential Role of Carotenoids as Antioxidants in Human Health and Disease. US National Library of Medicine. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3942711/ (Accessed 5/25/2018)
5 Astaxanthin Clinical Trials. U.S. National Library of Health. https://clinicaltrials.gov/ct2/results?cond=&term=ASTAXANTHIN&cntry=&state=&city=&dist= (Accessed 5/25/2018)
6 Aging and Vision Loss Fact Sheet. American Foundation for the Blind. http://www.afb.org/section.aspx?SectionID=68&TopicID=320&DocumentID=3374&rewrite=0 (Accessed 05/15/2018)
7 Algal Astaxanthin – A potent molecule for good health. Journal of Algal Biomass Utilization. https://www.researchgate.net/publication/298352478_Algal_Astaxanthin_-_A_potent_molecule_for_good_health (Accessed 5/29/2018)
8 Astaxanthin: Sources, Extraction, Stability, Biological Activities and Its Commercial Applications—A Review. Marine Drugs. http://www.mdpi.com/1660-3397/12/1/128/htm (Accessed 5/29/2018)
9 Changes in visual function following peroral astaxanthin. Nakamura, A & Isobe, R & Otaka, Y & Abematsu, Y & Nakata, D & Honma, C & Sakurai, S & Shimada, Y & Horiguchi, M. ResearchGate. https://www.researchgate.net/publication/292376472_Changes_in_visual_function_following_peroral_astaxanthin (Accessed 5/29/2018)
10 Eye fatigue (Asthenopia) relief by astaxanthin. Anti-Aging Therapeutics. ResearchGate. https://www.researchgate.net/publication/288077438_Eye_fatigue_Asthenopia_relief_by_astaxanthin?ev=publicSearchHeader&_sg=uAhRtUAFqMMocDED__e864Dstzf26mle8lypNvYlYaILgBbQaFzKFF39GBu_uaO-D5i6r0mcynIPU74 (Accessed 5/29/2018)
11 Neuroprotective Properties of the Marine Carotenoid Astaxanthin and Omega-3 Fatty Acids, and Perspectives for the Natural Combination of Both in Krill Oil. National Library of Medicine. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3967194/ (Accessed 5/29/2018)
12 Astaxanthin, Cell Membrane Nutrient with Diverse Clinical Benefits and Anti-Aging Potential https://www.vitexpharma.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/12/July-2016-Astaxanthin.pdf (Accessed 5/29/2018)
13 Basic Biology of Oxidative Stress and the Cardiovascular System. PubMed. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/28683968 (Accessed 5/29/2018)
14 The World's Best Kept Health Secret Natural Astaxanthin. Bob Capelli, Gerald Cysewski. Cyanotech Corporation. https://books.google.com/books/about/The_World_s_Best_Kept_Health_Secret_Natu.html?id=B6SomwEACAAJ (Accessed 5/29/2018)
15 7 Potential Benefits of Astaxanthin. Healthline. https://www.healthline.com/health/health-claims-astaxanthin (Accessed 5/29/2018)
16 Cosmetic benefits of astaxanthin on human subjects. Biochimica Polonica. http://www.actabp.pl/pdf/1_2012/43.pdf (Accessed 5/29/2018)
17 Effect of Astaxanthin on Cycling Time Trial Performance. International Journal of Sports Medicine. https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Conrad_Earnest/publication/51703925_Effect_of_Astaxanthin_on_Cycling_Time_Trial_Performance/links/55df3d0a08ae2fac4718f720/Effect-of-Astaxanthin-on-Cycling-Time-Trial-Performance.pdf (Accessed 5/29/2018)
18 Astaxanthin: Sources, Extraction, Stability, Biological Activities and Its Commercial Applications—A Review. Marine Drugs. http://www.mdpi.com/1660-3397/12/1/128 (Accessed 1/23/2018)
19 Dyes in Salmon. Bellona Foundation. http://bellona.org/news/ukategorisert/2009-01-dyes-in-salmon (Accessed 5/29/2018)
20 Astaxanthin. Drugs.com. https://www.drugs.com/drp/astaxanthin-capsules-and-oral-powder.html (Accessed 5/29/2018)
21 Astaxanthin. WebMD. https://www.webmd.com/vitamins/ai/ingredientmono-1063/astaxanthin (Accessed 5/29/2018)
*These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. These products are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.