What is astaxanthin? Well, for starters, it’s a pigment that belongs to the carotenoid family and it’s what gives flamingos and salmon their vibrant orange-pink hue. It occurs naturally in certain microalgae, particularly Haematococcus pluvialis, which are the primary diet of flamingos, salmon, shrimp, lobster, krill, crabs, and other aquatic animals, therefore giving these animals their rich pigment.
Astaxanthin is also an antioxidant thought to be more powerful than its counterparts like beta-carotene, lutein, and lycopene. And it is thought to be up to 100 times stronger than vitamin E. It has been hailed for its anti-aging properties, helping to not only prevent wrinkles, brown spots, blemishes and dryness, but even reverse years of skin damage.
Numerous studies on astaxanthin have also shown just how many diseases this antioxidant can help prevent or treat — including various cancers, diabetes, obesity, chronic inflammatory diseases, gastrointestinal conditions, male infertility, and diseases of the liver, skin, nervous system, eyes and heart. It also helps prevent and slow the progression of Alzheimer’s disease.
And the good news about the benefits of astaxanthin just keeps coming. Exciting new research on this antioxidant’s protective effects on the eyes and heart is especially promising.
Eye Can’t Believe It!
The older we get, the more our eyes show the effects of decades of cumulative oxidative damage caused by ultraviolet radiation from the sun. This oxidative damage can result in cataracts, inflammation, vision problems, and age-related macular degeneration (AMD). Astaxanthin has been shown to help improve visual acuity, perhaps by strengthening the intraocular muscles.
Since the macula of the eyes have high concentrations of carotenoids, and since evidence links oxidative damage to AMD, researchers in Italy wanted to see if higher antioxidant intakes could prevent the development of AMD and improve visual acuity and visual function in those who have AMD. 
They randomly assigned 145 patients to two treatment groups. The first received the antioxidants lutein, zeaxanthin and astaxantin, as well as other vitamins, while the other group remained untreated with supplements.
After two years, patients in the treatment group showed “stabilization of visual acuity and significantly better visual acuity scores compared to the nontreated group.”
The treatment group also experienced an improvement in contrast sensitivity. Researchers concluded that taking lutein, zeaxanthin and astaxanthin together with other nutrients could lead to meaningful improvement in visual acuity, contrast sensitivity and visual function.
Benefits of Astaxanthin Extend to the Heart
With cardiovascular disease being the biggest health problem among men and women, researchers in Mexico wanted to study the effects of astaxanthin on hypertensive rats. The rats were treated for eight weeks with an astaxanthin-enriched diet (75 or 200mg/kg body weight per day). At the end of those eight weeks, researchers concluded that the systolic blood pressure was lower in the astaxanthin-treated groups than the control group from the first week of treatment.
Overall, results showed that astaxanthin had “beneficial effects on hypertension, by decreasing blood pressure values, improving cardiovascular remodeling and oxidative stress.”
How to Get Your Daily Dose of Astaxanthin
Astaxanthin supplements are generally considering safe with no significant side effects. To personally experience the many protective Astaxanthin benefits, take 4-12 mg per day. You can find it at any health food store or vitamin retailer. You can also increase your intake of seafood rich in this antioxidant, particularly salmon.
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 Naguib YM. Antioxidant activities of astaxanthin and related carotenoids. J Agric Food Chem. 2000 Apr;48(4):1150-4.
 Yuan J.P. et al. Potential health-promoting effects of astaxanthin: a high-value carotenoid mostly from microalgae. Mol Nutr Food Res. 2011 Jan;55(1):150–65.
 Piermarocchi S. Carotenoids in Age-related Maculopathy Italian Study (CARMIS): two-year results of a randomized study. Eur J Ophthalmol. 2011 Oct 17:0. doi: 10.5301/ejo.5000069. [Epub ahead of print.]
 Monroy-Ruiz J et al. Astaxanthin-enriched-diet reduces blood pressure and improves cardiovascular parameters in spontaneously hypertensive rats. Pharmacol Res. 2011 Jan;63(1):44-50.