top of page

What is Astaxanthin?

Astaxanthin is a carotenoid produced in microalgae, yeast, bacteria and fungi; in the aquatic environment microalgae are consumed by zooplankton, insects or crustaceans (e.g. krill, shrimp, lobster and crayfish) which accumulate astaxanthin and in turn are ingested by fish (e.g. salmon and trout). Astaxanthin cannot be produced by humans; it has to be taken up – like the other carotenoids – via the diet or supplements. Astaxanthin is a very strong antioxidant; potential applications in humans build on the antioxidant function. Astaxanthin can be produced via fermentation or by synthesis. Products produced with one or the other technology are available on the market.


Astaxanthin has been used in animal nutrition as a pigment in the aqua-culture industry; for human applications both esterified or free astaxanthin can be used. The esterified astaxanthin predominantly comes from production via microalgae while the “non-esterified” or free astaxanthin comes from other forms of production. Esterified astaxanthin is then “de-esterified” in the gut before it is taken up in the blood. As a result of its antioxidant potential, astaxanthin is associated with several health benefits e.g. heart health, skin health and benefits for the immune system.


Astaxanthin naturally occurs as a part of the diet;. Although exposure may vary according to the diet consumed because it is only contained in relevant concentrations in a few food items. Wild-type salmon on average contains about 0.5-1.25 mg of astaxanthin per 200 g salmon (Rufer et al. 2008). Since most Americans consume salmon only up to two-three times per week, it is likely that dietary intakes of astaxanthin are relatively low compared to the doses in studies demonstrating the safetyof astaxanthin.

bottom of page