Astaxanthin: Unproven Hype

There has been a lot of hype about a new type of carotenoid, a xanthophyll, called astaxanthin.  I am always cautious when I read about new miracle vitamins or nutrients. Is this based on science of just Madison Avenue marketing? Many of these fads come and go each year a new miracle product being introduced to lure our hope and money.

The most commonly reported astaxanthin side effects are harmless pigment changes, such as a slightly orange tint to the skin or to stool. Even at high doses, no toxic effects have been observed, either in animals or humans. Other, less common astaxanthin side effects have a greater impact, and side effects such as low blood pressure and shifts in hormone levels can have serious health implications.
Astaxanthin is most commonly used as an additive to animal feed, and it adds pigment to crabs, shrimp, lobsters and salmon, giving them their familiar reddish orange color.
In 1999, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration cleared astaxanthin as a food ingredient for human consumption.
As a dietary supplement, astaxanthin is most often used as an antioxidant to reduce cholesterol. Advocates also recommend astaxanthin to improve eye health and treat arthritis and carpal tunnel syndrome. It is also suggested to treat male infertility.  There is insufficient evidence  in terms of clinical studies to support any of these claims, and there is no proven health benefit to this supplement.
According to Dr Andrew Weil, “Laboratory research on animals has shown some promise, but clinical studies on humans are lacking. Only a few preliminary and small, controlled trials have been published, so it’s too early to know if astaxanthin is really beneficial as a therapeutic agent or not.”

I still recommend Lutein as the xanthophyll of choice for treating macular degeneration. This product has many good clinical studies to support its effectiveness in humans.

I come from the philosophy that nothing is better than a good balanced diet consisting of 70% raw organic fruits and vegetables. There is no magic short cut to good health and vision. It begins with a diet to supply all the variety of vitamins, mineral and nutrients that your body needs to heal and regenerate. Our diet needs to be like a musical symphony with  a mixture of many notes and instruments to give us beautiful music. Astaxanthin might be like the high E note from a violin. It is a powerful note, but alone it does not make a musical symphony. We need many notes from different instruments to maintain our health.

To your good health and clear vision

Dr. Kondrot