Posted by: Chris Maloney | March 17, 2012

Astaxanthin and Weight Loss: Is This Carotene the Miracle Cure for-Well-Everything?

Pandalus borealis

Image via Wikipedia

When you get Dr. Oz and Dr. Mercola together talking about a miracle supplement like astaxanthin, they get a little frenzied.

On the Dr. Oz show he interviews Dr. Mercola about this new miracle.

But you don’t really need to watch it, because if you go to Dr. Mercola’s site, this supplement does everything.  It slices, it dices, it cures cancer and causes weight loss.  The lame shall walk and the blind shall see.

The unfortunate reality is that I get one of these every week.  Really.  It’s a little jading.  Everyone has one of these.  The trouble is that these two guys have a multi-million person audience so suddenly a little known member of the carotenoid family is flying off the shelves.

For the foodies among us, astaxanthin is much higher in wild salmon than farmed salmon.  You knew you needed that fact to sound smart at posh dinner parties where you serve the good stuff.

If you start looking at the studies on Astaxanthin, it seems clear that rats love it.  If you have a pet rat, you should consider supplementing his or her diet with some marine caratenoids like astaxanthin.  In rabbits, the data is more mixed, and in humans, we really don’t know.

If you’re looking for marine caratenoid, then fucoxanthin, not astaxanthin, may be your ticket to selling a bunch of supplements.  As an antioxidant, fucoxanthin works without the need for oxygen, making it a wonderful stepping stone in the antioxidant cascade.  Here’s the free article on fucoxanthin.  When you make your first million, send me a check.  Ten percent will be fine.

But who cares about heart disease?  Will astaxanthin melt away my muffin top? Well, when you type in astaxanthin and weight loss, we have no human studies.  We do have a study on how astaxanthin prolonged life and maintained body mass in starving rats with cancer.  Seriously, if little Fido or whatever you call your pet rat is dying, get astaxanthin.  But for people, nothing.  And before you run out and buy astaxanthin for patients with cancer, the study was actually on crayfish enzyme extract.  See that just doesn’t role off the tongue as well as astaxanthin, does it?

Maybe if Dr. Oz and Dr. Mercola put on overalls, they could sit around and talk about the benefits of crayfish extract for everyone.  Now that’s a show I’d like to see.

Bottom line:  Astaxanthin is great if you’re a rat.  Weight loss for people doesn’t have any studies yet.  In the meantime, wild salmon is nice, and I’m not sure how crayfish taste.

Competitive cycling has a small positive study, and astaxanthin does raise antioxidant levels in another small study.  But the rabbits still had heart attacks despite the wonder pills.

Int J Sports Med. 2011 Nov;32(11):882-8. Epub 2011 Oct 7.

Effect of astaxanthin on cycling time trial performance.

Earnest CP, Lupo M, White KM, Church TS.


Pennington Biomedical Research Center, Exercise Biology Laboratory, Baton Rouge 70808, USA.


We examined the effect of Astaxanthin (AST) on substrate metabolism and cycling time trial (TT) performance by randomly assigning 21 competitive cyclists to 28 d of encapsulated AST (4 mg/d) or placebo (PLA) supplementation. Testing included a VO2max test and on a separate day a 2 h constant intensity pre-exhaustion ride, after a 10 h fast, at 5% below VO2max stimulated onset of 4 mmol/L lactic acid followed 5 min later by a 20 km TT. Analysis included ANOVA and post-hoc testing. Data are Mean (SD) and (95% CI) when expressed as change (pre vs. post). Fourteen participants successfully completed the trial. Overall, we observed significant improvements in 20 km TT performance in the AST group (n=7; -121 s; 95% CI, -185, -53), but not the PLA (n=7; -19 s; 95% CI, -84, 45). The AST group was significantly different vs. PLA (P<0.05). The AST group significantly increased power output (20 W; 95% CI, 1, 38), while the PLA group did not (1.6 W; 95% CI, -17, 20). The mechanism of action for these improvements remains unclear, as we observed no treatment effects for carbohydrate and fat oxidation, or blood indices indicative of fuel mobilization. While AST significantly improved TT performance the mechanism of action explaining this effect remains obscure.

Georg Thieme Verlag KG Stuttgart · New York.

PMID: 21984399

J Med Food. 2011 Nov;14(11):1469-75. Epub 2011 Sep 1.

Protective effects of Haematococcus astaxanthin on oxidative stress in healthy smokers.

Kim JH, Chang MJ, Choi HD, Youn YK, Kim JT, Oh JM, Shin WG.


College of Pharmacy, Clinical Pharmaceutical Education and Research Institute, Seoul National University, Seoul, Korea.


Free radicals induced by cigarette smoking have been strongly linked to increased oxidative stress in vivo, contributing to the pathobiology of various diseases. This study was performed to investigate the effects of Haematococcus astaxanthin (ASX), which has been known to be a potent antioxidant, on oxidative stress in smokers. Thirty-nine heavy smokers (≥20 cigarettes/day) and 39 non-smokers were enrolled in this study. Smokers were randomly divided into three dosage groups to receive ASX at doses of 5, 20, or 40 mg (n=13, each) once daily for 3 weeks. Oxidative stress biomarkers such as malondialdehyde, isoprostane, superoxide dismutase, and total antioxidant capacity, and ASX levels in plasma were measured at baseline and after 1, 2, and 3 weeks of treatment. Compared with baseline, the plasma malondialdehyde and isoprostane levels decreased, whereas superoxide dismutase level and total antioxidant capacity increased in all ASX intervention groups over the 3-week period. In particular, isoprostane levels showed a significant dose-dependent decrease after ASX intake. The results suggest that ASX supplementation might prevent oxidative damage in smokers by suppressing lipid peroxidation and stimulating the activity of the antioxidant system in smokers.

PMID: 21883001

Phytother Res. 2011 Dec;25(12):1813-8. doi: 10.1002/ptr.3494. Epub 2011 Apr 8.

Effects of astaxanthin on oxidative stress in overweight and obese adults.

Choi HD, Kim JH, Chang MJ, Kyu-Youn Y, Shin WG.


College of Pharmacy and Research Institute of Pharmaceutical Sciences, Seoul National University, San 56-1, Sillim-Dong, Gwanak-Gu, Seoul, 151-742, South Korea.


Oxidative stress is caused by an imbalance between the antioxidant and the reactive oxygen species, which results in damage to cells or tissues. Recent studies have reported that oxidative stress is involved in obesity, in addition to many other human diseases and aging. A prospective, randomized, double-blind study was performed to investigate the effect of astaxanthin (ASX), which is known to be a potent antioxidant, on oxidative stress in overweight and obese adults in Korea. Twenty-three adults with BMI > 25.0 kg/m(2) enrolled in this study and were randomly assigned to two dose groups: ASX 5 mg and 20 mg once daily for 3 weeks. Malondialdehyde (MDA), isoprostane (ISP), superoxide dismutase (SOD) and total antioxidant capacity (TAC), as oxidative stress biomarkers, were measured at baseline and 1, 2 and 3 weeks after ASX administration. Compared with baseline, the MDA (by 34.6% and 35.2%) and ISP (by 64.9% and 64.7%) levels were significantly lowered, whereas SOD (by 193% and 194%) and TAC (by 121% and 125%) levels were significantly increased in two dose groups after the 3 week intervention. This study revealed that supplemental ASX for 3 weeks improved oxidative stress biomarkers by suppressing lipid peroxidation and stimulating the activity of the antioxidant defense system.

Copyright © 2011 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.

PMID: 21480416

J Cardiovasc Pharmacol Ther. 2009 Dec;14(4):314-22. Epub 2009 Oct 21.

Astaxanthin reduces oxidative stress, but not aortic damage in atherosclerotic rabbits.

Augusti PR, Conterato GM, Somacal S, Sobieski R, Quatrin A, Maurer L, Rocha MP, Denardin IT, Emanuelli T.


Department of Biochemistry, Institute of Health Basic Sciences, Federal University of Rio Grande do Sul, Porto Alegre, RS, Brazil.


We evaluated whether carotenoid astaxanthin (ASX) could prevent oxidative and atherosclerotic damage in rabbits. Rabbits received regular chow (control) or an atherogenic diet (1% cholesterol) alone or supplemented with 50, 100, and 500 mg% ASX for 60 days (n = 5-9 per group). The atherogenic diet increased the serum cholesterol levels and the ratio of the intima/media area in the aortic arch. These changes were not prevented by ASX. Atherosclerotic rabbits showed increased aortic lipid peroxidation and nonprotein thiol group (NPSH) levels along with inhibition of glutathione peroxidase (GSH-Px). All ASX doses attenuated lipid peroxidation and the increase in NPSH but not the inhibition of GSH-Px. Aortic superoxide dismutase (SOD), catalase (CAT), and thioredoxin reductase (TrxR) activities were enhanced in atherosclerotic rabbits. Although all ASX doses prevented the increase in SOD activity, only 100 and 500 mg% ASX prevented the increase in CAT activity. Furthermore, these same doses partially prevented the increase in TrxR activity, while 50 mg% ASX completely prevented the effects of the atherogenic diet on this enzyme. However, ASX did not attenuate the hypercholesterolemia or the atherosclerotic lesions caused by the atherogenic diet at any of the doses evaluated. Our results indicate that although ASX did not prevent hypercholesterolemia or atherosclerotic lesions, it could play a beneficial role by preventing lipid peroxidation and changes in antioxidant enzyme activities.

PMID: 19846890



  1. Reblogged this on Inspiredweightloss.

  2. Thanks! If I was a rat I would take this, but I don’t think it’s a weight loss cure.

  3. There are several things I found out that astaxanthin is 550 times much more powerful than a vitamin C and even a Coq10? I didn’t know this last time and when I read about the research of Dr. Mercola. It did change my perception that is just another supplement or so. I found out about it myself when I tried it! Christopher Maloney, I think it also affects your diet and how your metabolism works so there is an effect regarding your weight.

  4. It may well positively affect lots of things. I just don’t think we’ve got enough information on humans. Whenever we see a single vitamin or compound singled out as a break through I get a bit jaded. We had berries, then noni juice, then acai berry, and now astaxanthin. I still stick with wild Maine blueberries for a variety of reasons, including ORAC values.

Tell me what you think!

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s


%d bloggers like this: