Should we take algae supplements for astaxanthin?

Is any research available on astaxanthin which seems to be touted as a wonderful antioxidant?

MarkB / Originally posted below Dragon’s blood


Astaxanthin is the reason flamingos are pink (or at least flamingos in the wild; in the zoo they may be fed artificial dyes like farmed salmon–see my video Artificial Coloring in Fish). Astaxanthin is also the reason some crustacean shells turn red when boiled. One need not eat flamingo feathers or lobster exoskeletons, though. You can go right to the source and get it from green algae such as chlorella (I recommend against blue-grean algae and spirulina–see for example my videos Is blue-green algae good for you? and Another Update on Spirulina).

review last month suggests a wide range of beneficial effects, though one should note the author is listed as a dietary supplement industry consultant. With a few exceptions, I recommend against taking supplements as they have been found in some cases to be less effective (see, for example, my Produce Not Pills) or even deleterious (see Is vitamin D the new vitamin E? and my other 60 videos on supplements).  One should take advice from health food store employees with a grain of Himalayan pink salt:

Summarized in my blog Health Food Store Advice: Often Worthless or Worst.

Image credit: GreenRon  / Flickr

  • WholeFoodChomper

    “with a grain of Himalayan pink salt”. Funny! :)

  • Foodlover

    I take an astaxanthin supplement and I have noticed the brown age spots on my skin have lightened considerable and I don’t burn nearly as easily as I used to. The astaxanthin I take is an extract from an algae called Haematococcus pluvialis.

  • Psych MD

    I’ve been taking astaxanthin for about six months. Unlike the case with other supplements, astaxanthin proponents make a claim that is easily testable: . protection from sunburn. A couple months ago I was at Laguna Seca Raceway watching the Continental Tire Series Challenge. It was a beautiful summer day so I decided to put it to the test. At 11:30 AM I removed my shirt, exposing a 60 year old torso that hadn’t seen the light of day for more than a few minutes at a time for decades. I expected to have to cover up after about 20 minutes but, not seeing any sign of irritation, I kept going. I continued to check myself at frequent intervals. Finally after two topless hours I called it quits. The next day I had no more than a pinkish hue. Normally I’d have been peeling within a few days but it never happened. Suffice to say I have continued taking astaxanthin.

    • Jeffrey Baker

      I was following a link to astaxanthin and came across your post today. I had to smile when I read that you “put it to the test.” BTW I really appreciate all your posts, especially a more recent one you made regarding a bioavailable curcumin formula supplement you take. I found the formula you describe and now take it daily rather than adding turmeric to all my dinners.

  • Think a little further

    Hello. Would you recomend people to change their table salt for
    himalayan salt if they wanted to use salt? Or do you think normal salt
    has the same nutritional benefits as table salt.Withc is the “better” option? Lots of love

    • Thea

      Think a little further: I’m not an expert, but here is my understanding: Enriched table salt has iodine added. Many Americans do not get enough iodine. So, if you are going to eat salt no matter what and you have a normal American diet, then you might as well eat normal iodine-enriched salt to make sure you get enough iodine.

      While Himalayan or other specialty/sea salts have a lot of good press, what I have seen suggests that the extra minerals in those salts are a) trivial and b) inconsistent. So, you wouldn’t want to rely on those salts for a specific mineral.

      Which leads to the real issue, in my opinion, and which I think you already know since you wrote “better” in quotes: neither is really all that good for you. Arguing over which type of salt is better for you is like arguing whether maple syrup or sugar is better for you. Or olive vs canola oil. The answer for all practical purposes is: neither because the differences are so minor in the big picture. With a healthy diet, you don’t need (and you are better off without!) any table salt. Or sugar/syrup. Or oil.

      Another way of looking at it is like this: Suppose foods were rated on health scale form 0 being it has zero-value-what-so-ever (and likely harms you short or long term) and 100 being the best-food-ever. I don’t know what the actual numbers would be for table salt, sweeteners, and oils, but to argue the difference between different types is like arguing between a 2 and a 3. I suppose you could make a legitimate arguement that one food is a 2 and the other food is a 3. But is that worth the breath?

      That’s just my 2 cents. I hope it helps.

    • Shaylen Snarski

      table salt is not real salt anymore, iodized salt goes through unnatural chemical processes. Even in non-iodized table salt, there are anti-caking agents added and such. The end result is horrible for our bodies and because it’s a “dead” salt, it’s useless to our bodies, so our body has to use lots of water to rid itself of the salt. Natural salt like sea salt, celtic sea salt, himalayan salt, and other natural salts on the other hand, have beneficial properties and our bodies actually USE the salt. Though if you’re going to add salt to your food, while I appreciate the benefits of natural salt, it’s still best not to over do it. The reason pink salt is pink is due to its mineral content. That’s the same reason celtic sea salt has a more grey color, from my understanding it’s due to a stronger mineral content.

  • Kartoffelmao

    Astaxanthin has an almost immediate effect on skin health, which has not only been proven clinically, but there are tons of anecdotal evidence. I know for a fact it work on myself as i notice a difference when im on and off astaxanthin. Many take it for this reason alone. It is even sold as a skin tonic.