Algae as Astaxanthin Supplement

Image Credit: GreenRon / Flickr

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-green 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


Michael Greger M.D., FACLM

Michael Greger, M.D. FACLM, is a physician, New York Times bestselling author, and internationally recognized professional speaker on a number of important public health issues. Dr. Greger has lectured at the Conference on World Affairs, the National Institutes of Health, and the International Bird Flu Summit, testified before Congress, appeared on The Dr. Oz Show and The Colbert Report, and was invited as an expert witness in defense of Oprah Winfrey at the infamous "meat defamation" trial.

41 responses to “Should we take algae supplements for astaxanthin?

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  1. 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.

  2. 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.

    1. 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.

  3. 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

    1. 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.

      1. Canola oil is a polyunsaturated, unstable oil that degrades with heat and the refining process. It is an inflammatory oil that should not be ingested. Olive oil is monosaturated. Unrefined olive oil is a health food.

      2. It is my understanding that processed white table salt has been stripped of its natural minerals – then fortified with iodine.
        Better to consume unprocessed salt such as Himalayan, sea salt, etc.

    2. 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.

  4. 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.

  5. Is Astaxantin sold in powder form? I have difficulty swallowing capsules but I’d like to take it. Is there perhaps a Spirulina powder that contains a good amount of it ?
    Thank you.

  6. This is such a huge relief to read you can get astaxanthin benefits from green algae. I regularly take chlorella and I was considering getting astaxanthin supplements but it’s so hard to find a pure powder not grown in China (which raises concerns) and also, it is SO expensive! I get a great discount on high quality chlorella from vitacost (their’s is grown in Taiwan although I had to contact the company to find out as it simply says product of China on the package, but Taiwan grown chlorella is supposed to be the best from what I’ve read, it’s the purest form that is also grown outdoors which is important). But just wondering, does anyone know how much astaxanthin is in a typical scoop for chlorella? Probably about a teaspoon’s worth.

    1. Another thing I was a bit concerned about was the fact that I know (thanks to this site) a neurotoxic was found in spirulina and blue-green algae but not in chlorella, so I was a bit concerned if this was found in the red astaxanthin powder as there doesn’t seem to be much research on it. I would LOVE to learn more about astaxanthin powder or how much is in chlorella.

  7. Sorry, are you recommending Astaxanthin? Also I have been taking Triphala a heaping tablespoon per day what are your thoughts on this please

    1. I seriously doubt Dr. G is recommending this carotenoid as a supplement! There appears to be a lot of research on astaxanthin, but it is definitely not ready for ‘prime time’ application – and like other carotenoids, it probably will never be. Why do I say this? Because research on the value of other supplemental carotenoids and antioxidants has not shown significant benefit, apart from the foods these are found in.

    1. Scott, he actually says in the article that he typically doesn’t recommend supplementing and offers a couple videos as to why.

  8. Are we sure this stuff can be found in chlorella? If I google “Astaxanthin Chlorella” this very article is the top result. And all other results don’t contain any relevant information linking these two.


      1. Hi curciotara,

        Do you have any information on how much mg regular chlorella contains per gram? I have found info 0,1-1mg per gram is average. It this right?

        1. I also have vitiligo. I am not sure if it is caused by an infection or as an immune disorder. I know nutritional yeast and funghi seem to make it worse, as well as a supplement I took in a few times called panax ginseng (not recommended for males as it can cause gynaecomastia, luckily I did not experience this).

        2. Thank you for your question. I am finding it hard to find a precise answer to your question. I am not sure you have to worry too much as there is no direct evidence we should be supplementing astaxanthin, however, as Dr Greger recommends, sea vegetables are a good addition to a whole foods plant based diet

          1. Thank you for your answer. I´m asking because astaxanthin is extremely high in antioxidants. I know I am getting some lutein in my diet by consuming tomatoes, but I´ve read astaxanthin is about ten times as high in antioxidants. Considering astaxanthin is pretty cheap (2mg a day I can find for about 20 euros a year) I feel like I am missing out. It´s a natural supplement (it´s from algae), and even though I am not sure, it might even be a pill supplemented with another algae (Haematococcus pluvialis).
            This is the product:

    1. Leon, what then are you suggesting is linked to an increase in cancer risk upon taking lutein supplements?

      I think I’ll stick to Greger’s advice on this. There’s so many negatives on taking antioxidant supplements that I just stay away in general.

  9. I appreciate all the info but I’d rather know how much Astaxanthin spirulina and chlorella and other algaes contain, because that question remains un answered and just leave it to us if we deem those safe to take. Just saying :(

    1. Thanks for this infer Adam P. Could you give an approximation on how much astaxanthin would be in chlorella powder based on milligrams. I take a tsp everyday, I’m guessing it’s 2 or 3 mgs.

      Also, I read somewhere on pubmed that there’s astaxanthin present in yeast, so I was wondering about nutritional yeast and typical baking yeast.

      If you or anyone else can answer this, a huge thanks in advance!

  10. Σo? is astaxanthin 6000 time smore powerful than vitan c?
    dr please give a clear answer !
    i’m taking astaxanthin every day.

    1. Not sure about that, but don’t quite consuming vitamin C. What they mean when they say “product A is 1000 x’s more powerful than product B” is that its antioxidant capacity is that much greater. It doesn’t mean that it can replace “product B” or will do “product B’s” job. So even if this were true and you were taking astaxanthin everyday, it doesn’t make vitamin C – an immensely important nutrient! – any less important to consume daily.

  11. I definitely wouldn’t want to take an astaxanthin supplement unless the “supplement” was just pure astaxanthin-rich algae. I’ve found a website that sold pure red powdered algae sold as “astaxanthin” in whole food form, but they failed to answer questions about their product which is a pretty big red flag, especially when buying a powdered thing of something little is known about… who knows what it actually is! And even if it’s exactly what they say, considering the neurotoxin found in blue-green algae/spirulina, I would personally not want to start taking an algae before I got a green light on it.

    I think algae is a great addition to the diet and I take a teaspoon of Clean Chlorella (the one grown in sunlight) everyday – I love this brand because they do so many tests and can tell you exactly where and how their chlorella is grown (neither of the two they sell are ever grown in China). I haven’t been able to get much info on how much astaxanthin is typically found in chlorella powder though, probably because the info out there is more focused on supplements, but I would really like to know!
    I imagine the reason it’s not red from the astaxanthin (assuming there are significant amounts) is due to the chlorophyl so strongly present in chlorella, similar to the orange beta-carotene being hidden due to the chlorophyl in plants like spinach.

    I also read on pubMed (albeit not the best article I’ve read there) that yeast has astaxanthin, so does this mean that there is astaxanthin in nutritional yeast and what about typical baking yeast?

    I’m hoping Dr. Greger gives us more info on astaxanthin. In the meantime if anyone can offer any insight, I would really appreciate it!

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