Krill And Astaxanthin: Nature's Whole-Body Super Antioxidant Duo

by John Biggs BSc, NCP, OHP on June 1, 2018

Krill And Astaxanthin: Nature's Whole-Body Super Antioxidant Duo

As we age our skin wrinkles, our energy decreases along with our muscle mass. Our immunity fails, and our ability to detoxify diminishes. We incur cumulative sun damage, regenerate our cells less effectively, our memory starts to betray us, and we dearly hope that we can maintain our mental faculties to the end.

Overall, we become more susceptible to chronic diseases such as cancer or neurological diseases like Alzheimer's and Parkinson's. Meanwhile we burn less fat, as our levels of inflammation and free-radicals/oxidation (body rust) go up. The furnaces that generate our energy (our mitochondria) become increasingly less efficient and leaky, and the "sparks and heat" that they generate spread through our tissues, causing more inflammation and oxidation.

But what if there was a substance that could counteract and/or slow-down all of these tendencies? That could protect our mitochondria, reduce oxidation and inflammation, help us burn energy efficiently, maintain our memory, skin, and joints, and much more. An extensive breadth of research indicates that there is. Astaxanthin is capable of accomplishing these regenerative effects and more.

astaxanthinThis brilliant red, fat-soluble carotenoid pigment produced by the algae Haematococcus pluvialis is what gives the organisms that consume it - fish like salmon, and crustaceans such as shrimp, crab lobster, and krill - their pink/red hues.

What do the studies say?

Human and animal studies indicate an absolute myriad of potential benefits for astaxanthin (AST) including those for brain health, cognitive ability and memory; protection from degenerative diseases such as Parkinson's, Alzheimer's, arthritis and cancer; better hormone balance; protective benefits for our skin, including photoprotection against sun damage and wrinkle reduction; improved muscle strength and energy,  better clearing of lactic acid; preservation of vision and prevention of cataracts; a normalizing effect on lipid profiles and metabolic syndrome, helping to burn fat for energy...and all without side-effects, (see references below).

Absorption is ultra important  

There is no better delivery system for astaxanthin from algae than in the form of the naturally occurring, extremely well-absorbed phospholipid matrix that occurs in krill oil... itself a rich source of astaxanthin. The specific benefits of this combination have been scientifically reviewed. [1] 

Related article: Krill Oil Plus Astaxanthin For PMS, Hormone Imbalances and Inflammation

At Optimum Health we have focused-on and communicated about the critical roles of inflammation, oxidation, mitochondrial dysfunction, and excess acidity in the process of aging and dysfunction since 2002. Astaxanthin directly addresses all four of these issues. Due to its unique molecular structure AST fully spans the layers of both our cell and mitochondrial membranes where it acts as a potent and versatile antioxidant/anti-inflammatory. [1] [2] [3] [4] [5] [6] [7]

Why does this matter?

As discussed in many of our past articles, inflammation and oxidation come as a pair. Oxidation can be compared to heat, and inflammation to a flame. You can have heat (oxidation) and use it for many purposes. But if you get enough heat, you get a flame (inflammation), which in the wrong places can be be extremely damaging. Of course, without inflammation we would have no immune protection, and not survive. Yet, the issue is balance...i.e. how much is present, and where? If we have too much inflammation and oxidation (heat) where it doesn't belong, it burns (oxidizes) our tissues and causes dysfunction. And if we have way too much it burns down our house.

Krill Oil for energyYou can pretty accurately think of an anti-oxidant/anti-inflammatory like astaxanthin as water to calm the heat/flame. Yet, we don't want to put our fire out. Rather, we want the most of the heat (oxidation) to be kept contained inside our furnaces, the mitochondria, so we can "burn" fuel and produce energy! After all, which of our cell function properly without energy?...None of them!

What astaxanthin and other antioxidants do is to protect the house, keep the flame in the furnace, and keep the energy coming!

AST accomplishes this by insulating the walls of the furnace, i.e. protecting the mitochondrial membrane from the fire within... the oxidative damage, which accumulates as we age. This is where the unique structure of astaxanthin is so critical, as it protects both our cell and mitochondrial membranes from free-radical attack across their entire widths.

Superior antioxidant properties

AST neutralizes some of the most damaging of Reactive Oxygen Species (ROS) such as hydrogen peroxide, hydroxyl radical, and superoxide anion. [3] [6] As a free-radical scavenger AST is superior:

"ROS-scavenging capacity is 6000 times that of VC, 800 times that of coenzyme Q10, 550 times that of VE, 200 times that of polyphenols. 150 times that of anthocyanins, and 75 times that of alpha- Lipoic acid" [3]

AST complexes with heavy metals such as Lead, Cadmium and Mercury reducing their free radical generating potentials. [8]

Protects against neurological disease and memory-loss

AST protects and promotes healthy redox balance and proper function within the mitochondria, brain and nervous system. [9] AST's antioxidant/anti-inflammatory roles indicate its usefulness in protecting against neurodegenerative conditions, (such as Alzheimer's and Parkinson's), and studies have shown AST can bring about improvements in memory and cognition. [10] [11] [12][13] [14]

AST protects the part of the brain so crucial to memory called the hippocampus, and decreases the negative effects of amyloid-beta plaques...the hallmark of Alzheimer's. [15] [16] It can even help grow new hippocampal neurons...a process called neurogenesis. [15] [16] And a big part of how all this is accomplished is by protecting the integrity of your mitochondria, upon which the brain and central nervous system are critically dependent. [9]

Helps burn fat and fortify muscles

Krill Oil for Fat-lossAST penetrates the mitochondria, and protects its membranes, once again helping it to work more efficiently. [17] Accordingly, it has been shown to help the mitochondria utilize fat as an energy source during exercise, and improve endurance and muscle strength/performance. [18] [19] [20] Regarding muscles it has also been shown to decrease sarcopenia...the loss of muscle mass as we age, (which is again largely an oxidative/inflammatory process). [21] [22]

Cardioprotective and anti-diabetic

Given the importance of muscle metabolism, insulin sensitivity, and oxidative stress to blood sugar regulation, studies have also shown that AST can potentially be cardioprotective, anti-diabetic, help prevent metabolic syndrome, hyperlipidemia and help prevent build-up/stiffening in the arteries.[23] [24] [25] [26]

Skin benefits/protection

Krill Oil for healthy skin Cosmetically, astaxanthin has been shown to be a boon for protecting and maintaining our skin in both sexes. [27]

Two studies were in women, using both topical and consumed AST (supplemental dose 6mg) and one in men, also supplementing 6mg/day. [27] In both studies astaxanthin reduced wrinkles and fine lines, (crows feet) increased skin elasticity, and increased moisture content.  

The authors state:

"Haematococcus pluvialis showed improvements in skin wrinkle (crow's feet at week-8), age spot size (cheek at week-8), elasticity (crow's feet at week-8), skin texture (cheek at week-4), moisture content of corneocyte layer (cheek in 10 dry skin subjects at week-8) and corneocyte condition (cheek at week-8). It may suggest that astaxanthin derived from H. pluvialis can improve skin condition in all layers such as corneocyte layer, epidermis, basal layer and dermis by combining oral supplementation and topical treatment." [27]

AST has also demonstrated extensive protection of the skin from UV and sun damage, and to increase resistance to sunburn. [28] [29] [30] [31] [32]

Protects Vision

And because the effects of oxidative damage from UV exposure can also accumulate in the eyes, not surprisingly AST is also highly protective for the eyes and vision, including for macular degeneration and cataracts. [33] [34] [35]

Not at all least, AST has numerous properties that protect us against cancer. [7] [36] [40]

Natural Astaxanthin is vastly superior to synthetic forms

Neptune Krill Oil with astaxanthinYet, just a note regarding which form of astaxanthin you choose. The natural form, such as that from H. pluvialis has been shown to be dramatically superior to the synthetic. [37] (In one paper I reviewed on AST it was stated that: "The intracellular antioxidant activity in natural extracts was approximately 90-times higher than synthetic astaxanthin" [38])

Astaxanthin is fat soluble, and presenting it to the body with fat will increase absorption. But it is the phospholipid matrix in Krill oil that yields optimal bioavailability, both in the gut and our tissues. As for how much to take, AST has been studied to be safe up to 40mg per day. [39] Yet 3-4 mg is a standard preventive daily dose, and when combined with Krill oil, less can be effective. Yet if you are looking for more pronounced effects 5-8mg may be more appropriate. (Optimum Health's Neptune Krill Oil with Astaxanthin provides 2.8mg AST per serving of 2 capsules.)

At Optimum Health identifying and providing such versatile nutritional supplements has been our goal for over 25 years. Of all the supplements you can take, two that have some of the most well-researched and extensive benefits are Astaxanthin and Krill oil, yet because Krill oil contains astaxanthin as one of its constituents, separating the benefits can be challenging. In the end it is the combination that provides the most benefits.

Until next time,

Be well!


John Biggs







[1] Neuroprotective Properties of the Marine Carotenoid Astaxanthin and Omega-3 Fatty Acids, and Perspectives for the Natural Combination of Both in Krill Oil

[2]Astaxanthin as antioxidant

[3] Mitochondrion-Permeable Antioxidants to Treat ROS-Burst-Mediated Acute Diseases

[4] Astaxanthin decreased oxidative stress and inflammation and enhanced immune response in humans.

[5]   Astaxanthin, oxidative stress, inflammation and cardiovascular disease.

[6] Astaxanthin Protects Primary Hippocampal Neurons against Noxious Effects of AB-Oligomers

[7]  Astaxanthin: Sources, Extraction, Stability, Biological Activities and Its Commercial Applications—A Review

[8] The Metal Cation Chelating Capacity of Astaxanthin. Does This Have Any Influence on Antiradical Activity?


[9]   Astaxanthin protects mitochondrial redox state and functional integrity against oxidative stress.

[10] Neuroprotective mechanisms of astaxanthin: a potential therapeutic role in preserving cognitive function in age and neurodegeneration

[11] Astaxanthin, Cell Membrane Nutrient with Diverse Clinical Benefits and Anti-Aging Potential. Kidd, Paris; Alt Med Rev 2011;16(4):355-364) content/uploads/images/stories/astaxanthinreview.pdf

[12]  Inhibition of inflammation by astaxanthin alleviates cognition deficits in diabetic mice

[13]  Effects of astaxanthin-rich Haematococcus pluvialis extract on cognitive function: a randomised, double-blind, placebo-controlled study

[14]  Astaxanthin improves cognitive deficits from oxidative stress, nitric oxide synthase and inflammation through upregulation of PI3K/Akt in diabetes rat

[15] Astaxanthin supplementation enhances adult hippocampal neurogenesis and spatial memory in mice.

[16] Astaxanthin Protects Primary Hippocampal Neurons against Noxious Effects of Aβ-Oligomers

[17] Mitochondrion-Permeable Antioxidants to Treat ROS-Burst-Mediated Acute Diseases

[18] The astaxanthin-induced improvement in lipid metabolism during exercise is mediated by a PGC-1α increase in skeletal muscle

[19] Astaxanthin boosts muscle performance





[24]  Astaxanthin from Haematococcus pluvialis Prevents Oxidative Stress on Human Endothelial Cells without Toxicity  


[25]   Effects of astaxanthin on blood coagulation, fibrinolysis and platelet aggregation in hyperlipidemic rats

[26]  Potential Anti-Atherosclerotic Properties of Astaxanthin

[27]  Cosmetic benefits of astaxanthin on humans subjects.

full paper:

[28] Clinical Trial Indicates Sun Protection from BioAstin Supplement

[29] The Basics of Astaxantin Skin Benefits

[30]  Astaxanthin, a xanthophyll carotenoid, inhibits ultraviolet-induced apoptosis in keratinocytes

[31]  Modulatory effects of an algal extract containing astaxanthin on UVA-irradiated cells in culture

[32] Superior Skin Protection via Astaxanthin

[33] 5 Reasons to Take Astaxanthin Every Day

[34]   Astaxanthin, a dietary carotenoid, protects retinal cells against oxidative stress in-vitro and in mice in-vivo.

[35] Effects of astaxanthin on antioxidation in human aqueous humor.

[36] Multiple Mechanisms of Anti-Cancer Effects Exerted by Astaxanthin.

[37] Synthetic astaxanthin is significantly inferior to algal-based astaxanthin as an antioxidant and may not be suitable as a human nutraceutical supplement

Nutrafoods December 2013, Volume 12, Issue 4, pp 145–152

[38]  Astaxanthin from Haematococcus pluvialis Prevents Oxidative Stress on Human Endothelial Cells without Toxicity

[39] WebMD Astaxanthin

[40] Astaxanthin Induces Mitochondria-Mediated Apoptosis in Rat Hepatocellular Carcinoma CBRH-7919 Cells

Topics: John Biggs' Articles, Antioxidants, Female Health, SkinCare, supplements

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