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Nutrient - Astaxanthin shows brain health potential

By Holly Taylor BSc(Hons) DipCNM MBANT NTCC

In a new human study published in the British Journal of Nutrition, scientists have reported that astaxanthin may reduce the abnormal accumulation of compounds associated with dementia. 

The study used astaxanthin, which is a carotenoid from Haematococcus pluvialis – an algae that is commonly consumed by fish and crustaceans and is responsible for their pink coloration. Thirty healthy subjects aged between 50 and 69 were randomly assigned to receive either 6mg or 12 mg of astaxanthin per day for 12 weeks or dummy pills. Blood samples were taken before and after the test period so the scientist could measure the participants’ levels of compounds called phospholipid hydroperoxides (PLOOH), which are known to accumulate abnormally in the red blood cells (erythrocytes) of people with dementia.

 When the blood samples were tested, the researchers found the astaxanthin had been incorporated into the erythrocytes of the participants taking the supplements and was thought to have an antioxidative effect. Furthermore, levels of PLOOH were significantly lower in red blood cells following astaxanthin supplementation, with reductions in the order of about 40% and 50% in the 6mg and 12mg groups respectively, compared with no significant change in the erythrocytes of the participants taking the dummy pills. 

Commenting on their results, the researchers wrote: “In the present study, orally administered astaxanthin was incorporated into erythrocytes, and erythrocyte PLOOH levels decreased.

 ”On the basis of these points, it seems that similar to lutein, astaxanthin has the potential to act as an important antioxidant in erythrocytes, and thereby may contribute to the prevention of dementia.

“This possibility warrants the testing of astaxanthin in other models of dementia with a realistic prospect of its use as a human therapy”, they concluded.

Article References

Nakagawa K et al. Antioxidant effect of astaxanthin on phospholipid peroxidation in human erythrocytes. British Journal of Nutrition. 2001. Epub ahead of print.

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