During periods of heavy exercise training and competition, lipid, protein, and nucleic molecules can become damaged due to an overproduction of reactive oxygen and nitrogen species (RONS) within the exercising organism. As antioxidants can prevent and delay cellular oxidative damage through removing, deactivating, and preventing the formation of RONS, supplementation with exogenous antioxidant compounds has become a commercialized nutritional strategy commonly adopted by recreationally active individuals and athletes.
Astaxanthin is a lipid-soluble antioxidant carotenoid available to supplement through the intake of Haematococcus pluvialis-derived antioxidant products. Based upon in vitro and in vivo research conducted in mice exercise models, evidence would suggest that astaxanthin supplementation could potentially improve indices of exercise metabolism, performance, and recovery because of its potent antioxidant capacity.
In exercising humans, however, these observations have yet to be consistently realized, with equivocal data reported. Implicated, in part, by the scarcity of well-controlled, scientifically rigorous research, future investigation is necessary to enable a more robust conclusion in regard to the efficacy of astaxanthin supplementation and its potential role in substrate utilization, endurance performance, and acute recovery in exercising humans.
The Fitness Doctor's verdict:
Astaxanthin is one of the many cancer-protective carotenoids found naturally in orange and red fruits and vegetables as well as dark leafy greens, wild salmon, trout, red sea bream and shrimp. Astaxanthin has been touted online as a supplement to protect the eyes, skin, joints and central nervous system as well as to boost immunity, reduce risks of cancer and prevent heart disease. It has also been suggested for treatment of Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, stroke and high cholesterol, but according to the Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database there’s insufficient evidence for astaxanthin’s effectiveness as a remedy for any of these health problems.
I’ve seen no human study showing that astaxanthin as an isolated dietary supplement delivers any of these claimed benefits.