What is Astaxanthin?

There are numerous dyes in nature. We often know them under names such as chlorophyll, beta-carotene or lycopene. They color fruits and vegetables yellow, red, orange or green and are responsible for changing the color of the different seasons. Astaxanthin is also such a reddish dye. A so-called carotenoid (more precisely: xanthophyll). Astaxanthin is also an antioxidant - one of the most powerful, natural antioxidants in the world.
The task of antioxidants is to neutralize free radicals. Free radicals are chemically unstable compounds that have a high affinity for reactions. Often these are so-called “reactive oxygen groups” (ROS), such as singular oxygen, which arises, among other things, from sunburn. These molecules attack and damage the DNA of cells, the fat layer or other chemical compounds in the body. Such damage leads to skin aging processes, can promote the formation of cancer cells and trigger other diseases.
There are also numerous organisms that accumulate astaxanthin. These include plants (e.g. Adonis aestivalis), yeasts (e.g. Phaffia rhodozyma), fish (e.g. sockeye salmon) or birds (e.g. flamingos). Not all of these organisms are able to produce astaxanthin. The salmon and flamingo take it in through food and accumulate it in their cells or plumage.

What is so special about Astaxanthin?

Compared to other antioxidants, astaxanthin works more effectively. So its antioxidative effectiveness is much stronger than, for example, vitamin E, coenzyme Q10 or vitamin C. This is due to the special molecular structure.
The long-chain molecule has polar end groups with which it can be taken up by cells. The oxygen groups give it its antioxidant effect. In the microalgae, astaxanthin is present, among other things, in esterified form and is thus protected against early oxidation. This is why astaxanthin should always be taken in conjunction with fats, as this increases the bioavailability. However, astaxanthin can also bind to proteins, as can be seen on the shells of crustaceans. Astaxanthin protects the skin from UV damage, supports eyesight and aids in muscle regeneration after intensive strength training. Astaxanthin scores even more than other antioxidants. Some antioxidant substances have a pro-oxidative effect. This means that after neutralizing free radicals, they themselves exist as a reactive molecule and lead to damage. Astaxanthin, on the other hand, is not pro-oxidative. Since it is a lipophilic molecule, i.e. it is fat-soluble, it can be stored in our skin cells. Because of its unique structure, it acts on both sides of the cell membrane, i.e. outside and inside the cell. The effective range of vitamin C is limited to the extracellular space due to its hydrophilic properties, vitamin E can only act inside the cell.