Astaxanthin is one of the most powerful and studied carotenoids found in certain blue green algae known as Haematococcus Pluvialis. This algae produces Astaxanthin to protect itself from the effects of losing its food/nutrient supply and to stay alive. Astaxanthin is found in very high amounts in the muscles of salmon as they consume the blue green algae. It is the carotenoid that gives salmon its bright red color and is said to be responsible for the endurance they need to swim upstream as they consume the blue green algae.
Astaxanthin also enhances the immune system functions. It has been known for treating Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, “brain attack” (stroke), high cholesterol, and an eye condition called age-related macular degeneration and for preventing cancer.
Astaxanthin may also be effective in carpal tunnel syndrome, rheumatoid arthritis, muscle strength and endurance, high cholesterol (LDL oxidation), musculoskeletal injuries, and male infertility. Unlike many antioxidants, astaxanthin does not turn pro-oxidant (harmful to the body) at any point in the digestive process. Haematococcus pluvialis was reviewed and cleared for marketing by the United States Food and Drug Administration in August 1999 as a new dietary ingredient.
The primary use for humans is as a food supplement. Research shows that, due to astaxanthin's potent antioxidant activity, it may be beneficial in cardiovascular, immune, inflammatory and neurodegenerative diseases. Some research supports the assumption that it may protect body tissues from oxidative and ultraviolet damage through its suppression of NF-κB activation. In addition to the compound’s powerful anti inflammatory and anti-oxidative capabilities, evidence indicates that astaxanthin has the potential to modulate aging. Oxidative stress is believed to be a principal mechanism of aging so the enhancement of anti-oxidative protection and the inhibition of free radical production are biological pathways that may protect against oxidative damage, mitigating risk for age-associated disease and, perhaps, diminishing the rate of aging. The mechanism by which astaxanthin may be able to modulate aging is activation of the insulin signaling pathway, as well as up regulation of the FOXO3 gene. A 2011 review highlights promising aging-related outcomes in astaxanthin-related clinical trials for model organisms and, in humans.