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Astaxanthin Is the Deep Sea Supplement Experts Say Improves Longevity + Benefits Heart and Vision

This powerhouse antioxidant may add more than 9 healthy years to your life

With so many supplements on the market these days, it can be difficult to discern what’s worth taking. But in recent months, one compound has begun to rise above the rest: astaxanthin. In a new study published by the Interventions Testing Program (ITP), a research program funded by the National Institutes of Health, this powerful antioxidant was shown to meaningfully increase lifespan. Here, we’re breaking down everything you need to know about the supplement, including astaxanthin benefits, side effects and the best ways to incorporate the compound into your life.

What is astaxanthin, and what’s behind its benefits?

“Astaxanthin is a remarkable compound found abundantly in nature, particularly in marine organisms like microalgae, krill, shrimp, lobster and salmon,” explains Lulu Shimek, ND, a naturopathic physician at Kale Diagnostics, a holistic medicine practice. “It’s what gives these creatures their vibrant pink or red hue. Mother Nature has bestowed astaxanthin upon these organisms as a natural defense mechanism against the harsh effects of sunlight and oxygen exposure.”

The benefits of astaxanthin (sometimes called Asta) come from the way it works as an antioxidant at the cellular level. “Asta is distributed systemically and incorporated into cellular membranes,” notes David Harrison, PhD, a Professor at The Jackson Laboratory and the lead author on the ITP longevity study. “The molecular structure of Asta allows efficient scavenging of free radicals both at the surface and inside of the membrane.”

By getting rid of free radicals, astaxanthin helps keep cells and their primary components, like the energy-generating mitochondria, healthy and thriving.

A plate of salmon and shrimp with a salad
Astaxanthin is naturally found in certain seafood such as salmon and shrimp.ALLEKO/Getty

4 top astaxanthin benefits

“Astaxanthin is truly a powerhouse of health benefits,” says Dr. Shimek. “As a potent antioxidant, it works tirelessly to combat oxidative stress and inflammation in the body. This translates to a myriad of advantages for our health.” Here are some of those perks:

1. Longer lifespan

The ITP study found that supplementation with astaxanthin increased subjects’ average lifespan by up to 12%. That translates to nearly 9.5 years for the average American woman. Harrison explains that this is likely due to astaxanthin’s potent antioxidant and anti-inflammatory activity. Since oxidative stress and chronic inflammation are two big drivers of aging and age-related diseases, the longevity benefits make sense.

While this significant increase in lifespan was reported, Harrison notes that more research is needed to determine the exact mechanisms through which astaxanthin offers these benefits. “We did not measure how much oxidative stress or inflammation were actually reduced,” he explains. “It is much harder to accurately assess the mechanism over the lifespan than to measure effects on lifespan.”

A mature woman celebrating her birthday with a birthday cake, thanks to the benefits of an increased lifespan from astaxanthin
Caia Image/Getty

Related: The Key to Feeling Younger Than Your Years? Reversing Your Biological Age — Here’s How to Do It

2. Younger-looking skin

Aside from adding healthy years to your life, astaxanthin benefits the skin, too. “Astaxanthin nourishes the skin from within, promoting elasticity, reducing wrinkles and shielding against UV damage,” says Dr. Shimek. Indeed, a review in the Journal of Dietary Supplements found that taking astaxanthin improved skin texture, the appearance of wrinkles and moisture content. Plus it seemed to protect against UV-induced skin damage.

3. A healthier heart

In study in Diabetes, Obesity and Metabolism, people at an increased risk for cardiovascular disease who took astaxanthin for 24 weeks had significantly lower levels of “bad” LDL cholesterol and total cholesterol. What’s more, they reduced levels of three key markers of an increased cardiovascular disease risk.

“Astaxanthin works to bolster cardiovascular wellness by improving blood flow and reducing oxidative damage to blood vessels,” explains Dr. Shimek. (Interested in more easy ways to help your heart? Check out what to drink to lower your blood pressure.)

4. Sharper eyesight

mature woman putting on a pair of glasses as she experiences sharper vision, which is part of the benefits of astaxanthin

Early studies show promising evidence that astaxanthin supports sharper vision and can protect against ocular diseases. “It supports eye health by crossing the blood-retinal barrier and protecting against age-related conditions like macular degeneration,” Dr. Shimek says.

A review in Marine Drugs backs this up. Researchers found that astaxanthin seems to protect against retinal diseases, ocular surface disorders, uveitis, cataracts and asthenopia. That’s thanks to its anti-inflammatory activity and the way it curbs the natural death of retinal cells. (See more easy ways to protect against macular degeneration.)

Side effects of astaxanthin

Harrison notes that one of the reasons astaxanthin was chosen for their study was because of its superior safety profile. That means that while there are many benefits, there are very few astaxanthin side effects. However, Dr. Shimek says that it’s important to be mindful of a few things.

“Some individuals may experience a harmless, temporary reddening of the skin known as ‘astaxanthin flush’ with high doses,” she explains. “If you have a shellfish allergy, exercise caution, as astaxanthin supplements are often derived from marine sources.”

And like with most natural supplements, you don’t want to overdo it. “Too much could be harmful,” notes Harrison. Following dosage suggestions on your supplement is the smartest choice.

How to get the benefits of astaxanthin

The best food sources of astaxanthin are microalgae, salmon, shrimp and crab. But to get beneficial amounts of the antioxidant on a daily basis, it’s easiest to supplement. In the ITP longevity study, the researchers used a synthetic form of astaxanthin (which would be safe for people with shellfish allergies) that the manufacturers say has better bioavailability. If you want to try it, check out AX3 Bio-Pure Astaxanthin.

If you’d prefer a naturally-sourced supplement (which Dr. Shimek recommends), try Micro Ingredients Astaxanthin. “Prioritize quality and purity, and look for third-party testing to ensure potency and absence of contaminants,” Dr. Shimek adds.

For more trending supplements that can improve your health:

Sea Moss Is the Viral Supplement Top Docs Love: How It Can Boost Weight Loss, Heart Health & More

Creatine Has Surprising Benefits for Women Over 50: Better Balance, Sharper Memory + More

Tossing and Turning at Night? Ashwagandha Is an Ancient Herb That Deepens Sleep Naturally

This content is not a substitute for professional medical advice or diagnosis. Always consult your physician before pursuing any treatment plan.

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