Supplements & functional ingredients

Astaxanthin is classed as a keto-carotenoid or a xanthophyll, and it is a lipid-soluble pigment with a red-orange colour. It has grown in popularity due to its extraordinary antioxidant activity – reported to be more than 100 times greater than that of vitamin E against lipid peroxidation, and approximately 550 times more potent for singlet oxygen quenching. It is a marine carotenoid that occurs in a wide variety of organisms such as salmon, shrimp, crab and red snapper, though when derived from natural algae it comes in its safest, most effective and most studied form.

Antioxidant algae

“The antioxidant strength of astaxanthin has been compared to other carotenoids and it has always been shown to have been much greater,” says Alan Levine, CEO of NAXA. “Also, under certain conditions carotenoids can become pro-oxidants, but a study has shown this never happens with astaxanthin.” NAXA comprises manufacturers, growers and marketers of natural algae astaxanthin, derived from haematococcus pluvialis, which is a freshwater species of Chlorophyta. This species is well-known for its high-astaxanthin content. In more than 100 human clinical trials, astaxanthin has been shown to improve blood chemistry, lower oxidative stress, boost athletic performance and reduce eyestrain. NAXA is currently undertaking its own study to examine on a molecular level the differences in properties between algae- based astaxanthin and other forms. “There are absolutely more benefits for human health to be discovered for Astaxanthin,” Capelli remarks. “We can see from the past that early research started in pre-clinical trials and then moved into human research. And there are already five areas of pre-clinical research with multiple published studies waiting for the first human clinical study, ranging from liver and kidney support to gastrointestinal health, respiratory health and support for diabetics. Furthermore, there have even been 63 pre-clinical trials showing potential in the areas of cancer prevention and tumour reduction.” Scientists around the world are beginning to understand the potential of the astaxanthin molecule and are ramping up their investigation of its preventive and therapeutic properties. “It’s a bit of a snowball effect,” Capelli adds. “Research is done with positive results, and when scientists from various institutions hear of this research, they start conducting research of their own. Similarly, there definitely seems to be a trend in many countries around the world for consumers to take their health into their own hands and, in particular, start thinking about prevention rather than waiting to get sick and treating an illness.”

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As the amount of research grows, there is substantial potential for astaxanthin in clinical applications, as well as in the consumer products and supplements market, though Levine believes that this is only likely to happen when the molecule comes from a natural source. “That is a real possibility,” he observes. “I am aware of at least one company that is looking to create a pharmaceutical utility and application for algae-based astaxanthin as a treatment for a specific condition. The type of astaxanthin for the supplement market is very important. Not all ‘natural origin’ astaxanthin is equal. Algae-based astaxanthin is accepted in all major markets of the world. Astaxanthin derived from other sources is more limited in the amounts that can be used. There is a big difference in the number of clinical trials and the safety record between algae- based astaxanthin and others in the human supplement marketplace. Consumers need to be aware of this.”

The ultimate marine supplement With a booming global market, omega-3s, including eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), have helped to establish marine supplements as vital pillars of health and well-being. EPA, which is found in the flesh of cold-water fish, including mackerel, herring, tuna, halibut, salmon, cod liver, and whale or seal blubber – the product is already used as a prescription medicine to reduce triglyceride levels.

“Hopefully newcomers to the supplement category will realise the important role supplements play in overall health and will continue to use them post-pandemic.”

Ellen Schutt

This property has made EPA a common supplement with many applications, including the treatment of heart disease, the prevention of adverse events after a heart attack, and for easing symptoms of depression. Furthermore, it is used to alleviate the side effects of chemotherapy and aid recovery after surgery – though there is less in-depth research to support these uses. “The benefits of EPA and DHA omega-3s have grown substantially, with currently more than 40,000 published papers and 4,000 human clinical trials showcasing those benefits,” says Schutt. “Our research shows that the majority of consumers in almost every country are aware of omega-3s and understand that they are good for you, but I think there is still a lack of understanding regarding the specific benefits.” In recent years, several large clinical trials linking omega-3s to positive cardiovascular outcomes have

15 550 Astaxanthin

antioxidant activity is reported to be more than 100 times greater than that of vitamin E against lipid peroxidation and approximately 550 times more potent for singlet oxygen quenching.


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