Astaxanthin has shown to be a highly beneficial nutritional supplement for humans, as well as being used for fish food. Some research also has shown that it may be used to help prevent health problems like glaucoma and Alzheimer's.
Astaxanthin is a carotenoid, a natural pigment found in certain types of plants and bacteria. It is used both as a human nutritional supplement and as an additive in the food of certain livestock.
As a nutritional supplement, there are no known side effects. It usually comes in pills of 2 to 4 milligrams each. Also, as an antioxidant, it helps prevent a wide variety of diseases and conditions in the human body.
Astaxanthin is found naturally in salmon, plankton and krill, though it is also found in Haematococcus pluvialis, a type of algae, which has the largest amount of the pigment out of all natural sources, at about 40,000 parts per million. As a benefit, the algae's population doubles every week, allowing for a great deal of astaxanthin to be harvested.
Xanthophyllomyces dendrorhous, yeast, is similar to the algae in growth and another source of astaxanthin. When taken from this source, it needs to be refrigerated after being harvested. The quality of the astaxanthin differs; it does not have the same high nutritional value.
In humans, Astaxanthin is used as an antioxidant supplement, and as such, is 10 times more potent than other carotenoids. It's also thought to be good for the cardiovascular and immune systems. Some research also suggests it can alleviate oxidative stress to the eyes and brain. By doing this, it may help prevent things like Alzheimer's and glaucoma.
In fish, astaxanthin is used in the feed as a food dye. It is considered safe in salmon to 80 mg per kilogram feed and helps give the meat the pink or reddish color.
It has been found to be essential for normal growth in fish and crustaceans as a vitamin-like substance. Since they cannot create it themselves, the animals get it from feeding on zooplankton, which are thought to feed on the algae that produce astaxanthin.
It also prevents the oxidation of fats during storage of salmon, helping to prevent them from becoming rancid while frozen.
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