Astaxanthin, the carotenoid antioxidant responsible for the color in most fish, kept healthy fats from deteriorating in the blood in a new study.
Doctors from the Research Institute of Public Health at the University of Kuopio in Finland recruited 40 healthy non-smoking Finnish men with an average age of 24.4 and normal weight (average body mass index 23.8), who took 8 mg of astaxanthin in two 4 mg doses per day for three months. Scientists measured two types of toxic fatty acids that form in the blood when good polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs) break down and oxidize. The bad oxidized fats, plasma 12- and 15-hydroxyl fatty acids, were significantly lower in the astaxanthin group compared to the placebo group after three months. Blood levels of astaxanthin also increased in men who had taken astaxanthin compared with those in the placebo group, and men who took astaxanthin reported no stomach upset, intestinal discomfort or any other side effects.
The researchers believe that PUFAs oxidize easily and that astaxanthin appears to protect these beneficial fats in the blood. Oxidized fats can degrade low-density lipoprotein (LDL, the “bad” cholesterol) allowing LDL to attach more easily to, and accumulate on, the linings of the arteries, damaging cells and leading to blood vessel and heart disease. Unlike other carotenoids, astaxanthin does not convert to vitamin A in the body and does not appear to be toxic at higher levels, as is vitamin A. The doctors concluded that astaxanthin may decrease toxic fats in the blood of healthy men.