Astaxanthin is a superfood for the eyes, but our absorption rates are low. Only about half of the astaxanthin we ingest is usable by the body.1 Astaxanthin is prized for easily crossing the blood/eye barrier and providing antioxidants to the eyes. These free radical fighters help prevent and support a wide variety of age-related eye diseases. A supplement company has added harmless emulsifiers called “phospholipids” to astaxanthin to increase absorption.
What is Astaxanthin?
Many have not heard of astaxanthin. The human body cannot create this carotenoid. Astaxanthin is produced by the red yeast Phaffia rhodozyma, common in Asian cuisine. The algae Haematococcus also makes astaxanthin. Water creatures that feed on this alga develop pink muscle tissue: salmon, shrimp, trout, etc.
Pink seafood is a dietary source of astaxanthin. However, our eyes can benefit from much larger quantities. Seniors, in particular, should consider supplementing with astaxanthin to support healthy vision.
Carotenoids are red, orange or yellow pigments found in brightly colored foods. They shield the eyes from near-ultraviolet and blue radiation by absorbing blue light. Blue light with low levels of antioxidants have been widely studied as a contributor to eye diseases such as cataracts and macular degeneration.2
Numerous studies on astaxanthin have concluded that this antioxidant protects vision.
Beware of cheaper synthetic astaxanthin. It may be labeled “nature equivalent” or “nature identical.” However, synthetic astaxanthin from petrochemicals is free-form (unesterified). This is chemically different from natural algae astaxanthin, which is more than 95% esterified.3
Astaxanthin supplements may come from yeast, microalgae, arctic shrimp, and some kinds of krill. Natural Eye Care offers a selection of natural astaxanthin supplements, including krill oil and gel capsules.
Life Extension added a proprietary blend of four types of phospholipids to their natural astaxanthin supplement. The phospholipids increase absorption of the astaxanthin, allowing more of the supplement to reach eye tissues.4
Up Next: See our page on Antioxidants for the Eye.
- Mol Nutr Food Res. 2012 Sep;56(9):1385-97. ↩
- Fletcher AE, et al “Sunlight exposure, antioxidants, and age-related macular degeneration” Arch Ophthalmol 2008; 126: 1396-1403. ↩
- Natural Algae Astaxanthin Association. ” What are the Differences Between Natural and Synthetic Astaxanthin?” accessed 5/8/18 ↩
- https://www.lifeextension.com/Vitamins-Supplements/item01923/Astaxanthin-with-Phospholipids ↩