The natural vs synthetic astaxanthin debate centers on the fact that the products are not strictly analogous. “We are not saying that natural is necessarily better. We are saying it’s different,” said Efrat Kat, director of marketing and sales for Algatechnologies.
“The name might be the same, but everything else is completely different,” Kat told NutraIngredients-USA at the recent Vitafoods trade show in Geneva, Switzerland.
Algatech, as the company is also known, is an algae producer based in Israel’s southern desert, and is one of the founding members of NAXA, the Natural Astaxanthin Association. Kat said the difference in the makeup of the natural vs synthetic ingredients has to do with the different isomers of the molecule present in both forms and in the other components of the final product, which in the case of the natural producers consists primarily of other carotenoids. “For the synthetic, we don’t know what it is,” Kat said.
Also, the differences in the forms means that in the opinion of the natural producers, any evidence of health benefits applies to their ingredients alone, Kat said. The efficacy studies that have been done up to this point have been done using natural astaxanthin. “This is the most important point for us. We believe the health benefits need to be proved,” she said.
One of the arguments put forward in favor of synthetic production is that the process can be rigidly controlled, yielding a consistent product. Kat says this argument doesn't apply for Algatech, as they use a closed tube system for their algae cultivation. "We are in a desert environment, using solar radiation, and it is very consistent in different times of the year. We are cultivating our micro algae in a closed system and we are controlling all the parameters. Everything that goes in and everything that comes out," she said.