Valensa International (formerly US Nutra) holds the US patent for the use of the carotenoid antioxidant to slow the development and ameliorate the effects of eye and/or central nervous system diseases.
An article published in Trends in Biotechnology (vol 21, no 5, May 2003) reviewed the scientific evidence for astaxanthin's benefits in eye health, skin health, inflammation, health health, cellular health, cancer prevention, detoxification and liver function, immune response and neurodegenerative disease.
It concluded that asataxanthin might be a "practical and beneficial strategy in health management", and predicted that the market could "reach a size of several hundred million US$ within five to ten years".
Zanthin is a supercritical carbon dioxide extract of Haematococcus pluvialis microalgae produced in an enclosed glass pipe system which, unlike open pond systems, provides protection against contamination.
Haematococcus algae forms part of the salmon and lobster, and its astaxanthin content is what gives their flesh its pink hue. Astaxanthin is also used as a colorant to enhance the consumer appeal of farmed fish post-harvest.
Valensa introduced Zanthin to the European market at Vitafoods in Geneva in March, following the UK Food Standards Agency approval that it may be marketed as a non-novel dietary supplement at a maximum dose of 4 mg daily in EU member countries.
"Valensa, assisted by Dr John Wilkinson of Herbal Sciences International, has expended an immense effort to fully document the safety of Zanthin and provide the analytical data requisite to satisfying both regulatory agencies," said company president Dr Tony Evans.
According to the company, Zanthin is now the only supercritical carbon dioxide extract of natural astaxanthin approved for sale and use as a dietary supplement in both the US and the EU.
Astaxanthin is produced by the algae when water supplies in its habitat dry up to protect itself against the effects of UV radiation. It is thought to be an even more powerful antioxidant than other carotenoids such as lutein, lycopene and beta-carotene. According to the 2003 research review cited above, its structure is close to that of lutein and zeaxanthin but it has stronger antioxidant activity and UV light protection effect.
The eye health market is a key area for supplement-makers, as Americans seek to prevent the onset of age-related macular degeneration (AMD), a progressive eye disease that affects more than 10 million people in the US and the leading cause of vision loss in people over the age of 55.
AMD affects the central macular of the eye and leaves sufferers with only peripheral vision. Obesity is thought to be one of the key factors contributing to the onset of the disease, along with smoking, family history, race (whites are more susceptible) and gender (women are more susceptible).