Astaxanthin’s heart benefits get human data support

By Stephen Daniells

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Astaxanthin, Triglyceride, Cholesterol

Daily supplements of the carotenoid astaxanthin may improve HDL ‘good’ cholesterol levels in people with mildly abnormal blood lipid levels, suggests new data from a human trial.

Doses up to 18 milligrams per day for 12 weeks improved blood levels of HDL cholesterol, as well as adiponectin concentrations, a protein hormone linked to various metabolic processes, according to findings published in Atherosclerosis​.

Researchers from Jikei University Kashiwa Hospital in Japan and Fuji Chemical Industry used Fuji’s commercially available AstaReal astaxanthin ingredient, and the trial involved 61 non-obese people with mildly elevated triglyceride levels.

According to the researchers, the potential benefits of astaxanthin with regards to HDL cholesterol and triglycerides have been demonstrated previously in animal studies, but supporting data from humans have been lacking.

“The present double-blind, placebo-controlled study could be the first to clearly demonstrate that the administration of astaxanthin at doses of 12 and 18 mg/day significantly decreased triglyceride and increased HDL-cholesterol and adiponectin in humans,”​ wrote the researchers, led by Jikei University’s Hiroshi Yoshida.

A rosy future for the pink pigment?

The global astaxanthin market is estimated to be worth about $200 million by 2015, most of which is used as a pigment to enhance the pink coloration of fish such as salmon. The human uses market is growing and estimated at about $35-60 million, according to 2008 data from Frost & Sullivan.

Its main health benefits are eye and skin health although it has also been linked to joint health and central nervous system health and is said to have an antioxidant payload 500 times that of vitamin E.

Most astaxanthin is derived from the algae, Haematococcus pluvialis​, which is commonly consumed by fish and crustaceans and is responsible for their pink coloration.

Study details

Yoshida and his co-workers recruited mildly hyperlipidemic subjects (serum triglyceride levels between 120 and 200 mg per dl) with an average age of 44 to participate in their placebo-controlled 12-week study. The participants were randomly assigned to receive one of four doses of astaxanthin - 0, 6, 12, or 18 milligrams per day.

At the end of the study, participants receiving the two highest doses experienced significant reductions in their triglyceride levels, of 25 and 24 percent, respectively, compared to baseline. Furthermore, people receiving 6 or 12 mg per day experienced significant increases in their HDL-cholesterol levels of 10 and 15 percent, respectively.

Additionally, adiponectin levels increased in the two highest dose groups, with increases over 20 percent in the 12 mg per day group, and between 15 and 20 percent in the 18 percent group, added the researchers.

“Although the present study does not reveal the specific underlying mechanisms, astaxanthin may be expected to successfully treat impaired lipid metabolism and prevent atherosclerosis because of its possible therapeutic increase of HDL-cholesterol and adiponectin. However, well defined in vitro studies, long-term and large-scaled clinical trials will be needed to confirm such astaxanthin benefits,”​ concluded the researchers.

Source: Atherosclerosis
Volume 209, Issue 2, Pages 520-523
“Administration of natural astaxanthin increases serum HDL-cholesterol and adiponectin in subjects with mild hyperlipidemia”
Authors: H. Yoshida, H. Yanai, K. Ito, Y. Tomono, T. Koikeda, H. Tsukahara, N. Tada

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