Astaxanthin shows benefits against colitis, for mice at least

By Stephen Daniells

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Ulcerative colitis

Astaxanthin shows benefits against colitis, for mice at least
Consuming the carotenoid astaxanthin as part of the diet may reduce the development of colitis, a form of inflammatory bowel condition, suggests new data from mice.

Astaxanthin – the pigment that gives salmon its pink colour – was associated with a reduction in the occurrence of ulcers in the lining of the colon, as well as lower levels of pro-inflammatory compounds, according to findings published in Chemico-Biological Interactions​.

Colitis is inflammation of the colon. According to the UK’s National Health Service (NHS), ulcerative colitis is a relatively uncommon condition, affecting about 100,000 people in England. Women are 30 per cent more likely to develop the condition than their male counterparts.

Other inflammatory conditions of the colon include Crohn’s disease. Symptoms of such conditions include abdominal pain, weight loss, diarrhoea, and vomiting.

“The results in the present study suggest that dietary astaxanthin inhibited the […] inflammation and […] colitis-associated colon carcinogenesis in mice through suppressing the expression of cytokines including NF-kappaB,”​ report Japanese researchers from Rakuno Gakuen University, Kanazawa Medical University, and Hokkaido University.

“Our findings indicate that NF-kappaB signal pathway may plays an important role in the colitis-associated colon carcinogenesis and is a potential target of colitis-related colon carcinogenesis.

“Our data also suggest that AX is one of the candidates of cancer chemopreventive agents against cancer development in inflamed colon.”

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

The Japanese scientists tested different doses of astaxanthin (Sigma-Aldrich) on the development of colitis and colon cancer in mice.

Animals were exposed to a chemical called dextran sulphate sodium (DSS) to induce inflammation in the colon, and ultimately colitis. The diets of the animals contained 50, 100 and 200 ppm of astaxanthin.

Results showed that the pink pigment was associated with a reduction in the occurrence of ulcers in the lining of the colon, as well as a reduction in the formation of colon tumors.

“Feeding with 200 ppm astaxanthin, but not 100 ppm, significantly inhibited the development of DSS-induced colitis,”​ they reported.

“Our results suggest that the dietary astaxanthin suppresses the colitis and colitis-related colon carcinogenesis in mice, partly through inhibition of the expression of inflammatory cytokine and proliferation.”

Source: Chemico-Biological Interactions
Volume 193, Issue 1, Pages 79-87
“Dietary astaxanthin inhibits colitis and colitis-associated colon carcinogenesis in mice via modulation of the inflammatory cytokines”
Authors: Y. Yasui, M. Hosokawa, N. Mikami, K. Miyashita, T. Tanaka

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