Astaxanthin formulation plus training linked to better endurance and strength in the elderly: RCT

By Stephen Daniells

- Last updated on GMT

© Getty Images / Rawpixel
© Getty Images / Rawpixel
A supplement formulation containing astaxanthin, vitamin E tocotrienol, and zinc may counter the effects of sarcopenia in the elderly when combined with exercise training, says a new study.

Improvements in muscle strength in elderly subjects were greater when the astaxanthin formulation was used in combination with exercise training, compared to exercise training alone, according to results published in the Journal of Cachexia, Sarcopenia and Muscle​.

“These results suggest that the potential for strength and endurance improvements in elderly muscle is realized when natural products that promote adaptation are combined with exercise training incorporating both resistance and aerobic components,”​ wrote researchers from the University of Washington in Seattle.

“The end result is an approach involving functional exercise and a dietary formulation that can improve endurance, strength, and function to remedy the deficits associated with sarcopenia that limit mobility in the elderly.”


Muscle loss is a natural part of aging, and researchers have estimated that, after the age of 50, we lose 1-2% of our muscle mass each year. Strength declines as well, at a rate of 1.5% per year beginning at 50 years and accelerating to 3% after the age of 60.

According to a monograph from the US Dairy Export Council, the direct health care cost attributable to sarcopenia were estimated to be $18.5bn in 2000 in the US, a number that represented about 1.5% of health care expenditures for that year.

Study details

The new study, which included 42 elderly subjects aged between 65 and 82, examined how a formulation containing astaxanthin (12 mg per day) and tocotrienol (10 mg), and zinc (6 mg) may enhance the benefits of exercise training on muscle strength and size.

Astaxanthin © Getty Images Hendra Su
© Getty Images / Hendra Su

The subjects received either the astaxanthin formulation (AstaMed) or placebo for one month before then starting on three months of exercise training combined with their intervention.

The results showed that both groups experienced improvements in their endurance during an interval walking exercise on an incline treadmill, while the distance covered in six minutes also increased for both groups.

Astaxanthin supplementation was associated with significant increases in maximal voluntary force (MVC: +14%), muscle size (cross‐sectional area: +2.7%), and specific force (+12%), while no changes were seen in the placebo group.

“Here, we show that functionally based exercise training combined with a formulation of natural anti‐inflammatory and antioxidant compounds improved muscle strength and size in elderly subjects more than exercise training alone,” ​wrote the researchers. “This was done without sacrificing the improvements in walking distance and endurance that typically accompany endurance training.”

What’s happening?

Commenting on the potential mechanism(s) of action, the researchers noted that the neuromuscular junction – the interface between the muscle and nervous system – is known to be affected by oxidative stress, and data from mouse studies has indicated that reducing oxidative stress may improve the neuromuscular junction and specific force.

“The [astaxanthin] formulation is reported to act as an antioxidant ​in vitro in rodent models and ​in vivo in humans,” ​they wrote. “This antioxidant property may reduce oxidative stress so that the biosynthetic signals raised by exercise training can activate rebuilding of degenerative [neuromuscular junctions] with [astaxanthin] treatment. Rejuvenated [neuromuscular junctions] could permit activation of more muscle fibres […] and could account for the improved specific force of ankle dorsiflexion found in this study.”

'First of its kind'

Commenting on the study's findings, Dan Mueller, General Manager of AstaMed, said: “We are extremely pleased this new research clearly indicates a viable new option to manage sarcopenia. This study is the first of its kind that shows such a significant improvement in muscular strength and endurance using AstaMed MYO along with exercise that can make a difference in the lives of millions of aging Americans facing the debilitating effects of sarcopenia."

Source: Journal of Cachexia, Sarcopenia and Muscle
Published online ahead of print, doi: 10.1002/jcsm.12318
“Building strength, endurance, and mobility using an astaxanthin formulation with functional training in elderly”
Authors: S.Z. Liu  et al.  

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