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Astaxanthin: A rising star on the carotenoid horizon

By Kelly C. Heim, Ph.D.

Astaxanthin is a carotenoid produced by marine plants and microorganisms, particularly by the microalgae Haematococcus pluvialis. Natural accumulation of astaxanthin in the aquatic food chain lends red and pink coloration to higher organisms such as krill, shrimp and salmon. The molecular structure of astaxanthin is distinguished from other carotenoids by two additional hydroxyl groups, which afford a 10-fold greater antioxidant capacity compared to beta-carotene and lutein. More importantly, this structural nuance also enables modulation of receptors and genes involved in maintaining healthy inflammatory balance.

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