Oral bioavailability of the antioxidant astaxanthin in humans is enhanced by incorporation of lipid based formulations

Eur J Pharm Sci. 2003 Jul;19(4):299-304. doi: 10.1016/s0928-0987(03)00135-0.


Astaxanthin is a carotenoid with antioxidant properties, synthesised by plants and algae, and distributed in marine seafood. Astaxanthin is also available as a food supplement, but, like other carotenoids, is a very lipophilic compound and has low oral bioavailability. However, bioavailability can be enhanced in the presence of fat. There is not much information in the literature about the pharmacokinetics of oral astaxanthin in humans. In this open parallel study, healthy male volunteers received a single dose of 40 mg astaxanthin, as lipid based formulations or as a commercially available food supplement, followed by blood sampling for further analysis of plasma concentrations. Pharmacokinetic parameters were calculated to evaluate the extent and rate of absorption from each formulation. The elimination half-life was 15.9+/-5.3 h (n=32), and showed a mono-phasic curve. Three lipid based formulations: long-chain triglyceride (palm oil) and polysorbate 80 (formulation A), glycerol mono- and dioleate and polysorbate 80 (formulation B), and glycerol mono- and dioleate, polysorbate 80 and sorbitan monooleate (formulation C), all showed enhanced bioavailability, ranging from 1.7 to 3.7 times that of the reference formulation. The highest bioavailability was observed with formulation B, containing a high content of the hydrophilic synthetic surfactant polysorbate 80.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Antioxidants / chemistry
  • Antioxidants / pharmacokinetics
  • Biological Availability
  • Chemistry, Pharmaceutical
  • Humans
  • Kinetics
  • Male
  • Metabolic Clearance Rate
  • Middle Aged
  • Xanthophylls
  • beta Carotene / analogs & derivatives*
  • beta Carotene / blood
  • beta Carotene / chemistry*
  • beta Carotene / pharmacokinetics*


  • Antioxidants
  • Xanthophylls
  • beta Carotene
  • astaxanthine