Astaxanthin: a review of its chemistry and applications

Crit Rev Food Sci Nutr. 2006;46(2):185-96. doi: 10.1080/10408690590957188.


Astaxanthin is a carotenoid widely used in salmonid and crustacean aquaculture to provide the pink color characteristic of that species. This application has been well documented for over two decades and is currently the major market driver for the pigment. Additionally, astaxanthin also plays a key role as an intermediary in reproductive processes. Synthetic astaxanthin dominates the world market but recent interest in natural sources of the pigment has increased substantially. Common sources of natural astaxanthin are the green algae Haematococcus pluvialis, the red yeast, Phaffia rhodozyma, as well as crustacean byproducts. Astaxanthin possesses an unusual antioxidant activity which has caused a surge in the nutraceutical market for the encapsulated product. Also, health benefits such as cardiovascular disease prevention, immune system boosting, bioactivity against Helycobacter pylori, and cataract prevention, have been associated with astaxanthin consumption. Research on the health benefits of astaxanthin is very recent and has mostly been performed in vitro or at the pre-clinical level with humans. This paper reviews the current available evidence regarding astaxanthin chemistry and its potential beneficial effects in humans.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Antioxidants / administration & dosage
  • Aquaculture
  • Cardiovascular Diseases / prevention & control
  • Crustacea / metabolism
  • Dietary Supplements
  • Eukaryota / metabolism
  • Helicobacter Infections / drug therapy
  • Helicobacter Infections / prevention & control
  • Helicobacter pylori
  • Humans
  • Immunity / drug effects
  • Molecular Structure
  • Neoplasms / prevention & control
  • Xanthophylls / administration & dosage
  • Xanthophylls / biosynthesis
  • Xanthophylls / chemistry
  • Yeasts / metabolism


  • Antioxidants
  • Xanthophylls
  • astaxanthine