Astaxanthin is a xanthophyll carotenoid present in microalgae, fungi, complex plants, seafood, flamingos and quail. It is an antioxidant with anti-inflammatory properties and as such has potential as a therapeutic agent in atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease. Synthetic forms of astaxanthin have been manufactured. The safety, bioavailability and effects of astaxanthin on oxidative stress and inflammation that have relevance to the pathophysiology of atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease, have been assessed in a small number of clinical studies. No adverse events have been reported and there is evidence of a reduction in biomarkers of oxidative stress and inflammation with astaxanthin administration. Experimental studies in several species using an ischaemia-reperfusion myocardial model demonstrated that astaxanthin protects the myocardium when administered both orally or intravenously prior to the induction of the ischaemic event. At this stage we do not know whether astaxanthin is of benefit when administered after a cardiovascular event and no clinical cardiovascular studies in humans have been completed and/or reported. Cardiovascular clinical trials are warranted based on the physicochemical and antioxidant properties, the safety profile and preliminary experimental cardiovascular studies of astaxanthin.
Keywords: Haematococcus pluvialis; antioxidants; inflammation; oxidative stress; xanthophyll carotenoid.