Astaxanthin limits fish oil-related oxidative insult in the anterior forebrain of Wistar rats: putative anxiolytic effects?

Pharmacol Biochem Behav. 2011 Sep;99(3):349-55. doi: 10.1016/j.pbb.2011.05.009. Epub 2011 May 17.


The habitual consumption of marine fish is largely associated to human mental health. Fish oil is particularly rich in n-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids that are known to play a role in several neuronal and cognitive functions. In parallel, the orange-pinkish carotenoid astaxanthin (ASTA) is found in salmon and displays important antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. Many neuronal dysfunctions and anomalous psychotic behavior (such as anxiety, depression, etc.) have been strongly related to the higher sensitivity of cathecolaminergic brain regions to oxidative stress. Thus, the aim of this work was to study the combined effect of ASTA and fish oil on the redox status in plasma and in the monoaminergic-rich anterior forebrain region of Wistar rats with possible correlations with the anxiolytic behavior. Upon fish oil supplementation, the downregulation of superoxide dismutase and catalase activities combined to increased "free" iron content resulted in higher levels of lipid and protein oxidation in the anterior forebrain of animals. Such harmful oxidative modifications were hindered by concomitant supplementation with ASTA despite ASTA-related antioxidant protection was mainly observed in plasma. Although it is clear that ASTA properly crosses the brain-blood barrier, our data also address a possible indirect role of ASTA in restoring basal oxidative conditions in anterior forebrain of animals: by improving GSH-based antioxidant capacity of plasma. Preliminary anxiolytic tests performed in the elevated plus maze are in alignment with our biochemical observations.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Anti-Anxiety Agents / administration & dosage*
  • Anti-Anxiety Agents / blood
  • Antioxidants / administration & dosage*
  • Drug Therapy, Combination
  • Fish Oils / administration & dosage*
  • Lipid Peroxidation / drug effects
  • Lipid Peroxidation / physiology
  • Male
  • Oxidative Stress / drug effects*
  • Oxidative Stress / physiology
  • Prosencephalon / drug effects*
  • Prosencephalon / metabolism
  • Rats
  • Rats, Wistar
  • Xanthophylls / administration & dosage
  • Xanthophylls / blood


  • Anti-Anxiety Agents
  • Antioxidants
  • Fish Oils
  • Xanthophylls
  • astaxanthine