Astaxanthin is a naturally occurring red carotenoid pigment classified as a xanthophyll, found in microalgae and seafood such as salmon, trout, and shrimp. This review focuses on astaxanthin as a bioactive compound and outlines the evidence associated with its potential role in the prevention of atherosclerosis. Astaxanthin has a unique molecular structure that is responsible for its powerful antioxidant activities by quenching singlet oxygen and scavenging free radicals. Astaxanthin has been reported to inhibit low-density lipoprotein (LDL) oxidation and to increase high-density lipoprotein (HDL)-cholesterol and adiponectin levels in clinical studies. Accumulating evidence suggests that astaxanthin could exert preventive actions against atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease (CVD) via its potential to improve oxidative stress, inflammation, lipid metabolism, and glucose metabolism. In addition to identifying mechanisms of astaxanthin bioactivity by basic research, much more epidemiological and clinical evidence linking reduced CVD risk with dietary astaxanthin intake is needed.
Keywords: astaxanthin; atherosclerosis; cardiovascular disease; glucose metabolism; inflammation; lipid metabolism; oxidative stress.