Astaxanthin supplementation enhances metabolic adaptation with aerobic training in the elderly

Physiol Rep. 2021 Jun;9(11):e14887. doi: 10.14814/phy2.14887.


Endurance training (ET) is recommended for the elderly to improve metabolic health and aerobic capacity. However, ET-induced adaptations may be suboptimal due to oxidative stress and exaggerated inflammatory response to ET. The natural antioxidant and anti-inflammatory dietary supplement astaxanthin (AX) has been found to increase endurance performance among young athletes, but limited investigations have focused on the elderly. We tested a formulation of AX in combination with ET in healthy older adults (65-82 years) to determine if AX improves metabolic adaptations with ET, and if AX effects are sex-dependent. Forty-two subjects were randomized to either placebo (PL) or AX during 3 months of ET. Specific muscle endurance was measured in ankle dorsiflexors. Whole body exercise endurance and fat oxidation (FATox) was assessed with a graded exercise test (GXT) in conjunction with indirect calorimetry. Results: ET led to improved specific muscle endurance only in the AX group (Pre 353 ± 26 vs. Post 472 ± 41 contractions), and submaximal GXT duration improved in both groups (PL 40.8 ± 9.1% and AX 41.1 ± 6.3%). The increase in FATox at lower intensity after ET was greater in AX (PL 0.23 ± 0.15 g vs. AX 0.76 ± 0.18 g) and was associated with reduced carbohydrate oxidation and increased exercise efficiency in males but not in females.

Keywords: aging; anti-oxidants; astaxanthin; fat oxidation; sex difference; training adaptation.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Physiological / drug effects
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Antioxidants / pharmacology*
  • Calorimetry, Indirect
  • Dietary Supplements*
  • Exercise Test / drug effects
  • Exercise* / physiology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Physical Endurance / drug effects
  • Sex Factors
  • Xanthophylls / pharmacology


  • Antioxidants
  • Xanthophylls
  • astaxanthine