top of page

Astaxanthin: Overview of Its Antioxidant Properties & Ros

Reactive oxygen species (ROS) are continuously generated as a byproduct of normal aerobic metabolism. Increased ROS formation leads to potential damage of biological structures and is implicated in various diseases. Astaxanthin, a xanthophyll carotenoid, is a secondary metabolite responsible for the red-orange color of a number of marine animals and microorganisms. There is increasing evidence that astaxanthin has strong antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and anti-apoptotic activities. Hence, its consumption can have various health benefits.

Astaxanthin contains both a hydroxyl group and a keto group, and this unique structure plays important roles in neutralizing ROS. The molecule scavenges harmful singlet oxygen and converts them into more stable compounds, preventing the formation of free radicals and inhibiting the autoxidative chain reaction. It also acts as a metal scavenger and converts metal pro-oxidants into harmless molecules.

However, astaxanthin is affected by environmental conditions, e.g., pH, heat, or light exposure, thus it is susceptible to structural change, i.e., via isomerization, aggregation, or esterification, which alters its physiochemical properties. Here, we provide a concise overview of astaxanthin distribution in tissues, and astaxanthin structures, and their role in dealing with singlet oxygen and free radicals. We highlight the effect of structural modification of astaxanthin molecules on bioavailability and biological activity.


Astaxanthin's Distribution in Tissues

Astaxanthin is found in various marine organisms such as microalgae, yeast, salmon, trout, shrimp, and krill. It is accumulated in the tissues of these organisms through their diet or direct consumption of astaxanthin-producing microorganisms. In humans, astaxanthin can be obtained through the consumption of seafood or dietary supplements. Once ingested, astaxanthin is distributed to various tissues in the body, including the skin, eyes, brain, skeletal muscles, and adipose tissue. Its presence in these tissues highlights its potential role in protecting against oxidative stress and inflammation.

Astaxanthin & ROS Structures and Their Role in Dealing with Singlet Oxygen and Free Radicals

The unique structure of astaxanthin enables it to effectively neutralize ROS. Its conjugated double bonds and polar end groups allow it to interact with singlet oxygen and free radicals, thereby preventing oxidative damage to cellular components. The hydroxyl and keto groups in astaxanthin play crucial roles in its antioxidant activity by donating or accepting electrons to stabilize reactive intermediates and terminate free radical chain reactions.

In addition to its direct antioxidant activity, astaxanthin has been shown to modulate cellular signaling pathways involved in inflammation and apoptosis. By inhibiting the production of pro-inflammatory mediators and regulating the expression of anti-apoptotic proteins, astaxanthin exerts protective effects against tissue damage and cell death induced by oxidative stress.

Effect of Structural Modification on Bioavailability and Biological Activity

The bioavailability and biological activity of astaxanthin can be influenced by its structural modifications. Isomerization, aggregation, or esterification of astaxanthin can alter its absorption, distribution, metabolism, and excretion in the body. For example, the esterified form of astaxanthin has been found to have higher bioavailability compared to the free form due to enhanced stability and solubility in lipid-rich environments.

Furthermore, structural modifications can impact the ability of astaxanthin to interact with cellular targets and exert its antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects. Studies have suggested that specific structural features, such as the length and branching of side chains, may affect the affinity of astaxanthin for membrane proteins and intracellular enzymes involved in redox signaling and inflammatory responses.

Health Benefits of Astaxanthin Consumption

The strong antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and anti-apoptotic activities of astaxanthin make it a promising dietary supplement for health applications. Clinical trials and experimental studies have demonstrated several potential health benefits associated with astaxanthin consumption.

Firstly, astaxanthin has been shown to protect the skin from UV-induced damage by reducing oxidative stress and inflammation in dermal cells. Its ability to enhance skin elasticity and moisture retention makes it a valuable nutraceutical for promoting skin health and preventing premature aging.

Secondly, astaxanthin has been reported to support eye health by reducing oxidative damage to the retina and improving visual acuity. Its anti-inflammatory properties may also alleviate symptoms of eye fatigue and discomfort associated with prolonged screen time or exposure to bright light.

Moreover, astaxanthin supplementation has been linked to improvements in muscle endurance and recovery. By mitigating exercise-induced oxidative stress and inflammation, astaxanthin may enhance physical performance and reduce muscle soreness following intense training or physical activity.

Furthermore, emerging evidence suggests that astaxanthin may have neuroprotective effects against age-related cognitive decline and neurodegenerative diseases. Its ability to cross the blood-brain barrier and modulate neuronal signaling pathways makes it a potential therapeutic agent for preserving cognitive function and preventing neuronal damage.


In conclusion, astaxanthin is a natural compound with potent antioxidant properties that hold promise for promoting health and preventing chronic diseases. Its unique chemical structure enables it to effectively neutralize ROS, modulate inflammatory responses, and protect against cellular damage induced by oxidative stress. The distribution of astaxanthin in various tissues and its structural modifications influence its bioavailability and biological activity. The growing body of research supporting the health benefits of astaxanthin consumption underscores its potential as a valuable dietary supplement for improving skin health, supporting eye function, enhancing physical performance, and preserving cognitive function. Further investigation into the mechanisms underlying the biological effects of astaxanthin will contribute to a better understanding of its therapeutic potential in various health conditions.


WARNING: The information provided on this page is intended for general informational purposes only and should not be considered as a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment.

Always seek the guidance of a qualified healthcare professional for any questions or concerns you may have regarding your health or a specific medical condition. The content on this page is not intended to replace a one-on-one consultation with a healthcare practitioner nor does it guarantee treatment or the indication for treatment.

Reliance on any information provided on this page is solely at your own risk. Please consult your healthcare provider before making any decisions about your health or treatment options.


Recent Posts

See All


bottom of page