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Astaxanthin Improves HDL Good Cholesterol


Astaxanthin, a potent antioxidant that comes primarily from a form of algae, may improve levels of HDL (high-density lipoprotein), the “good” cholesterol, in people who have mildly abnormal cholesterol and triglyceride levels. Results of a new study of astaxanthin are found in the latest issue of the journal Atherosclerosis.

Astaxanthin Supplements

Astaxanthin is a supplement that is derived mainly from Haematococcus pluvialis, an algae that is a favorite food of lobster, shrimp, krill, and other crustaceans. Animals that eat these algae or creatures that consume them (e.g., flamingoes) can credit their pink color to astaxanthin, which is also classified as a carotenoid pigment.

Astaxanthin supplements are used to treat eye fatigue and skin conditions, and also to improve muscle endurance and help diabetes. In this latest study, which was conducted in Japan, researchers evaluated the use of astaxanthin in 61 nonobese individuals who had mildly elevated triglyceride levels.

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Astaxanthin Study

During the 12-week, placebo-controlled, double-blind study, the participants were randomly assigned to take either 0, 6, 12, or 18 milligrams astaxanthin daily. At the end of the study, the researchers found that patients who took 12 and 18 mg/day had significant declines (about 24 percent) in their triglyceride levels.

Investigators also observed other benefits. Participants who took 6 or 12 mg/day of astaxanthin, for example, had a significant increase of 10 to 15 percent in their HDL levels. Subjects in the two highest astaxanthin dose groups also had increases of 15 to 20 percent in adiponectin levels. Adiponectin is a protein hormone that regulates the metabolism of lipids and glucose.

The study’s authors concluded that “astaxanthin may be expected to successfully treat impaired lipid metabolism and prevent atherosclerosis” because of its effect on HDL cholesterol and adiponectin. Further studies are necessary, however, to confirm these and other benefits of astaxanthin.

Yoshida H et al. Atherosclerosis 2010; 209(2): 520-23