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Synthetic vs. Natural Astaxanthin

Astaxanthin is one of the most powerful antioxidants in the world.

It colors salmon pink and gives them the power to float for days against the roar of the water.

Astaxanthin makes high performance easy – and not only that.

Astaxanthin improves stress-resistance, prevents heart disease, relieves chronic inflammatory processes, reduces joint pain and protects the skin – even against wrinkles – naturally from the sun.

A crab containing the antioxidant astaxanthin

If you want to have a complete Guide about Astaxanthin’s benefits and uses, check out our Free Guide.

Natural vs. Synthetic Astaxanthin: The Origin

Natural astaxanthin is usually derived from algae (blood rain algae).

From 1 kilogram of dried algae, you get 40 grams of astaxanthin.

Algae cultivation takes place in two phases, a green phase, where nutrients are provided for growth.

And a second red phase, where a nutrient deficit is combined with intense sunlight.

The physical stress and the strong UV radiation stimulate the production of the antioxidant astaxanthin in the algae, which is a protective factor.

Then the harvest takes place.

In addition, natural astaxanthin can also be extracted from yeasts (e.g., Xanthophyllomyces dendrorhous), krill (e.g., Euphausia superba), or shrimp peels.

For aquaculture, however, mainly synthetic astaxanthin of petrochemical origin (from isophorone) is used.

Synthetic astaxanthin has the advantage of being more bioavailable than the natural form.

In which concentration does astaxanthin occur in food?

  • Salmon Fish ~ 5
  • Plankton ~ 60
  • Krill ~ 120
  • King prawn ~ 1,200
  • Yeast ~ 10,000
  • Blood rain algae ~ 40,000
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Natural vs. Synthetic Astaxanthin: The Facts

Natural Astaxanthin is obtained from various sources:

Natural astaxanthin is extracted from the microalgae Haematococcus pluvialis, representing the highest quality astaxanthin with the highest antioxidant potential.

In addition, natural astaxanthin is also obtained from foods such as salmon.

Natural Astaxanthin, using the genetically modified yeast Phaffia rhodozyma.

Synthetic astaxanthin is made from petroleum in a complicated process and by now is the world’s most widely sold form of astaxanthin.

If you buy salmon that is not clearly labeled as “wild salmon” or “with natural dye” then it will be fed with synthetic astaxanthin.

In breeding farms, there is no species-appropriate food.

Thus, no astaxanthin-containing microalgae for the fish.

If according to the declaration, the salmon was fed with natural astaxanthin, it could be that he actually received high-quality astaxanthin from microalgae.

Much more likely, however, is that it is the astaxanthin from the genetically modified yeast Phaffia, as it is much cheaper than the algae astaxanthin.

Fish eggs containing the antioxidant astaxanthin

Natural Astaxanthin is More Effective

Although synthetic astaxanthin has the same chemical formula as natural astaxanthin, the two forms differ tremendously.

On the one hand in its shape and on the other hand in its effect.

Natural astaxanthin, extracted from the microalgae Haematococcus pluvialis, not only contains astaxanthin but the whole complex of the substances that make up the algae to ensure their survival.

This complex consists of 85 percent astaxanthin, four percent lutein, six percent beta-carotene and five percent canthaxanthin.

The concomitant substances work synergistically to enhance the effect of astaxanthin and thus make natural astaxanthin a far more effective antioxidant than synthetic astaxanthin.

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However, natural astaxanthin from microalgae occupies less than 1 percent of the global astaxanthin market.

Does Synthetic Astaxanthin have Side Effects?

Some great antioxidants can harm the body by suddenly triggering oxidative stress instead of turning it off.

These critical antioxidants include Beta-carotene, lycopene, and zeaxanthin. Even common antioxidants like vitamin C, vitamin E, and zinc can cause oxidative stress.

That is, they act pro-oxidative.

This happens when administered in large quantities in synthetic form and as individual substances.

The Finland study is a great example. 

There, heavy smokers given synthetic beta-carotene should be protected from lung cancer. The opposite was the case. 

The cancer rate rose.

Astaxanthin, however, never acts pro-oxidatively due to its unique molecular structure. It is far superior to other carotenoids and antioxidants on this point, too.

The only possible unwanted effect Astaxanthin could cause would be slightly orange-colored hands and soles.

But only if the recommended daily dose of 4 to 12 milligrams is far exceeded.

Astaxanthin is incorporated into the skin.

However, the color effect does not have a negative impact on health.

Synthetic Astaxanthin Quality

As an extremely powerful antioxidant, Astaxanthin reacts instantly when in contact with oxygen. It disintegrates and no longer has any advantage for humans or animals.

Therefore, only high-quality astaxanthin products that have been processed and manufactured to the latest state of the art should be used.

Because only then the positive properties are still present and only then you can really enjoy all the benefits of astaxanthin.

Synthetic Astaxanthin Dosage

You may be thinking of simply eating more salmon from now on.

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While this may actually be a way to increase your antioxidant intake, you must always pay attention to the differences in salmon.

The standard dose of 6 milligrams of astaxanthin per capsule, which is customary today, corresponds to about 100 grams of red salmon.

This is the salmon species with by far the highest concentration of astaxanthin. However, if you buy Atlantic salmon, you would need to eat nearly a kilogram to reach 6 milligrams of astaxanthin.

The recommended daily astaxanthin dose of 6 milligrams applies to people without any health concerns.

You can start with a small amount. Take them for a month.

If there are no improvements, increase the dose. Many people need 6 milligrams per day, others need 8 or 12 milligrams.

In which group you belong to can only be found out in practice.

Some people are just going the other way around and initially take a high dose and reduce it after a few weeks as soon as they feel better.

This way you will find you minimal effective dose, at which the achieved improvements of the condition can be maintained.

Conclusion: Natural vs Synthetic Astaxanthin

The Antioxidant Astaxanthin is definitely worth a try for any athlete.

When choosing between natural vs. synthetic astaxanthin, I’d recommend always taking the natural one.

It comes in its most complete form and is definitely worth the markup price.

I hope this guide was helpful and instructive, but above all useful for your own practical implementation.

Have you every tried to implement Astaxanthin into your diet? 

Let me know about your experiences in the comments below! 



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