Astaxanthin: A Superior Bone-Healthy Antioxidant - Save Our Bones

These days, antioxidants are a fairly well-known class of nutrients. Names like lycopene and beta-carotene are part of everyday discussions about nutrition.

But one antioxidant tends to get overlooked, despite the fact that it has more antioxidant power than beta-carotene and vitamins C and E. I’m talking about astaxanthin, an antioxidant related to beta-carotene that, amazingly, can neutralize free radicals without compromising its molecular structure.

We’ll discuss this amazing antioxidant and why it’s important for your bones and your overall health, and then we’ll look at the best sources of this powerful nutrient.

Astaxanthin: the “Superman” of Antioxidants

Like beta-carotene and lutein, astaxanthin is a carotenoid. But it’s not just any carotenoid. Astaxanthin is more effective than the average antioxidant, and here’s why.

Free radicals are produced as a by-product of cellular metabolism. They are called “free” because they have a missing electron that is normally paired with another. This makes them very unstable, and this instability is brought into balance when the free radical “robs” another cell of one of its electrons.

But the problem is, the cell from which the electron was taken is now missing an electron – it’s a free radical itself now! So a chain reaction ensues, creating more and more free radicals that damage more and more cells by taking electrons.

Why Astaxanthin is Different

When antioxidants neutralize free radicals, they do so by either stopping the chain reaction once it starts, or preventing it from starting to begin with. Usually, they do this by giving up one of their electrons to neutralize the free radical, or they may break down the free radical molecule and make it harmless.

In essence, there’s a paradox about antioxidants giving up electrons – they become unstable themselves. If you have enough antioxidants, this issue will take care of itself and body tissue will not be “robbed,” thus damaging cells. But wouldn’t it be better for an antioxidant to be able to stop free radicals and not become a free radical itself?

Astaxanthin is such an antioxidant.

Astaxanthin is unique in that it is able to donate an electron to a free radical and still remain stable and intact. This is due to its enormous surplus of electrons, so astaxanthin can donate many, many times over. Moreover, most other antioxidants are eventually broken down by chemical processes in the body, but there is no such process that breaks down astaxanthin.

Astaxanthin and Your Bones

If you are on the Osteoporosis Reversal Program, you are already familiar with the important role of antioxidants in bone health. In fact, all of Chapter 12 of the Program is devoted to discussing how antioxidants protect your bones. For example, lycopene (another carotenoid) actually stimulates osteoblasts, the bone-building cells.1 And phloridzin, an antioxidant that’s part of a group known as polyphenols, reduces inflammation and increases bone density.2

Astaxanthin is an especially potent anti-inflammatory, making it particularly important for your bones. This is because chronic inflammation can reduce bone density, and research suggests that chronic inflammation can lead to osteoporosis.

Remember, free radicals damage cells, including bone cells. Astaxanthin has that unique ability to neutralize free radicals and render them harmless again and again, without suffering damage to its own molecular structure.

Benefits of Astaxanthin

Recent research has revealed some fascinating benefits of this fat-soluble antioxidant. In a 2008 study, astaxanthin showed promise in preventing cardiovascular disease,3 probably due to its ability to reduce C-Reactive Proteins (CRPs), which are inflammatory markers. In addition, astaxanthin reduces triglycerides and increases HDL (“good”) cholesterol. 

In 2011, University of California researcher Parris Kidd wrote an extensive review examining multiple studies that show the “diverse clinical benefits”4 of astaxanthin. Here are some of these research-backed benefits:

  • Lowers oxidative stress in overweight individuals
  • Lowers oxidative stress in smokers (imagine what it can do for non-smokers!)
  • Improves blood flow in microcirculatory models
  • Improves cognition
  • Improves vision – in fact, astaxanthin’s ability to cross cell barriers in eye tissue means it can offer protection from diseases like age-related macular degeneration.
  • Relieves reflux symptoms in people with H. pylori
  • Decreases inflammation

Sources of Astaxanthin

Many of the foods highest in astaxanthin are acidifying, and they are:

  • Shellfish (shrimp, lobster, crayfish, etc.)
  • Krill
  • Salmon

These are the alkalizing fruits and vegetables that contain astaxanthin, albeit in fairly small amounts:

  • Carrots
  • Red bell peppers
  • Radishes
  • Tomatoes
  • Mangoes
  • Acai berries
  • Guava
  • Billberries

These are the acidifying fruits that contain astaxanthin, also in small amounts:

  • Plums
  • Blueberries

Till next time,


1 Balachandran, Rao, Murray. “Polyphenols in the extract of greens+ (TM.herbal preparation have effects on cell proliferation and differentiation of human osteoblast cell line SaOS-2.” Presented at the 26th Annual Meeting of the American Society for Bone and Mineral Research. 2004.
2 Pashkow, F.J.; Watumull, D.G.; Campbell, C.L. “Astaxanthin: A novel potential treatment for oxidative stress and inflammation in cardiovascular disease.” American Journal of Cardiology. 2008, 101, 58D–68D.
3 Kidd. “Astaxanthin, Cell Membrane Nutrient with Diverse Clinical Benefits and Anti-Aging Potential.” Alternative Medicine Review. 2011;16(4):355-364.
4 Vinson J, Su X, Zubik L, Bose P: “Phenol antioxidant quantity and quality in foods: fruits.” Journal Agriculture Food Chemistry. Vol. 49. 2001

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Comments on this article are closed.

  1. hanako

    can I take astraxanthin with EPO for a diary supplement in the morning and evening after meal?

  2. Linda Quinn

    Hi I’m confused about Astaxanthin and osteoporosis? I have read its great for your bones, but it also read it de pleats the calcium from your bones and should be avoided. What is the truth?

  3. Elizabeth

    Hello Vivian. Maybe you can advise me. I have what the Dr. says Eczema, I itch all over and breaking out with rash, he gave me rub on medication , doesn’t help is there something that can help ?, food ? , any advise can help,I read a lot about it and some say that apple cider vinegar helps when taken and sprayed on, confused / thanks if you can help Love you page sincerely Elizabeth

  4. Shirley

    Very recently, I purchased eye care supplements that included astaxanthin. I noticed that you already llist vision benefits from taking this supplement. I love when you take something that’s good good for one part of your body, i’s also good for your bones. The supplemeentt I found has 4 mg. of astax. in daily dose.

  5. sandra Fisher

    I would like to order a second copy of Save your bones

  6. Kathy Siuda

    When I have asked questions in the past I have never been able to find the answers anywhere. I follow you but I do not chat any more because I can not follow the conversation of questions and answers. I do enjoy the sight, however. Thank you. Kathy

  7. Leslie (Ms. L. Carmel)

    Hi! Vivian,

    Does Astaxanthin And Krill Oil Mix OK With Most Prescriptions?

    (MS. L. CARMEL)

  8. Melody Fietze

    What is a Vegan alternative?

  9. Denise

    I have just read a web site on the side effects of antaxanthin, and it said it takes
    calcium from the body, I have been taking it for about 3yrs. I just wondered.


    • Vivian Goldschmidt, MA

      Interesting, Denise – sounds like a good subject for further research!

  10. Donna Ceplenski

    I am allergic to all shellfish. Would krill oil be okay for me to take?

    • Vivian Goldschmidt, MA

      As far as allergies go, Donna, definitely talk to your doctor or allergist first. You don’t want to have a bad reaction!

  11. Pearl

    Thanks for the info Vivian,
    I have never been able to take oil, it allways makes me sick.
    I was eating salmon on a regular basis, but have now given it up because of all the contamination, & likely radioactivity.
    I only eat local Australian sardines now.

  12. Lynn

    Just wonder what be suggested for people who are vegan?

  13. George

    I take Omega 3 now. Do I need to continue to take the
    omega 3 if I take krill oil?

  14. Laura Houle

    I thought I already posted a comment! I don’t see it here. I mentioned that I can’t seem to take fish oil, not even Krill oil, so I take Astaxanthin in pill form. Is it a rarity to not be able to take fish oil?

    Now, what do you suggest for brain fog!

  15. Laura Houle

    I cannot seem to take fish oil. I have even tried Krill Oil. I take the Astaxanthin in pill form. Is this good enough? What do people do who can’t take fish oil?

  16. Marie Wilson

    What are the whales and larger fish going to eat if humans take all the krill. I don’t think nature intended us to eat krill. Marie

    • Annie

      That is a good point you make..We are running out of Sardines also..

  17. Faye Clarkson

    As far as fingernails, every time I take Evening Primrose Oil, my fingernails get very strong. At first, I take EPO 2-3 times daily. Then I cut back to 1 time daily. When I finish the large bottle, possibly 120 caps., I observe my fingernail to check for results. It always works, as long as I take enough and for along enough periold of time, could be 4-8 weeks. When I stop EPO, I notice when my fingernails need EPO again. Thanks, Faye Clarkson

  18. Faye Clarksonst

    That is great news. I listen to health talk shows very early on Saturday mornings, on am 7:40. They have talked about astaxathanthin and krill. I pruchased both, have almost finished both bottles. Since I rotate certain supplements, I will purchase both again and continue taking them. Thanks, sincerely Faye Clarkson

    • Faye Clarkson

      I am still researching Krill Oil. Some say take Krill and Fish Oil together. One worker at the health food store told me I only need Krill, not Krill and fish oil. At first I took Krill and astaxanthin at the same time. Then i took them at different times of the day. I also had purchased Salmon oil. I will finish the bottle. I have heard of Omega Krill. The main point is to take astaxanthin and or Krill, in my view. I am trying to correct my spelling mistakes. I have a good reason…… Thanks, Sincerely Faye Clarkson

  19. DLG

    Why not just take Astaxanthin capsules that are out on the market? Can you take both Krill Oil and Astaxanthin?

    • Vivian Goldschmidt, MA

      DLG, I recommend krill oil as a source of astaxanthin primarily because of the double benefit of Omega-3s and astaxanthin. 🙂 That way, you get all the synergistic benefits!

  20. Nancy Walker

    Are fingernail affected by osteoporous?

    • Micky

      Hi Nancy, Good question, I have often thought that when my finger nails feel stronger, then my bones must be. But I don’t know if this is right,
      Regards Micky

  21. Diane

    I take krill oil for the omega 3 but there’s only 1 mg of astaxanthin in 2 capsules, and I only take 1, I assume this is the same no matter what brand of krill oil you have. How much astaxanthin is necessary to help bones, is 1 mg enough I didn’t see that mentioned.

    • Vivian Goldschmidt, MA

      Diane, in the Osteoporosis Reversal Program, I recommend 1000mg or less daily of fish (krill) oil. 🙂 This ensures you’ll get plenty of astaxanthin, because the exact dosage required for effectiveness varies from individual to individual.

      In clinical studies in humans, the amount of astaxanthin given ranged from 1.8mg to 100mg! Here is a helpful table that shows various dosages and effects in multiple studies:

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