Twelve weeks of supplementation with astaxanthin were associated with significant reductions in levels of compounds called phospholipid hydroperoxides (PLOOH), known to accumulate abnormally in the red blood cells (erythrocytes) of people with dementia, compared with placebo.
Writing in the British Journal of Nutrition, researchers led by Kiyotaka Nakagawa from Tohoku University, report that, since the data shows that astaxanthin is incorporated into the red blood cells, as is seen with lutein, the pink pigment may “contribute to the prevention of dementia”.
“The present randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled human trial shows that when human subjects ingest astaxanthin, it is absorbed, distributed and accumulated in erythrocytes, where it exhibits antioxidative effects (inhibition of erythrocyte PLOOH),” wrote the researchers.
“It is interesting to note that the antioxidative effect observed in the present study was produced by a relatively short-term supplementation with astaxanthin (12 weeks),” they added.
Most astaxanthin is derived from the algae, Haematococcus pluvialis, which is commonly consumed by fish and crustaceans and is responsible for their pink coloration.
The new study also used astaxanthin from Haematococcus pluvialis (Puresta, Yamaha Motor Company, Japan). Thirty health subjects aged between 50 and 69 were randomly assigned to receive 0 (placebo), 6 or 12 mg astaxanthin per day for 12 weeks.
Furthermore, levels of PLOOH were significantly lower in erythrocytes following astaxanthin supplementation with reductions in the order of about 40 and 50 percent in the 6 and 12 mg groups, respectively, compared with no significant change in the placebo group.