Astaxanthin is a naturally occurring dark red carotenoid found in nature primarily in aquatic animals such as salmon, trout, krill, shrimp, crayfish, and crustaceans. The microalgae Haematococcus pluvialis which grows in fresh water throughout the world is the richest natural source of astaxanthin. Humans, unlike crustaceans, cannot synthesize astaxanthin and have to acquire it through their diet.
Astaxanthin however, is more than just a red pigment, it is one of the most powerful lipophilic antioxidants yet discovered. It has the unique capacity to quench free radicals and reactive species of oxygen and to inhibit lipid peroxidation. Studies have shown natural astaxanthin to be over 500 times stronger than vitamin E and much more potent than other carotenoids such as lutein, lycopene and beta-carotene. Moreover, astaxanthin, a xanthophyll carotenoid, is a nutrient with a unique molecule structure; it does not convert to vitamin A (retinol) and has no “pro-oxidant” activity.