Foods & Health

Astaxanthin: A Powerful Health-giving Substance Found In Salmon

Wild salmon is a wonderfully healthy food. And among its healthful qualities is a little known substance with some amazing qualities.

Now there’s even more reason to eat wild salmon.

In addition to salmon’s high levels of brain-boosting and inflammation-fighting essential fatty acids (EFAs), it also contains a substance called astaxanthin. Astaxanthin is the substance that gives salmon its red color, but it also has an abundance of health giving properties.

Here is a list of the ways astaxanthin supports the body:

  • Functions as a powerful antioxidant, decreasing free radical damage to tissues, cells and even DNA – it’s 6,000 times more effective at protecting DNA than vitamin C
  • Lowers elevated blood pressure
  • Supports healthy digestion by preventing gastric ulcers
  • Prevents eye fatigue and Age-Related Macular Degeneration
  • It protects against at least seven types of cancer, including liver, colon & breast cancers
  • Protects against skin damage from the sun
  • Enhances the immune system
  • Acts as an anti-inflammatory, reducing symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis – it also lowers the systemic inflammatory marker, C-Reactive Protein (CRP)
  • Inhibits mercury damage to the kidneys

That’s a lot of benefit.

The best salmon to get the greatest amount of astaxanthin is sockeye salmon. This is also called red salmon or blueback salmon. The redder the salmon, the more astaxanthin it contains.

Research shows that 4 to 8 mg of astaxanthin a day is enough to get its benefits. However it is such a safe compound that animal studies show a complete lack of toxicity even at very high doses.

100 grams of wild sockeye salmon provides as much as 4.5 grams of astaxanthin. Farm raised salmon has less than one fourth as much.

However if you don’t eat much fish or can’t eat it every day, there are other sources.

One source is supplemental krill oil. If you plan on taking it this way, be sure to find krill oil that lists at least 1.5 mg of astaxanthin per serving. That’s usually 2 caplets per serving. Taking three servings a day will provide 4.5 mg of astaxanthin. If you have a shellfish allergy, be cautious taking krill oil. Krill is a very small relative of shrimp.

If you’d prefer to take astaxanthin by itself, you can find it as a stand-alone supplement. Common potencies include 2 mg and 4 mg per dose.

When taking supplemental forms it’s best to take them with meals containing fats or oils. This makes sure you absorb the astaxanthin completely.


Hyperhealth Pro Database, In-Tele-Health, Hansville, WA, 2008.

Salmon That’s Nine Times Better

8 replies on “Astaxanthin: A Powerful Health-giving Substance Found In Salmon”

I found your article on wild salmon to be quite intriguing, since I love it. I did want to add some clarification: be sure to eat WILD salmon, NOT the farmed stuff !!!

Farmed salmon, and farmed fish in general, are fed some very dubious stuff (there have been numerous articles about this), and the pink color in farmed salmon is due to ARTIFICIAL coloring, since farmed salmon don’t get the natural diet that turns wild salmon pink naturally. There have also been numerous problems with diseased fish, including some episodes in which the polluted water from fish farms has contaminated and sickened fish in nearby natural areas. Not to mention that farmed salmon doesn’t taste nearly as good as wild salmon!

Hi Dave,

I completely agree about the wild salmon. I mentioned this tangentially when I said, “Farm raised salmon has less than one fourth as much”, but the point really does merit more emphasis. Thanks for the excellent comment!

Dr. Bruce

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if you care about the environment you’d take krill oil pills as opposed to eating wild salmon all the time–this isn’t enough salmon for everyone and there are toxicities in the ocean in general so I’m not sure if farm raised is necessarily worse–I suppose it depends on the farm. But salmon in general are high on the food chain like tuna, so eating them hurts the environment. Astaxanthin is also present in algae, shrimp, crab, lobster, and other reddish colored shellfish so vary your diet. I’ve also read that lycopene (found in purple/red foods like tomatoes, red wine, purple grapes, even ketchup, etc.) is much more beneficial in fighting free radicals and cancer than astaxanthin.

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