Astaxanthin and the Immune System

In these days when the COVID-19 virus is a global pandemic, sickening humans on all continents, many are looking to strengthen their immune systems. One of the reasons that COVID-19 has such a devastating effects on humans is that they have no prior immunity to this type of corona virus, so most are susceptible to infection. Governments are implementing various plans to slow virus transmission like social distancing, but most people will eventually be exposed to this pathogen.

One strategy to minimize the impact of COVID-19 on human health is to strengthen your immune system prior to exposure. This can be done by eating a well-balanced diet and engaging in regular, vigorous exercise. Additional boosting of your immune system can be achieved by taking nutritional supplements. Sustainable Nutrition offers Adjuvia Astaxanthin, nature’s most powerful antioxidant to boost the human immune response to a variety of pathogens. Astaxanthin has proven to boost the human immune response as illustrated in the scientific papers cited below. Adjuvia Astaxanthin is supplied as a nanoemulsion, making it the most bioavailable form of astaxanthin on the market ( Taking supplements of 6-12 mg per day is enough to markedly strengthen your immune response to a variety of pathogens.

Many different classes of natural compounds have demonstrated anti-inflammatory, immune enhancing properties, including plant-based and marine-based extracts [1]. Astaxanthin (ASX) is a marine-based ketocarotenoid that has potent antioxidant characteristics [2]. The immune system requires enormous amounts of energy to function in response to a wide variety of stressors. Reactive oxygen species (ROS) contribute to oxidative stress, and over time, mitochondrial function is inhibited leading to a variety of immune system disorders and disease.

As nature’s strongest antioxidant, astaxanthin and its unique morphology give it a preference for placement in the cell membranes and mitochondria and therefore, the ability to effectively quench ROS. More specifically, astaxanthin has a unique molecular structure which distinguishes its chemical properties from other antioxidants. Carotenoids can be divided into two groups based on the chemical elements they contain in their molecules; carotenes only contain carbon and hydrogen, while xanthophylls also contain oxygen. Within xanthophylls, oxygen may be present as carbonyl groups, hydroxyl groups or a combination of the two which is uniquely seen in astaxanthin. Astaxanthin has two carbonyl groups, two hydroxyl groups and eleven conjugated ethylenic double bonds. The presence of the hydroxyl (OH) and carbonyl (C=O) in each ionone ring explain astaxanthin’s polar nature, and high antioxidant capacity. This distinct structure allows astaxanthin to effectively quench ROS and assist in preserving mitochondrial function [11,12]. The mechanisms by which astaxanthin provides antioxidant protection likely involve all of the following: activation of thymocites, expression of immune-related genes, up-regulation of proteins involved in cell-to-cell communication, an increase in membrane fluidity, decreased expression or production of inflammatory mediators and cytokines, decreased expression or production of transforming growth factor-b1, increased levels of circulating adiponectin and insulin sensitivity, and decreased activity of the renin-angiotensin system [11].

Other astaxanthin putative biological effects on the immune system:Antioxidants have been used for quenching reactive oxygen species (ROS). Singlet oxygen is one of the strongest ROS. When researchers examined the singlet oxygen quenching capabilities of antioxidants using a standard chemiluminescence method, they found that ASX had the strongest quenching activity [3,4]. More specifically, ASX was found to be a 10x stronger antioxidant than beta-carotene [5], 75x stronger than alpha-lipoic acid [4], 100-500x stronger than vitamin E [4,5,6], 800x stronger than CoQ10, and 6000x stronger than vitamin C [4].

A 16-week study performed on female beagle dogs, demonstrated that dietary astaxanthin heightened cell-mediated and humoral immune response, and reduced DNA damage and inflammation in dogs. This was observed through an increase in concentrations of IgG and IgM, and B cell population, as well as an enhanced delayed-type hypersensitivity response to vaccine, concanavalin A-induced lymphocyte proliferation, and natural killer (NK) cell cytotoxic activity [7].

In the first comprehensive human trial using dietary astaxanthin over a course of 8 weeks, researchers proved that both cell mediated and humoral immune responses were enhanced in healthy young females. Specifically, the immune markers significantly enhanced by consuming astaxanthin included increasing total T cell and B cell subpopulations, stimulation of mitigation-induced lymphocyte proliferation, increased NK cell cytotoxic activity, and increased IFN-g and IL-6 production and LFA-1 expression. Dietary astaxanthin also decreased a DNA damage biomarker. In addition, subjects showed lower plasma C-reactive protein concentrations which further demonstrated the anti-inflammatory properties of astaxanthin [8].

Researchers conducted double-blind, randomized, controlled trials to investigate the effects of dietary astaxanthin for its immune system benefits over an eight-week period in humans. At a two mg/day dose, total T and B cell numbers increased significantly over the placebo (p<0.05). At an eight mg/day dose, natural killer cell cytotoxic activity increased, as did lymphocyte proliferation in response to mitogen stimulation (p<0.05). Skin delayed-type hypersensitivity (DTH), an excellent measure of integrated cell and humoral mediated immunity, was significantly improved by the two mg/day dose (p<0.05). These researchers concluded astaxanthin promotes overall immune competence [9].

A 14-day study using mice examined the immunomodulatory effects of astaxanthin on cytokine production in primary cultured lymphocytes both in vitro and ex vivo. The study demonstrated that the administration of astaxanthin regulates the production of T-helper 1 cytokines, without causing significant cytotoxic effects in primary cultured lymphocytes. Additionally, astaxanthin enhanced lipopolysaccharide-induced immune responses by stimulating production of cytokines, as well as enhancing Con A-induced IL-2 production. The results suggest that astaxanthin is a strong therapeutic or preventative agent for management of immune related diseases [10].

Astaxanthin has demonstrated a unique potential to be used as a nutritional component in both treatment and preventative strategies against inflammation and oxidative stress in order to strengthen the immune system.


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