Astaxanthin – Eyeastin Now Available From Us

Eye Astin with pure natural Astaxanthin available in store or mail-order:

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Astaxanthin is Superior to Lutein for Eye Health

Bob Capelli and Gerald R. Cysewski, PhD

© Copyright 2009 Cyanotech Corporation

All rights reserved


Other carotenoids have begun to attain a certain level of fame for having

beneficial properties for the eyes. There is no doubt that lutein and zeaxanthin are

wonderful products to support and protect the eyes, and there is credible evidence that

they can help prevent age related macular degeneration and other degenerative

conditions. But due to Natural Astaxanthin’s superior antioxidant and anti-inflammatory

properties and its ability to cross the blood-brain and blood-retinal barriers, indications

are that it is superior to all other nutraceuticals for eye and brain health. This includes the

current most popular eye health nutrient—lutein.

Scientists believe that something may cause people’s internal antioxidant defense

system to malfunction or wear out as we age. Our bodies may lose the ability to produce

high levels of the antioxidants that are normally produced internally such as superoxide

dismutase, catalase and glutathione peroxidase. Also, our bodies are now subjected to

unprecedented levels of oxidation caused by environmental factors such as pollution,

contaminants, processed food and the high levels of stress in modern life. All of these

lead to an assault on our vital organs as we age, particularly our brains and eyes.

The eye, in particular is now subjected to much higher levels of oxidation than

our ancestors’ experienced. The depletion of the ozone layer is causing more intense

sunlight than ever before, which directly affects the eyes and skin. Excessive exposure to

sunlight and to the highly oxygenated environment cause free radicals to be generated in

the eye. A condition called “ischemia” which is a type of blockage that deprives the eye

of nutrition and oxygen is a common cause of increased oxidation in the eye. Another

cause of increased oxidation in the eye happens when the ischemic blockages are

removed. The reoxygenation of the tissue after blockage is called “reperfusion,” and the

end result is another attack on the eye’s normal oxidative balance. Even normal

enzymatic processes cause increased generation of free radicals and singlet oxygen such

as hydrogen peroxide, superoxide and hydroxyl in the eyes.

Free radicals and singlet oxygen oxidize the polyunsaturated fatty acids in the

retina which leads to functional impairment of the retinal cell membranes, causing

temporary and permanent damage to the retinal cells. Once the retina is damaged, it

cannot be replaced. Antioxidants that can reach the inner eye by crossing the blood-brain

and blood-retinal barriers are essential because they protect the eye from these damaging


Astaxanthin Crosses the Blood-Brain and Blood-Retinal Barriers

The carotenoids lutein and zeaxanthin are normally found in the eyes.

Astaxanthin is not. Some groundbreaking work was done by Dr. Mark Tso of the

University of Illinois on Astaxanthin’s benefits for the eyes. Dr. Tso was the first person

who proved that Astaxanthin could cross the blood-brain and blood-retinal barriers. He

took laboratory rats and tested their eyes for Astaxanthin. As expected, he did not find

any present. Then he fed the rats Astaxanthin and retested, this time finding Astaxanthin

present in the retina. He proved that Astaxanthin could cross first the blood-brain barrier

and get into the brain, and then once in the brain it could reach the retina and the macula

by crossing through the blood-retinal barrier.

Through an extensive series of tests, Dr. Tso went on to prove that Astaxanthin

has many protective properties once it reaches the eyes. Among the many benefits that

Dr. Tso found include Astaxanthin’s ability to protect the eye from:

Light-induced damage

Photoreceptor cell damage

Ganglion cell damage

Neuronal damage

Inflammatory damage

We will investigate below Astaxanthin’s anti-inflammatory properties which are a very

diverse group of pathways that combat inflammation. Similar to the multiple antiinflammatory

pathways of Astaxanthin, Astaxanthin protects the eyes through various

pathways rather than through just one (Tso, et al, 1996). Single pathway antiinflammatories

sold as prescription and over-the-counter drugs have dangerous side

effects, while Astaxanthin with its multiple pathway “shotgun” approach has no side

effects. Similarly, it very well may be proven that Astaxanthin is the safest and most

natural product that can be used to promote eye health, and to combat eye disease which

can result in impaired vision or blindness.

Astaxanthin is a Superior Antioxidant to Lutein

It is well documented that free radicals in the eyes, along with inflammation, are

leading causes of ocular diseases. An antioxidant that can pass through the blood-retinal

barrier like Astaxanthin is thus a huge benefit for eye health. Many good antioxidants

including other carotenoids such as lycopene and beta carotene cannot pass through the

blood-brain and blood-retinal barriers; both lutein and Astaxanthin can. But a

fundamental reason why Astaxanthin is superior for eye health than lutein is the fact that

it is a much more potent antioxidant. This has been documented in many studies. In fact,

Astaxanthin has been shown in several in-vitro experiments to be the strongest natural

antioxidant known to science.

Early research by Wataru Miki, PhD comparing the antioxidant activity of

Astaxanthin to other carotenoids found Astaxanthin to be far superior. “Astaxanthin, one

of the dominant carotenoids in marine animals, showed both a strong quenching effect

against singlet oxygen, and a strong scavenging effect against free radicals…The

activities of Astaxanthin are approximately 10 times stronger than other carotenoids that

were tested, namely zeaxanthin, lutein, tunaxanthin, canthaxanthin and beta carotene, and

100 times greater than alpha tocopherol” (Miki, 1991).

Dr. Miki later teamed up with two other researchers to further test Astaxanthin’s

antioxidant activity against lutein and other carotenoids. They found Astaxanthin to be

far superior to all other carotenoids and an amazing 550 times stronger than Vitamin E in

singlet oxygen quenching. In this experiment, Astaxanthin yielded antioxidant strength

almost three times greater than lutein (Shimdzu et al, 1996).

A very interesting experiment in Europe tested the antioxidant activity of

Astaxanthin, lutein and beta carotene to protect against UVA induced oxidative stress.

This is particularly meaningful to our discussion here, because the eyes are subject to a

constant barrage of UV-induced oxidation caused by exposure to sunlight. This UV light

is damaging to the eyes, and can result in serious eye disorders. The researchers

concluded that “Astaxanthin exhibited superior protective properties” to both lutein and

beta carotene (O’Connor and O’Brien, 1997).

Another researcher who has extensive experience testing the antioxidant activities

of carotenoids and other nutrients, Yousry Naguib, PhD, found Astaxanthin to have

superior antioxidant activity to lutein and other carotenoids as well. Dr. Naguib

summarized his work and the research of several others in a paper titled: “Pioneering

Astaxanthin” in 2001. Referencing his own research, Dr. Naguib stated: “We compared

the relative antioxidant strength of Astaxanthin to fellow carotenoids alpha carotene, beta

carotene, lutein and lycopene…In different assays, Astaxanthin showed the highest

antioxidant activity toward peroxyl radicals—a variety of damaging free radicals…one of

our trials showed Astaxanthin at 1.3 on our rating scale and lutein and lycopene at 0.4.

(Naguib, 2001). In this particular experiment, Astaxanthin was over 3 times stronger

than lutein in quenching peroxyl radicals. Dr. Naguib cites several cases of the research

of others wherein Astaxanthin was a significantly more powerful antioxidant than lutein

and other carotenoids. The rankings vary from study-to-study according to the type of

antioxidants tested and the type of tests, but in all cases Astaxanthin came out on top,

well ahead of lutein. One ranking result was Astaxanthin > Canthaxanthin > Beta

Carotene > Zeaxanthin > Lutein > Vitamin E (Dimascio, et al, 1990). It is interesting to

note that in this particular experiment, lutein fell below all other carotenoids.

A recent group of researchers led by R. Preston Mason at the prestigious Harvard

Medical School showed a very serious advantage for Astaxanthin over lutein as well as

other carotenoids such as zeaxanthin, lycopene and beta carotene. These researchers

found that only Astaxanthin could exert its powerful antioxidant benefits and at the same

time preserve the cell membrane: “Among the five carotenoids studied, only Astaxanthin

essentially preserved the membrane structure, while at the same time demonstrating a

strong antioxidant effect (McNulty, et al, 2006).

To summarize our comparison of the antioxidant activities of Astaxanthin and

lutein, it is well documented that Astaxanthin, depending on the particular study, has an

antioxidant strength approximately 3X – 10X that of lutein. While we did not examine

antioxidant comparisons of Astaxanthin against many other non-carotenoid antioxidants,

we did review two tests against Vitamin E where Astaxanthin was found to have 100X –

550X Vitamin E’s antioxidant strength. There are similar tests of Astaxanthin against

many other natural antioxidants, and in each one, Astaxanthin has shown greater potency.

Thus, Astaxanthin is well documented as the world’s strongest natural antioxidant. This

extreme antioxidant power, combined with Astaxanthin’s proven ability to cross the

blood-brain and subsequently the blood-retinal barrier demonstrates one vital reason why

Astaxanthin is a superior nutrient to lutein for eye health. Coupled with Astaxanthin’s

documented capacity to protect against light-induced oxidation, and its ability protect the

cell membrane while exerting this supreme antioxidant activity, Astaxanthin appears to

be the perfect nutrient for maintaining eye health.

Astaxanthin is a Proven Anti-Inflammatory in the Eyes

Along with oxidation, inflammation is another leading cause of maladies in the

eyes. In order for a nutrient to benefit the eyes, it must be able to first get into the eyes

through oral consumption, and then it must somehow benefit the eyes. In the sections

above, we first demonstrated Astaxanthin’s proven ability to enter the eyes by crossing

the blood retinal barrier; we then went on to demonstrate Astaxanthin’s superiority to

lutein and other nutrients as an antioxidant. In this section, we will discuss Astaxanthin’s

anti-inflammatory activity, and a landmark study proving that Astaxanthin works as an

anti-inflammatory in the eyes themselves.

Due to the multitude of ways in which Astaxanthin combats inflammation, it is a

very special anti-inflammatory indeed. Both in-vitro and in-vivo research has been done

to uncover Astaxanthin’s mechanism of action. This mechanism has been further

demonstrated in several double blind, placebo controlled human clinical trials on various

inflammatory conditions (Capelli and Cysewski, 2007). Astaxanthin’s anti-inflammatory

properties are closely related to its powerful antioxidant activity. Many antioxidants

exhibit an anti-inflammatory effect as well. To a certain extent, because Astaxanthin is

the most powerful natural antioxidant, it is also a very effective anti-inflammatory.

Important research done at Korea’s Kwangdon National University demonstrated

that Astaxanthin works to suppress several different inflammatory mediators. Among

these mediators are tumor necrosis factor alpha (TNF-a), prostaglandin E-2 (PGE-2),

interleukin 1B (IL-1b) and nitric oxide (NO). In experiments done both in-vivo with

mice and also in-vitro, Astaxanthin was shown to suppress TNF-a, PGE-2, IL-1b, NO as

well as the Cox-2 enzyme and nuclear factor kappa-B (Lee, et al, 2003). This research

clearly demonstrates the multiple pathway “shotgun” anti-inflammatory mechanism of


A landmark study in relation to our discussion of eye health was done the same

year, led by a researcher from Japan’s Hokkaido University Graduate School of

Medicine. Here, the researchers found similar results: Astaxanthin was shown in vitro to

decrease the production of NO, PGE-2 and TNF-a. The important distinction here is that

this study also looked at Astaxanthin’s anti-inflammatory effect in the eyes of rats. The

researchers induced uveitis (inflammation of the inner eye including the iris) and found

that Astaxanthin had a “dose dependent ocular anti-inflammatory effect, by the

suppression of NO, PGE-2 and TNF-a production, through directly blocking nitric oxide

synthase enzyme activity” (Ohgami, et al, 2003). Basically, this study proved that

Astaxanthin reduces inflammation of the eye, the root cause of many different vision

ailments, and clearly demonstrated exactly how it does this.

Another study done in Japan was very important in further proving Astaxanthin’s

anti-inflammatory effect in the eye. It measured the effect of Astaxanthin on three

inflammatory markers in the uvea (the middle layer of the eye including the iris).

Inflammation in the uvea was induced, after which nitric oxide, tumor necrosis factor

alpha and prostaglandin E-2 were measured. The rats that had been injected with

Astaxanthin had lower levels of all three inflammatory markers. The researchers

concluded that Astaxanthin is effective in reducing ocular inflammation (Suzuki, et al,


An important distinction between Astaxanthin and other prescription and overthe-

counter anti-inflammatories is the manner in which it works. Most commonly used

anti-inflammatories like aspirin, acetaminophen (Tylenol®), naproxen, and antiinflammatory

drugs such as Celebrex® and Vioxx® work on only one inflammatory

mediators in an intense manner. Contrarily, Astaxanthin works on several inflammatory

mediators in a much gentler manner. “While [anti-inflammatory] drugs usually block a

single target molecule and reduce its activity dramatically, natural anti-inflammatories

gently tweak a broader range of inflammatory compounds. You’ll get greater safety and

efficacy reducing five inflammatory mediators by 30 percent than by reducing one by

100%” (Cole, G, 2005). This is precisely what Astaxanthin does—it reaches the eye and

then reduces a variety of inflammatory mediators.

Additional Eye Benefits of Astaxanthin

Since Dr. Tso’s groundbreaking work demonstrating Astaxanthin’s ability to

cross the blood-brain and blood-retinal barriers, and the various ways he demonstrated

that Astaxanthin can help the eyes, other scientists have found several further benefits for

the eyes from using Natural Astaxanthin. For example, eye fatigue is a serious problem

in many of today’s occupations. Working for long periods at visual display terminals

reportedly induces various visual problems such as eye strain, blurring and diplopia (a

disorder of vision in which two images of a single object are seen because of unequal

action of the eye muscles – also called double vision). In a double blind study performed

in Japan, after four weeks of supplementation with 5 mg of Astaxanthin per day

(extracted from Haematococcus algae meal) the authors reported a 46% reduction in the

number of eye strain subjects. They also found higher accommodation amplitude (the

adjustment in the lens of the eye that allows it to focus) in subjects who used visual

display terminals. The mechanism of action was not understood at that time, but the

study concluded that it’s most likely due to Astaxanthin’s potent antioxidant properties

(Nagaki, et al, 2002).

Two different dosage levels were tested for eye fatigue by a group led by Dr.

Nakamura in 2004. They found positive effects at 4 mg per day, but found a better result

at 12 mg per day (Nakamura, et al, 2004).

Another group of Japanese researchers found similar results in another human

clinical study. This double blind study was done to evaluate Astaxanthin’s effect on eye

fatigue and visual accommodation. Forty subjects were divided into placebo and

treatment groups, with the treatment group receiving 6 mg of Astaxanthin for four weeks.

The results were that three separate visual parameters were found to have statistically

significant benefits from Astaxanthin supplementation. This research established an

optimum daily dose for eye fatigue at 6 mg per day (Nitta, et al, 2005).

Additional studies have validated this work, showing that 6 mg per day of Natural

Astaxanthin supplementation for four weeks can reduce eye soreness, dryness, tiredness

and blurred vision (Shiratori, et al, 2005 and Nagaki, et al, 2006).

Astaxanthin may work in a preventative role for eye fatigue as compared to a

curative one that has already been established. The other studies referenced above all

centered on the use of Astaxanthin to cure eye fatigue. A clinical study was done on

subjects whose eyes were healthy, with no signs of fatigue or strain. Both the treatment

and the placebo groups were subjected to heavy visual stimuli to induce eye fatigue, and

it was found that the treatment group recovered more quickly. This clearly indicates that

Natural Astaxanthin may serve to prevent eye fatigue from occurring in healthy people

(Takahashi and Kajita, 2005).

There are now a total of nine different human clinical studies demonstrating the

ability of Astaxanthin to reduce eye fatigue in subjects who already have it and also to

prevent eye fatigue in subjects not currently afflicted. This is another vital superiority of

Astaxanthin for eye health over lutein. An examination of the literature does not show

any evidence that lutein shares this ocular benefit for eye fatigue with Astaxanthin.

Another unique area of research for eye health concerns blood flow: It is very

important to have sufficient blood flow to the eyes and the retina to maintain optimal eye

health. A human clinical study examined the ability of Astaxanthin to improve retinal

capillary blood flow. Eighteen subjects were given 6 mg per day of Natural Astaxanthin

and another eighteen people were given a placebo. After four weeks it was found that the

treatment group had improved retinal capillary blood flow as compared to the placebo

group (Yasunori, N, 2005).

A very different type of human study on Natural Astaxanthin’s effects on the eyes

has also yielded positive results. This study was done in Japan with subjects comprised

of twenty year old men. The treatment group was given 6 mg of Natural Astaxanthin per

day for four weeks. Different visual parameters were measured, with statistically

significant improvement found in two different parameters for visual acuity (the ability to

see detail). The greatest enhancement was seen in depth perception which improved by

46% in the group supplementing with Natural Astaxanthin (Sawaki, et al, 2002).

One researcher has done in-vivo animal trials on the effects of Astaxanthin on

important areas of eye health. One of his studies took the lens from the eyes of pigs and

tested the ability of Astaxanthin to protect them from induced oxidative damage. This

experiment found that Astaxanthin was capable of protecting the lens proteins from

oxidative damage. In fact, Astaxanthin performed better than the antioxidant glutathione

which is produced by the pig’s own body (Wu, et al, 2006). In another experiment, this

researcher also found Astaxanthin to have potent antioxidant effects in the prevention of

cataracts in rats’ eyes (Wu, et al, 2002).


While there is still a great deal more research that will be done on the effects of

Astaxanthin on eye health, the current studies all point to one clear conclusion:

Astaxanthin has great benefits for the eyes, superior to lutein and other commonly used

nutrients associated with eye health. Astaxanthin’s extreme antioxidant power; its proven

multi-faceted anti-inflammatory effect; and the multitude of human clinical studies, invivo

animal trials and in-vitro experiments on a variety of issues associated with the eyes

all lead to a single conclusion: Natural Astaxanthin is the best choice as a nutrient for

ocular health.


Capelli, B., and Cysewski, G. (2007). “Natural Astaxanthin: King of the Carotenoids.” ISBN 13: 978-0-


Cole, G. (2005). Professor of Medicine and Neurology at University of California at Los Angeles, as

reported to Anne Underwood, Newsweek Magazine, “Special Summer Issue,” August 2005. Pg. 26-28.

Dimascio, et al. (1990). “Carotenoids, tocopherols and thiols as biological singlet molecular oxygen

quenchers.” Biochemistry Society Transactions. 18:1054.

Lee, S., Bai, S., Lee, K., Namkoong, S., Na, H., Ha, K., Han, J., Yim, S., Chang, K., Kwon, Y., Lee, S.,

Kim, Y. (2003). “Astaxanthin Inhibits Nitric Oxide Production and Inflammatory Gene Expression by

Suppressing IkB Kinase-dependent NFR-kB Activation.” Molecules and Cells. 16(1):97-105.

McNulty, et al. (2007). “Differential effects of carotenoids on lipid peroxidation due to membrane

interactions: X-ray diffraction analysis.” Biochimica et Biophysica Acta. 1768:167-174.

Miki, W. (1991). “Biological functions and activities of marine carotenoids.” Pure & Applied Chemistry.


Nagaki, et al. (2006). “The supplementation effect of astaxanthin on accommodation and asthenopia.”

Journal of Clinical Therapeutics & Medicines. 22(1):41-54.

Nagaki, Y., Hayasaka, S., Yamada, T., Hayasaka, Y., Sanada, M., Uonomi, T. (2002). “Effects of

Astaxanthin on accommodation, critical flicker fusion, and pattern visual evoked potential in visual

display terminal workers.” Journal of Traditional Medicines. 19(5):170–173.

Naguib, Y. (2001). “Pioneering Astaxanthin.” Nutrition Science News. 6(2):58-62.

Nakamura, et al. (2004). “Changes in Visual Function Following Peroral Astaxanthin.” Japanese Journal of

Clinical Ophthalmology. 58(6):1051-1054.

Nitta, T., Ogami, K., Shiratori, K. (2005). “The effects of Astaxanthin on Accommodation and

Asthenopia—Dose Finding Study in Healthy Volunteers.” Clinical Medicine. 21(5):543-556.

O’Connor, I. and O’Brien, N. (1997). “Modulation of UVA light-induced oxidative stress by B-Carotene,

Lutein and Astaxanthin in cultured fibroblasts.” Journal of Dermatological Science. 16(1998):226-230.

Ohgami, K., Shiratori, K., Kotake, S., Nishida, T., Mizuki, N., Yazawa, K., Ohno, S. (2003). “Effects of

astaxanthin on lipopolysaccharide-induced inflammation in vitro and in vivo.” Investigative

Ophthalmology and Visual Science. 44(6):2694-701.

Sawaki, K., Yoshigi, H., Aoki, K., Koikawa, N., Azumane, A., Kaneko, K., Yamaguchi, M. (2002). “Sports

Performance Benefits from Taking Natural Astaxanthin Characterized by Visual Acuity and Muscle

Fatigue Improvements in Humans.” Journal of Clinical Therapeutics & Medicines. 18:(9)73-88.

Shimidzu, N., Goto, M., Miki, W. (1996). “Carotenoids as singlet oxygen quechers in marine organisms.”

Fisheries Science. 62(1):134-137.

Shiratori, K., Ogami, K., Nitta, T. (2005). “The effects of Astaxanthin on Accommodation and

Asthenopia—Efficacy Identification Study in Healthy Volunteers.” Clinical Medicine. 21(6):637-650.

Suzuki, Y., Ohgami, K., Shiratori, K., Jin, X., Ilieva, I., Koyama, Y., Yazawa. K., Yoshida, K., Kase, S.,

Ohno, S. (2006). “Suppressive effects of astaxanthin against rat endotoxin-induced uveitis by inhibiting

the NF-kappaB signaling pathway.” Experimental Eye Research. 82(2):275-81.

Takahashi, J., Kajita. (2005). “Effects of astaxanthin on accommodative recovery.” Journal of Clinical

Therapeutics & Medicines. 21(4):431-436.

Tso, M., Lam, T. (1996) “Method of Retarding and Ameliorating Central Nervous System and Eye

Damage.” U.S. Patent #5527533.

Wu, T., Liao, J., Hou, W., Huang, F., Maher, T., Hu, C. (2006). “Astaxanthin protects against oxidative

stress and calcium-induced porcine lens protein degradation.” Journal Agriculture Food Chemistry. 54,


Wu, T, et al. (2002). “An astaxanthin-containing algal extract attenuates selenite-induced nuclear cataract

formation in rat pups.” Experimental Biology, 2002.

Yasunori, N, et al. (2005). “The effect of astaxanthin on retinal capillary blood flow in normal volunteers.”

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One Response to Astaxanthin – Eyeastin Now Available From Us

  1. Guneet Dave says:

    My friend gave me the link to this blog and she is totally right!
    keep up your terrific work

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