Astaxanthin and Complications

So far 20 research articles have been published in peer-reviewed medical journals on the benefits of astaxanthin, a substance extracted from krill, which can be purchased as a supplement without a prescription, in delaying the development of diabetic complications. This substance, which is what makes salmon pink and gives them the energy they need to swim upstream during the mating season, has been studied especially for its ability to retard the deterioration of cognitive function in diabetics. Almost all of the results published so far have just shown positive benefits in rats and mice, but since the full acceptance of astaxanthin as a adjunctive therapy in diabetes will take another twenty years or so, and most of us can’t afford to wait, it seems worth trying, especially since it is not harmful.

Here is the abstract of one study of astaxanthin in delaying the worst complication of diabetes, renal failure:

Eur J Nutr. 2015 Mar;54(2):301-7. doi: 10.1007/s00394-014-0711-2. Epub 2014 May 13.
Astaxanthin from shrimp by-products ameliorates nephropathy in diabetic rats.
Sila A1, Ghlissi Z, Kamoun Z, Makni M, Nasri M, Bougatef A, Sahnoun Z.

This study investigated the hypoglycemic and antioxidant effects of shrimp astaxanthin on the kidney of alloxan-induced diabetic rats.
Animals were distributed into four groups of six rats each: a control group ©, a diabetic group (D), a diabetic group supplemented with Astaxanthin (D+As) dissolved in olive oil and a diabetic group supplemented with olive oil (D+OO). In vitro antidiabetic effect was tested in plasma and kidney tissue.
The group D of rats showed significant (P < 0.05) increase of glycemia, creatinine, urea and uric acid levels compared to those of the control group ©. Moreover, plasma and kidney malondialdehyde (MDA) and protein carbonyl (PCO) levels for the rats of the group D were significantly increased compared to the control group. Contrariwise, antioxidant enzyme activities, such as catalase (EC, superoxide dismutase (EC and non-enzymatic levels of reduced glutathione, were significantly (P < 0.05) decreased in the plasma and kidney of diabetic rats compared to the control ones. The astaxanthin supplementation in rats diet improved the antioxidant enzyme activities and significantly decreased the MDA and PCO levels compared to diabetic rats. Indeed, no significant (P ≥ 0.05) improvement was observed for the fourth group (D+OO) compared to the control group ©. Histological analysis of kidney showed glomerular hypertrophy and tubular dilatation for the diabetic rats. For D+As rats, these histopathological changes were less prominent.
Our results suggest that shrimp astaxanthin may play an important role in reduction of oxidative damage and could prevent pathological changes in diabetic rats suggesting promising application of shrimp astaxanthin in diabet treatment.

I have tried it and find that over the short term its main benefit is cognitive, in that it stimulates the formation of new ideas in a dramatic way. It also promotes energy. The downside I have found is that it makes the symptoms of hypoglycemia worse, perhaps by increasing the demand for glucose and oxygen in the brain so that deprivations of glucose have a greater impact.


Very interesting! I’ve not heard of this before. In reference to improving cognitive abilities, do you mean just during a low, or generally? I have many lows and of course cognitive ability is greatly effected during the low. I’m wondering if the accumulated effects of so many lows over years is causing a degradation of cognitive abilities even with normal BGs. Is that a possibility?

What supplement can one take to try this? If it had no negative side effects aside from exasperating symptoms of lows, I’d definitely like to try it. Thank you for sharing.

I did a search within Amazon for “astaxanthin supplement.” Here’s one of the many products I found.

I have no direct experience with this product or any of the others in this product category.

The effect of astaxanthin on cognitive abilities in diabetics consists in its ability to inhibit the inflammatory effects of hyperglycemia, which are known to be a major mechanism by which diabetic complications are caused. Less inflammation in the body means less inflammation in the brain as well, so cognitive function is better preserved against hyperglycemia.

Unfortunately, the effect of astaxanthin during hypoglycemia is less positive, since its stimulation of cognitive function in the brain causes the patient to feel the lack of glucose to support the brain’s operation more intensely. For me it means that I feel as if my blood sugar is 60 when it’s in fact 80, and while I used to be able to continue functioning through a blood sugar of 20, now I can’t.

One of the studies showing astaxanthin’s benefit on the brain in diabetics is reproduced below. Non-diabetics report benefits from it on cognition as well, since they say it helps them think better. quicker, and more accurately.

Int J Clin Exp Pathol. 2015 Jun 1;8(6):6083-94. eCollection 2015.
Astaxanthin improves cognitive deficits from oxidative stress, nitric oxide synthase and inflammation through upregulation of PI3K/Akt in diabetes rat.
Xu L1, Zhu J2, Yin W3, Ding X3.
Diabetes-induced cognitive deficit (DICD) is a prevalent disease with substantial morbidity and mortality and as a global health problem with serious economic burdens. Astaxanthin (AST) has a good prospect in production of nutritional, medical, and particularly functional health drug. The present study was aimed to study the effect of AST on DICD in diabetes mellitus (DM) rat through suppression of oxidative stress, nitric oxide synthase (NOS) pathway, inflammatory reaction and upregulation of PI3K/Akt. In the study, Morris water maze teat was used to detect the cognitive function of DM rat. Afterwards, we measured the body weight and blood glucose levels of DM rats. Then, oxidative stress, the activities of eNOS and iNOS, and inflammatory factors were analyzed using a commercial kit in cerebral cortex and hippocampus. Finally, the caspase-3/9 and phosphoinositide 3-kinase (PI3K)/Akt expressions were also checkout with Real Time PCR and immunoblotting, respectively. In this experiment, AST could availably enhance the body weight and reduce blood glucose levels of DM rats. Moreover, AST could observably perfect cognitive function of DM rat. Next, the activities of oxidative stress, nitric oxide synthase and inflammation were distinctly diminution in DM rat, after the treatment of AST. Furthermore, our present results demonstrated that AST had the protective effect on the brain cell of DM rat, decreased the caspase-3/9 expression and promoted the expression of PI3K/Akt in cerebral cortex and hippocampus.

I am a great lover of salmon… fresh when I can get it (non-farmed) and canned Sockeye when I can’t. I serve it a minimum of twice a week in various forms. The literature you provide talks about supplements but not fresh fish. Are those supplements concentrated or does eating the fresh or canned fish provide an adequate amount of astaxanthin? Of course, one has to remember that mice and rats have also been “cured” of diabetes many times in the past. :roll_eyes:

You get about 4 mg. of astaxanthin in an ordinary meal of salmon. Capsules of astaxanthin range in dose from 4 mg. to 12 mg., and manufacturers recommend 24 mg. a day maximum. So unless you really love salmon, astaxanthin capsules would be a simpler way to get what you’re looking for. There is also a product which derives its astaxanthin from vegetable sources, but it causes diarrhea.

Oh, thanks for this additional info. I misunderstood, I thought it was beneficial for hypoglycemia episodes. Wow, though, what a difference in glucose sensitivity it makes! I can function at 40 most of the time but my cognitive skills are definitely impaired, like even counting or multiplying!

I do eat salmon and shrimp often, small amounts several times a week but I don’t see any difference in my cognitive skills:( To see a difference one probably needs a much higher quantity or concentration.