Demythifying Astaxanthin

The Martial Art of Wellness
Volume 15 – March 2016

(Archive of Previous BioNews)



Welcome to this month’s BioNews.  We must learn to free ourselves from the control that others exert over us. As we learn we become FREE, we become powerful.  This pursuit of self defense in wellness, I call “The Martial Art of Wellness”. And as we practice we become Wellness Ninjas.


” In conclusion, β-carotene, vitamin E, and possibly high doses of vitamin A supplements are harmful. Other antioxidants, folic acid and B vitamins, and multivitamin and mineral supplements are ineffective for preventing mortality or morbidity due to major chronic diseases. Although available evidence does not rule out small benefits and/or harm, or large benefits and/or harm in a small subgroup of the population, we believe that the case is closed— supplementing the diet of well-nourished adults with mineral or vitamin supplements has no clear benefit and might even be harmful. These vitamins should not be used for chronic disease prevention. Enough is enough.”

– Enough Is Enough: Stop Wasting Money on Vitamin and Mineral Supplements


I benefited tremendously right away from your product, when I had a film crew coming Monday and my speech and energy on Friday had been terrible. I had a good feeling from the BAC, and I decided to attempt two capsules three times daily to see if it could save the day of 12 hours of filming because the documentary could change my life. I developed remarkable energy by the end of the night and felt the drcraig-thehealers__2__400x400best I had in many months. I continued to do the same thing the next two days, and my energy and speaking where no doubt at a level that was due to BAC. I feel the happiest in years. I am not attributing all the happiness, but the BAC helped make it physically possible. My breathing is better and so is my mood. My mother (cancer survivor) takes the same amount as me, and we both had amazing changes in reduction of pain in our body when we began taking the BAC, and that has remained. I tell people if they want to take fewer supplements, they should take BAC. Peace and gratitude.

– Craig Oster, PhD, 21.5-year survivor of ALS (Lou Gehrig’s disease), and  Co-founder/Scientist/Advocate at THE HEALERS campaign

THE MARTIAL ART OF WELLNESS: Demythifying Astaxanthin

An idea or story that is believed by many people but that is not (necessarily) true : a story that was told in an ancient culture to explain a practice, belief, or natural occurrence.

The heamatococcus algae is the richest source of astaxanthin on earth

Those of you who read my articles will have come across this: “If you were to follow the advice of most alternative health advisers, you would be taking dozens of supplements!” And here comes astaxanthin, the new kid on the block. What will you do? Will you fall for this “chemical” trap; the illusion that taking daily doses of various isolates / separate “chemicals” (which is what nutrients are when disassociated from the food they belong to), will be conducive to your health.  While the reality is that it will lead to further intellectual confusion from so many exaggerated claims, and worse, as an abnormal chemical quantity/intensity, it likely leads to nutritional confusion and imbalances in your body.

BIOAGE introduced Bio-Algae Concentrates (BAC) or BIOSUPERFOOD (which contains some astaxanthin) to the USA market in 2002, ten years before alternative supplement promoters like Mike Adams, Dr. Mercola and Dr. Oz became aware of astaxanthin.  Since then, astaxanthin has hit the top of the charts like a shooting star!  No longer is it resveratrol, COQ10, Omega 3, vitamin C, D, or vitamin E, etc. And of course we are “expected” to continue swallowing all of the previous shooting stars now gone quieter.

When will this pursuit for the magic pills end?

I receive questions everyday about astaxanthin, and today I want to shed some light on the difference between consuming astaxanthin as a separate, versus as part of BAC, the whole food blend. It amazes me how people are easily persuaded to consume a pill, even when it has not been studied for its short, nor long-term effects on humans. Yes there is some early clinical evidence that astaxanthin might have beneficial effects on some aspects of health. However to date most studies are either cell culture or animal studies, with several smaller clinical trials. In other words, touting astaxanthin as some sort of miracle supplement is premature and irresponsible. The evidence just isn’t robust enough to recommend it to the general population, yet it is being marketed aggressively by many supplement suppliers and alternative health practitioners.


Starting in 1973, Dr. Michael Kiriac researched hundreds of algae and formulated the BAC formulas which safely incorporate astaxanthin

As a researcher with the Academy of Science of the former Soviet Union,  Dr. Michael Kiriac began researching algae in 1973, before many of you were born.  He researched hundreds of different algae and combinations thereof, and spent much time investigating the use of isolated astaxanthin from the brown alga haematococcus pluvialis.  His conclusion was:

“When astaxanthin (as a separate) is added to the animal diet on a daily basis, over time it leads to toxicity, and does not contribute to animal health any more than large doses of vitamin C, or E, or of any other separate antioxidant.

He goes on to say:

“We only obtained success in prevention and remission of diseases when feeding some small amount of astaxanthin as part of  a whole food-based mix of the best algae (Bio-Algae Concentrates) that contains thousands of other nutrients also required by our body, that are supportive for the proper and safe assimilation and utilization of the astaxanthin and other nutrients in the blend.

There is no doubt that astaxanthin (as part of the whole food) is one of the most efficient carotene molecules, earning its nickname “the king of carotenoids”. As a natural pigment in certain whole foods, astaxanthin is an efficient supporter of the body’s anti-oxidation property.  But, known to few, an even more important characteristic of this antenna pigment is its role in supporting the body’s ability to receive nutrients to the thousands of mitochondria within our cells where ATP energy is fabricated.


The astaxanthin pigment is one of many such as lutein and beta carotene that works alongside chlorophyll supporting the “energy transfer” of our nutrients towards the engines of our body’s energy, the mighty mitochondria.

Taking astaxanthin as an isolate supplement is somewhat like taking a pharmaceutical drug!

Astaxanthin is one of a thousand carotene pigments (like chlorophyll, lutein, lycopene, etc.) in our food chain, that occurs mostly in plants and in some sea creatures like salmon and krill that got it in the first place from consuming algae containing astaxanthin.  While astaxanthin in its food form is a potent organic pigment, when taken alone outside of its whole food structure, it becomes an inorganic “chemical”, and like any other “chemical”, it likely becomes counterproductive leading to unwanted side effects, somewhat like most pharmaceutical drugs.  I have written extensively regarding the futility, toxicity, even dangers of consuming abnormal doses of isolate and synthetic supplements like many vitamins, minerals, fatty acids, etc., and as with most separate supplements, there are NO long term empirical, or unbiased studies showing long term positive effects of consuming astaxanthin as an isolate, but there is much research showing some negative side effects.

To date, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved isolate astaxanthin as a food coloring additive for specific uses in animal and fish foods, and only recently as a dietary supplement with 12-mg daily limit recommendation.  As is the case with many isolate supplements that people take, there are too many unknowns regarding taking astaxanthin as an isolate supplement.   I assure you that consuming a diet rich in many colorful plants, fruits, berries, etc. will significantly do better for you than any amount of isolate astaxanthin.

There are too many side effects and warnings regarding the use of astaxanthin as an isolate supplement

If you google astaxanthin, you will find some positive testimonials.  Even though it is described and recommended as an antioxidant, some testimonials report effects like more energy, better mood, nicer skin, etc.  But as wellness warriors, you should looked at the overall research available.  You will find that there are many negative side effects reported, and many usage warnings.  Way too many to feel secure taking it on a daily basis.  The negative results and warnings come mostly from more conservative researchers, scientists, MD’s, and medical sites like WebMD.  But there are also some from natural health professionals and scientists.   I have listed several one-liners next for your appreciation.  These can all be expanded to much details where they were obtained.  I’ll leave it to you to google astaxanthin.  Do yourself a favor and google for the pros and cons. Note: All these reports and warnings refer to astaxanthin taken as an isolate compound supplement.

  • Astaxanthin should be used cautiously in patients with hypertension, asthma, parathyroid disorders, or osteoporosis.
  • Patients currently taking blood pressure lowering medications should consult with a qualified healthcare professional.
  • Astaxanthin may have similar negative side effects as the antihistamines etirizine dihydrochloride and azelastine.
  • Side effects of astaxanthin use may include decreases in blood pressure, increases in skin pigmentation and hair growth, hormonal changes, lowered calcium levels in the blood, altered blood counts, decreased libido, and enlargement of the breasts (in men).
  • If astaxanthin may decrease blood pressure, you might want to research in the various scientific studies published about astaxanthin, how much would the decrease amount to, if you have hypertension.
  • Patients currently taking blood pressure lowering herbs and supplements should consult with a qualified healthcare professional.
  • Caution is advised when using isolate astaxanthin with asthma medications.
  • As a result of consuming isolate astaxanthin, the levels of other drugs may become too high in the blood.
  • There are several known and surely many unknown hormonal side effects.
  • Astaxanthin may change your hormones and liver functions so that prescription medications build up to too-high levels. When your liver can’t eliminate the medicines fast enough, they build up in your blood.
  • More products are being infused with added astaxanthin, from vitamin supplements to various types of skin lotions.
  • If you’re male, what happens when your breasts possibly start enlarging after taking astaxanthin? Check out the studies to find out whether this is a real issue, as it has been reported in the Web MD side effects article.
  • According to the Web MD site, astaxanthin is not recommended for use during pregnancy or breastfeeding.
  • Avoid the use of astaxanthin in patients with known allergies to astaxanthin, hormone-sensitive conditions or immune disorders.
  • Astaxanthin may interact with other hormone-altering medications, such as medications taken for menopause or birth control pills.
  • Astaxanthin may be unsafe in pregnant women, as it may affect reproductive hormones.
  • It may interact with immuno-modulating medications.
  • Astaxanthin may abnormally contribute to lower calcium levels in the blood.
  • Astaxanthin should not be taken if you are taking blood thinners, and/or have bleeding or clotting issues.
  • Astaxanthin may interact with medications, herbs and supplements that alter thyroid and parathyroid functions and caution is advised.
  • Don’t take astaxanthin if you’re already taking cholesterol-lowering medications because it may interact with other cholesterol-lowering medications and may decrease low density lipoprotein (LDL) oxidation.
  • Don’t use isolate astaxanthin together with other isolate carotenoids such as beta-carotene, lutein, canthaxanthin, and lycopene, because those carotenoids may decrease the absorption of astaxanthin, due to competitive absorption in the gastrointestinal tract.

Modern science cannot compete with billions of years of evolution

Nutrition is a complicated affair… there is a myriad of biochemical co-dependencies during the digestion of nutrients.  As an example, years ago, vitamin C used to be sold as plain ascorbic acid and decades later it was scientifically found out to be unusable by the body without the presence of the zinc mineral; in fact, 100% of the ascorbic acid was lost through the urine.  Soon after the manufacturers and promoters proceeded to add zinc to the ascorbic acid, and so the sales continued… yet a few years later it was proven nonfunctional without certain bioflavonoids, and lo and behold, the manufacturers proceeded to add bioflavonoids to their ascorbic acid pills, and sales picked up again… And yet to this day, much research shows that this “chemical concoction” remains not only nonfunctional, but dangerous in high doses. We now know that there are many other factors involved for proper assimilation, utilization of vitamin c, many not yet understood.  There is also abundant research showing the danger of high doses of ascorbic acid.   I will let you wellness warriors “google” the subject.  How long will you let manufacturers dictate what is nutritionally proper?  How long will you be a puppet of this industry?

Did you know that similar co-dependencies exist for each potential nutrient of your diet?  Most nutrients require an array of companion nutrients and the participation of the body’s own hormones, enzymes and energy for the proper assimilation, absorption, utilization and elimination of those nutrients. It is a matter of efficiency… for example, plain ascorbic acid is likely a ZERO on the assimilation efficiency scale of 1 to 10, that is not assimilated at all, while the vitamin c in your grapefruit stands to be a 10 – 100% assimilated, absorbed and utilized.

In the image next you’ll find a graphic representation of nutritional co-dependence depicting the extra-ordinary relationships that occur before, during, and after ingesting foods.  (Note that in this image I chose to show off BIOSUPERFOOD as the perfect candidate representing the perfect whole food co-dependency, utilization and results.) Starting with salivary secretions, stomach juices, pancreatic and liver enzymes, energy requirements, and all the activities involved up to the ingestion into the interior of cells and finally to the elimination of debris and non-utilized portions. As you can see, it is a complicated affair best left alone the way nature has evolved it for a few billion years…. modern science cannot compete.

“ Without enzymes and nutrients co-dependency there is little or no metabolic assimilation “ – Dr. Michael Kiriac, PhD

The pocket watch gives you time,  whole food gives you life.

But there is a way to keep it simple: common sense. Take your grandfather’s pocket watch and open the back panel. See the complicated mechanism? How many gears and other mechanisms are in a watch? 30, 50, 200?  Yet even the most complex of watches gives you time, right?  But if you take the watch apart, will the watch still give you time?  Or will you get the time from the handful of any one gears? Obviously not.


Will any amount of any gears give you the time?

Well that is exactly what you are trying to do when you take isolated supplements. Take a whole apple for example.  Do you know how complex an apple is? Did you know that there are over one thousand nutrients (macro and phyto-nutrients) in a whole apple?  Who has not heard the saying “an apple a day keeps the doctor away”?  Did you know all the health benefits of eating whole apples?


Will any amount of any one vitamin or mineral give you life?

But most people have been led to believe that large doses of vitamins (for example 1000 mg of vitamin C, and lately with astaxanthin, as much as 10 mg daily) are good for their health.  I suggest that the contrary is true.  Such large amounts are likely toxic and a burden to your body.  In the case of vitamin C, the human body needs approximately 10 mg daily, not 500, 1000, or 5000. And in the case of astaxanthin (a carotenoid pigment from algae), no one really knows how much you need per day, except that the FDA, knowing its toxicity, has applied a 10 mg daily limit while in Europe, there is an even lower 4 mg daily limit.

Why get stuck on just astaxanthin? 

Do you know there are over 1000 known carotene pigments like astaxanthin? Pigments like beta-carotene, lutein, lycopene, and many more that are ALL beneficial to your health!  The question begs; will you take 1000 isolate carotene supplements, and all of the co-factors needed for absorption too?

The problem is that astaxanthin as a stand-alone supplement has not been studied long enough to predict what changes it may induce in the human body if taken every day for years.  A good way to know if a suggested supplement is good for you is to ask yourself if you would survive on eating just this supplement. Would I survive on eating only isolate vitamin C, or D, or magnesium, or a mix or many? Would I survive on eating only astaxanthin?  I hope you realize that the answer is NO, no way!  You would soon starve to death. Rarely is there independent empirical research to support the claims about supplements, and still many of you continue to take promoters and manufacturers’ recommended doses of various mixed supplements with no understanding of chemical reactions or side effects of their interaction. Heck! Even within the pharmaceutical industry no ONE agency knows the potential interaction between drugs, and there are several official reports showing that mixing medications kills thousands of people daily.

I have studied the science and looked at the positive and negative effects of consuming isolate astaxanthin for over 15 years.  I experimented with isolate astaxanthin early on in 2003 as a comparison to consuming BIOSUPERFOOD.  Yes I felt some benefits, but I found the effects too intense and knew right away that they would be short lived.  I felt I was playing the chemical game and had no desire to continue taking it.  While after 16 years of consuming BIOSUPERFOOD, not only do I continue to obtain its incredible support, but importantly, I still feel safe. In ending, let me remind you of the words of Dr. Kiriac regarding the use of astaxanthin as a stand alone supplement:

“When astaxanthin (as a separate) is added to the animal diet on a daily basis, over time it leads to toxicity, and does not contribute to animal health any more than large doses of vitamin C, or E, or of any other separate antioxidant.


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