Astaxanthin, Natural vs. Synthetic - Your Thoughts?

As I reported earlier and was discussed in the earlier Astaxanthin thread here, the National Institutes on Aging, ITP program is having good success with median lifespan extension with Astaxanthin at 4,000ppm, with preliminary results (not final) of a median lifespan increase of about 12%. The 4,000ppm dosing in the mouse studies, translates to something like 3.5 grams per day in human dosing.

In this NIA ITP study they are using the synthetic version of Astaxanthin called AstaSana manufactured by DSM nutritional products, a Dutch company.

So, this study and the good results in terms of healthspan / lifespan extension brings up a number of issues.

Right now - the Astaxanthin supplements market is virtually entirely “natural” astaxanthin produced by Algae. This production method is very expensive and the resulting supplements are very expensive even at a low dose of 12mg/day. At the level of dosing used in the NIA ITP Study it would cost about $4,500 per month to get the 3.5 grams per day of Astaxanthin that resulted in the 12% lifespan extension. Obviously this pricing level is not acceptable for most people.

There is of course, the question of how likely it is that the AstaSana synthetic astaxanthin mouse study translates with similar results to humans?

There is the added issue and question as to whether the NIA ITP study using synthetic astaxanthin translates to natural astaxanthin (in humans)?

There is research that suggests that the synthetic astaxanthin is more bioavailable than the natural astaxanthin, so it may be that the natural astaxanthin does not provide the same longevity & health benefits that the synthetic astaxanthin does:

Study on Bioavailability of synthetic Asta:

Cost / Benefit and Risk/Reward:

So, there are a number of considerations when thinking about taking Astaxanthin for its lifespan extending properties.

  1. The Cost/Safety/Efficacy of Natural Astaxanthin. Natural Astaxanthin is very expensive, and has a long history of use in humans and has an excellent safety profile. But, Does Natural Astaxanthin provide the same level of health / longevity benefits that the Synthetic Astaxanthin has shown in the mouse longevity studies by the NIA ITP? We just don’t know.

  2. The Cost/Safety/Efficacy of Natural Astaxanthin. The Synthetic Astaxanthin (at equivalent doses) is roughly 75% to 80% cheaper than the Natural Astaxanthin, and is showing excellent results in the NIA ITP studies, but this type of Astaxanthin has not been sold much as a human supplement yet. (but it is easily purchased from suppliers).

Following is the informational and safety data from DSM on their AstaSana synthetic Astaxanthin product, which is manufactured in Spain. Please let me know your thoughts…

PDS_5016378.pdf (85.0 KB)

EFSA 2019 - Safety of astaxanthin for its use as a novel food.pdf (1.0 MB)

AstaSana - GRAS notice.pdf (1.3 MB)

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I’ve been taking astaxanthin for years. I always aim natural as I read natural is more potent at removing free radicals (reactive species) but I’m not sure how natural vs synthetic when it comes to lifespan.
Good question!

All farmed salmon is fed synthetic astaxanthin to give it its expected colour (otherwise it would be grey and no-one would buy it).
One can conclude then that the synthetic stuff does no harm.
As far as I am aware, chemically it is identical. Therefore I would say there is a high probability it is doing what it should do once ingested (whatever that may be), so on a cost/ benefit view, the synthetic is the obvious choice.

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Actually, the molecules are not identical. From ConsumerLab:

What is the source of this information?

It seems that there is a bit of a war on between the natural astaxanthin companies and the synthetic astaxanthin companies, and given that the cost of the synthetic is about 80% cheaper, they are afraid of losing their market and spreading all kinds of information which may or may not be accurate. So - I’m thinking we need to very carefully evaluate all the claims from both sides of this issue.

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Twelve percent? How many mice were tested?

Calcium pantothenate provided an extension of 18.72%, which is fifty percent greater than the effect of astaxanthin. The mice which took calcium pantothenate were 33, versus 41 control mice. Dosage was modest - 300 μg of calcium pantothenate daily in drinking water.

https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.3181/00379727-99-24442

Am taking both. But my dosage of astaxanthin is a modest 12 mg. I might have greater mileage with 500 mg calcium pantothenate.

This is the National Institutes of Aging ITP program. The protocol for their studies is the same for each study. They have three simultaneous studies going on at the same time for every compound they test.

Approximately 50 male mice and 50 female mice are getting the drug/supplement at each of the 3 test sites (The Jackson Laboratory [TJL], University of Michigan [UM], and University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio [UT]). Each site also enrolled approximately 100 male and 100 female control mice, which also served as the control group for the other drugs tested.

So, approximately 900 mice total.

Its a much more rigorous process than the odd small individual lifespan studies that some groups do. I wouldn’t trust a single lab’s result.

This compares to the study you referenced where they had:

Thirty-three young male and female C-57 black mice were given approximately 300 μg of calcium pantothenate daily in drinking water. Forty-one control mice did not receive the vitamin supplement.

So - three simultaneous studies each with 300 mice, vs. one study with around 74 mice. A huge difference.

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I have been to the testing site at the University of Michigan when I go to visit family. It’s a top notch facility at a top notch university! Next time I go, probably summer of 2023, I’ll try to arrange lunch with Dr. Miller or his associates.

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