The main problem with astaxanthin is that it is not water soluble and for this reason, is poorly absorbed in the digestive tract. It was found that mixing astaxanthin with fat greatly enhanced absorption and formulations prepared with artificial surfactants like polysorbate increased absorption [European Journal of Pharmaceutical Sciences 2003, 19: 299-304].
It is interesting that astaxanthin from farm-raised salmon is more absorbable than that from wild caught salmon. Unfortunately, the farm raised salmon are fed synthetic astaxanthin. Synthetic astaxanthin, like synthetic beta-carotene, may not be desirable because of potentially toxic non-naturally occurring isomers being present and not in the proper ratios. This is why one should be sure that the astaxanthin comes from a natural source like the algae: Haematococcus pluvialis. The label on the bottle should clearly state the source.
The bottom line is: I don’t know the maximal amount of astaxanthin that can be absorbed at one time, however, studies suggest that because of processing that must occur in the intestine, astaxanthin’s absorption into the blood may be rate-limited. This means that beyond a certain single dosage, one would be wasting their precious astaxanthin.
I do know that human studies have ranged from 2 to 100 mg per day. In many cases the doses did not have to be more than 4 to 12 mg to see positive results [Marine Drugs 2011, 9:447-465].
Another factor to consider in the bioavailabiltiy of your astaxanthin product is that it is bound up to some extent in the cellular matrix of the organism and must be released from it and purified. Supercritical CO2 Extraction is a process that allows this to be achieved without the aid of harsh and degrading chemicals.
Your product should mention both the source of the astaxanthin, like the algae Haematococcus pluvialis, and that it was extracted by “Supercritical CO2”. This information should be clearly stated on the bottle. When shopping online, there is usually the option of viewing the product label.
Is a Hi-Potency Product Desirable?
Well, just as it may not be desirable to obtain a double or triple strength dose of a prescription medicine for a variety of reasons like toxicity, cost and efficacy, the same holds for supplements like astaxanthin. I would suggest that three divided doses of 2 to 4 mg softgels with meals that have some fat would be the best strategy.
Just remember, that no matter how high the dosage, if it is an inferior product then it is not worth placing in your shopping cart.
What Future Astaxanthin Products Will Be on the Horizon?
I predict we will see a variety of products as occurred with CoQ10. Both astaxanthin and CoQ10 share bioavailability problems due to them not mixing with water. So my prediction is that we will see “Astaxanthin-Gel” and other water soluble versions in the future as we saw Ubiquinol in the case of CoQ10.