There has been a lot of buzz on the Internet about the combination of astaxanthin and saw palmetto for maintaining healthy testosterone levels. This combo was discussed extensively in a previous post. Alphastat is a patented product on the market of this combination of astaxanthin and saw palmetto extract.
In fact, the study that began the buzz was commissioned by Triarco, the manufacturer of Alphastat. The scientific study was performed at the University of Cameroon and appeared in the Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition. This post will dissect both the research and the contents of this formula.
This is a good example of the extreme amount of hype and its viral spread on the Internet for a nutritional supplement. The fact that the all the hype derives from one study that was commissioned by the manufacturer and done at the University of Cameroon should raise some red flags.
However, this is how many pharmaceutical companies operate; performing the research in-house or contracted out to an independent company or university. This is oftentimes the only way to get this type of costly time consuming research done on the safety and efficacy of a drug or nutritional supplement.
The study appears to be scientifically sound, using a sample size of 42 males and the proper blood tests and statistical methods. It also appears in a peer-reviewed scientific journal. This means that at least two independent researchers have reviewed the article and deemed it to be fit for publication.
Where’s the Control Group?
There is one glaring problem: no controls were used in the study. The control group here would be to give a separate group of men a dummy pill (placebo) with no active ingredients. This is to rule out the placebo effect. Real physiological responses can occur just because one thought they were getting the real deal or some other factors.
Let’s take this a bit further. Research indicates that being on a winning team or rooting for a winning team can raise testosterone or lower it for the losers. This is why I joke that being a Minnesota Vikings fan I should initiate a class-action lawsuit against the team for my severely depleted testosterone levels. So maybe this study was performed during the Cameroon soccer finals in which the team won thereby raising all study participants’ testosterone. A control would flush this spurious result out.
This type of control would also allow for what is known as a double-blind study. In this case no one would know, not the researchers or the subjects, as to who got the dummy pills and who got the real deal until the study was completed. This prevents any bias from entering into the handling of subjects and their results.
The introduction of the journal article implies that the saw palmetto/astaxanthin combination of Alphastat acts to raise testosterone by two mechanisms: (1) by preventing the conversion of good testosterone to bad testosterone (DHT) through inhibition of 5-alpha-reductase and (2) by preventing testosterone conversion to estrogen by aromatase inhibition. This must be where the name of the product comes from: Alpha=5-alpha-reductase and Stat=inhibition.
Since saw palmetto is a proven 5-alpha-reductase inhibitor and not known to influence aromatase then by deduction the astaxanthin should be an aromatase inhibitor.
The research suggests a better name would be AlphaAromatStat.
However to my knowledge, there is no scientific evidence that astaxanthin is an aromatase inhibitor.
Pulling Apart the Alphastat Ingredients
100% Alphastat® 200 mg (patented complex of Serenoa repens fruit extract and Haematococcus pluvialis algae extract, providing free fatty acids and astaxanthin)
I never liked the listing of an herbal-vitamin mix as to so many mg of a patented formula or complex. This obscures things for the consumer and allows the manufacturer to charge outrageous prices. It also obscures the fact that some ingredients in the formula may be in such small quantities as not to matter.
However, the fact that saw palmetto extract is effective in the 200 to 300 mg range I would hazard to guess that most of this complex is saw palmetto.
Astaxanthin is an expensive and potent product and is usually sold in 2 to 4 mg capsules.
So 200 mg patented complex equal to about 196 to 198 mg saw palmetto extract and 2 to 4 mg astaxanthin.
This may also explain why both the the 800 mg and 2,000 mg doses of Alphastat were equally effective in raising testosterone and lowering DHT, but only the 2,000 mg dose was effective in lowering estradiol.
This effect would be due to astaxanthin, if it is an aromatase inhibitor, being increased 2.5x from a 4-to-8 mg range to a 6-to-18 mg range.
It is interesting to note that Nature’s Plus Alphastat also includes 15 mg of zinc monomethionine sulfate which is a known inhibitor of aromatase.
By buying three separate bottles: Saw Palmetto Extract, Astaxanthin and Zinc Picolinate from Swanson Health Products, one can have the benefits of Alphastat for half the price and with known amounts of each ingredient.
The study tested 800 mg and 2,000 mg of Alphastat which would mean the Nature’s Plus Alphastat would require 4 capsules to equal 800 mg and 10 capsules to equal 2,000 mg. I wouldn’t recommend taking more than 2 capsules of this product per day due to the addition of zinc.
This would be another advantage to buying the ingredients separately since the zinc could be held to a safe 15 to 30 mg dose.