Rigorous physical activity can cause inflammation and oxidative stress, which can lead to muscle damage. In 2015, a published study conducted by Serbian researchers demonstrated that astaxanthin supplementation had protective effects by reducing systemic inflammatory response to physical activity in young soccer players. Astaxanthin is a red-orange carotenoid derived from algae and found in many marine organisms such as shrimp, crab, and fish.
A key component of mucosal immunity is secretory IgA (sIgA). sIgA decreases with age, psychological stress and prolonged and intensive physical exertion. Lowered sIgA is associated with reduced protection against infections. Furthermore, exercise induces reactive oxygen species (ROS) leading to greater oxidation and inflammation. Astaxanthin possesses antioxidant, ROS scavenging, anti-inflammatory and immunostimulatory actions.
In the study, 40 male athletes with an average age of 18 were randomly assigned to receive a placebo (n = 19) or 4 mg of astaxanthin (n = 21) daily. Morning saliva and blood samples were collected at the beginning and then 90 days later when the study was completed. Salivary samples were assayed for sIgA concentration and blood samples were analyzed for total antioxidant status and various biochemical measures of inflammation and muscle-derived enzymes.
A key finding was a rise in secretory IgA (sIgA) levels at rest after 90 days in the astaxanthin group. Also in the astaxanthin group, muscle enzyme levels were reduced significantly compared to placebo. In addition, increases in hs-CRP and neutrophil counts were only found in the placebo group. There were no significant differences in oxidative stress status between the astaxanthin and placebo groups. The researchers concluded that astaxanthin demonstrated a significant blunting of systemic inflammation and helped to protect against muscle damage that can be caused by rigorous physical training.
While this study featured athletes to illustrate the effect of astaxanthin, previous studies have also shown that this carotenoid has anti-inflammatory activity. It’s likely that anyone, not just athletes, who has increased oxidative stress and inflammation could benefit from astaxanthin supplementation.
Baralic I, et al. Effect of astaxanthin supplementation on salivary IgA, oxidative stress, and inflammation in young soccer players. Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine. 2015;2015.


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