Krill oil is a rich source of omega-3 fatty acids but also contains a lesser-known component that provides a wide variety of health benefits. That component, which sets krill oil apart from fish oil and other sources of omega-3s, is astaxanthin.

What is Astaxanthin?

Astaxanthin is a carotenoid that occurs naturally in algae, shrimp, lobster, crab, wild salmon, and krill. Carotenoids are organic colorants that provide antioxidant properties along with a red-orange hue. Unlike other carotenoids, astaxanthin is able to interface with both water and fats.

Its unique structure gives astaxanthin the ability to reduce occasional oxidative stress. Astaxanthin is better absorbed by the body when complemented by dietary fats. It is recommended to combine astaxanthin with omega-3 fatty acids to support healthy blood lipids and cholesterol, as well as immune support than either fish oil or astaxanthin on its own.

The naturally occurring combination of omega-3s and astaxanthin in krill makes krill oil particularly effective at supporting proper immune responses, as well as promoting overall health.

Antioxidants and Typical Oxidative Stress

Astaxanthin is a potent antioxidant, a more powerful lipid peroxide than vitamin E by about 550 times and 6,000 times more than vitamin C. The carotenoid has numerous unique properties, including its ability to reduce typical oxidative stress.

During metabolic processes, oxygen cells split, which leads to unpaired electrons. If you remember from science class, electrons seek a partner. They act as a matchmaker, moving through the body’s cells to drag a partner back to pair with the single electron. In their quest, they can react chemically with DNA, protein, and lipids to steal their electrons, which destabilizes molecules, triggering a chain reaction.

This process can destabilize cells, causing typical oxidative stress to healthy tissues, which will interfere with long-term health goals. Antioxidants give an electron to prevent this destabilization. Astaxanthin has a large supply of antioxidants, to provide an electron, so as to reduce oxidative stress.

Benefits of Astaxanthin

Unlike other carotenoids, astaxanthin can work with both water- and fat-soluble parts of the cell, which means it integrates within the cell membrane, including the mitochondria of the heart, which is important in promoting healthy aging.

Astaxanthin can also cross the blood-brain barrier, which allows it to effectively support cognitive health. The unique composition of astaxanthin provides it with efficient means to move through the body to promote heart, cognitive, joint health, and more.

Cardiovascular Health

Astaxanthin’s ability to increase antioxidant capacity helps protect heart tissues and blood vessels from occasional oxidative stress. It also helps to support healthy blood lipid levels to promote arterial health for proper circulation and blood pressure.

Joint Health

Everyday wear and reduced cartilage synthesis associated with age can reduce your mobility and flexibility. Astaxanthin's ability to reduce typical oxidative stress can support healthy joint function and mobility. 

Cognitive Health

Astaxanthin's ability to cross the blood-brain barrier helps protect the brain against occasional oxidative stress to promote healthy brain cell activity and aging. Through the activation of signaling molecules such as BDNF, astaxanthin also supports cognitive functions such as learning and memory.

Eye Health

Carotenoids have long been associated with promoting eye health. Astaxanthin's ability to cross not only the blood-brain barrier but the blood-retinal barrier means it can easily reach the tissues of the eye making astaxanthin an effective option for promoting healthy vision.

The Bottom Line

Krill oil is rich in both omega-3 fatty acids DHA and EPA but also astaxanthin, a powerful carotenoid with many unique properties that can help promote optimal health.

As an antioxidant, astaxanthin can help reduce occasional oxidative stress to support joint, heart, metabolic, eye health, and more. More effective than fish oil, krill oil delivered astaxanthin in krill oil and targeted support for your overall health, making it a beneficial addition to your daily regimen.