| What is Astaxanthin
Astaxanthin is an all-natural carotenoid with exceptional antioxidant power. Astaxanthin is what gives the pink and red color to salmon, shrimp and lobster. However, animals as well as humans depend on their diet to obtain astaxanthin and other carotenoids since we cannot produce carotenoids ourselves.
The most abundant source of natural astaxanthin can be found in the microalgae called haematococcus pluvialis. This microalgae often grows in places that are exposed to harsh environmental conditions such as intense sunlight, excessive heat during its dormant phase. Here is how astaxanthin perfectly demonstrates evolution at work. Normally, the microalgae during their green phase swim about freely in pools of water. However, when the water pools dry out or the algae are exposed to intense sunlight, they quickly begin producing large quantities of bright red astaxanthin. Why? Because astaxanthin is a powerful antioxidant that functions to protect the cell nucleus against free radicals generated by UV radiation and other stresses that would otherwise cause damage to its DNA - allowing them to survive - even in the harshest of conditions.
Now you can see how powerful this antioxidant is and how it can help protect human cells from free radical damage.
Salmon and Astaxanthin
For salmon, the antioxidant power of astaxanthin is indispensable. Salmon are thought to have acquired the mechanism to store astaxanthin (which possesses a strong power to eliminate singlet oxygen) in their bodies through the process of evolution, to protect their bodies from active oxygen. It is the astaxanthin that gives the salmon a deep orange color.
Salmon hatch in the upper reaches of rivers, and after growing to a certain size swim down river and enter the ocean. Then, after several years they return to the rivers where they were born, to spawn and finish out their lives. This instinct is referred to as "mother-river homing," and the shoals the salmon must cross during these river passages greatly expose the salmon to the sun's ultraviolet light as well as requiring extreme physical exertion creating conditions under which active oxygen (particularly singlet oxygen) is easily produced.
Astaxanthin is found in natural food sources such as algae, krill and shrimp. The astaxanthin acquired from their food accumulates rapidly in their muscles, which gives the salmon their distinctive pink coloring. When the spawning season arrives, the astaxanthin is transferred to body surface of the male and to the ovaries in the case of the female, giving the salmon their respective nuptial coloring and dyeing the eggs (salmon roe) red.