The Astaxanthin in Fish Oil Explained

Close up of vitamins E pills, red capsules

We've known for a long time of the beneficial omega-3 fats (DHA and EPA) found in fish oil. People the world over have taken fish oil supplements to help them get well or as a preventative health measure. Quality fish oil is said to have favorable effects on the following:

In this piece we take a look at why fish as a food source is not the healthiest way to get omega-3 fats into the diet. We also look at how fish oil (FO) without the antioxidant “astaxanthin” added loses its health benefits. The interesting video below explains why nature's most powerful antioxidant is so important to human health.

Why Fish Oil Why Not Fish

One question that a lot of people ask is why not just eat fresh oily fish as a regular part of the diet and skip the supplements. It's a reasonable question too, but there is a good reason why supplements are more advantageous than actual fish. The problem with fish is that it's become a polluted food source. The oceans around the world have gotten so fouled that scientists call the waters “plastic soup.” All these contaminants get into the fish that we eat. This is the problem. It's why we're better off getting our omega-3 fats from a quality, purified fish supplement. But even fish oil is not without its problems. It's better than fish, but it also has drawbacks, namely oxidation.

The Fragility of Fish Oil

The major downside to Omega-3 fats is that they are very fragile. Because of this, the oil is extremely vulnerable to damage by oxygen. In fact, oxygen can radically diminish the oil's health benefits, and in a worst case scenario it can make it harmful to the body. Oxidation can occur either during the processing of FO or after you open the bottle. That's the bad news.

The good news is that a study has shown that the fish oil is much less susceptible to oxidation when it includes the antioxidant astaxanthinl. Adding astaxanthin also makes the fish oil immunomodulatory properties somewhat more potent. Another alternative is to just skip the fish oil altogether and opt for krill oil (KO) instead. KO already has the antioxidant astaxanthin built in. This is one of the reasons why it's becoming the preferred supplement for Omega-3 fats.

What the Science Says

Combined fish oil and astaxanthin supplementation modulates rat lymphocyte function.
Eur J Nutr. 2012 Sep;51(6):707-18. doi: 10.1007/s00394-011-0250-z. Epub 2011 Oct 5.

By Andy

Hi, my name is Dr. Andy Williams and I am a biologist with a keen interest in diet and nutrition. This site was set up to help me explore the research, facts and fiction about Krill Oil. Please feel free to contact me if you have any comments, questions or suggestions.

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