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TL;DR Is synthetic astaxanthin safe for humans to consume?

Background

Synthetic astaxanthin is available as a supplement, and is also commonly consumed by humans in the form of farmed salmon.

Wild salmon eat a lot of shrimp-like krill, which contains lots of astaxanthin, which is what gives salmon it’s red/pink flesh. In farmed salmon, they’re not fed the same diet, so they don’t get the same colour (they’d be grey or off-white). So farms feed them synthetic astaxanthin to give their flesh a red/pink colour.

This says that humans that eat the farmed salmon end up consuming the synthetic astaxanthin via the salmon's flesh.

I found the following:

... one company has announced it will bring a synthetic astaxanthin supplement to market for human use. Their argument for its legality is that it’s already approved as a color additive in food (salmon). This may be a legal loophole that could potentially bring this far inferior supplement onto health food store shelves sometime in the future. The question that remains to be answered is whether or not synthetic astaxanthin is safe for direct human consumption.

Synthetic astaxanthin is significantly inferior to algal-based astaxanthin

Note that being 'inferior' doesn't imply that it's unsafe.

Question

Is human consumption of synthetic astaxanthin (via capsule, salmon, or any other means) safe?

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    If downvoting, please state why, so the question can be improved. Thank you – stevec Jan 29 at 8:55
  • FYI the downvote isn't mine. Health questions are off-topic here, but food safety is very much on-topic. However, I'm not sure if you're asking about the trace amounts given to Salmon as a coloring or the food supplement. I think the first is on-topic and the second is not as it isn't about food, but nutrition supplements. It would be good if you could edit and clarify. – GdD Jan 29 at 9:01
  • @GdD thanks. I will edit now to clarify. – stevec Jan 29 at 9:02
  • @GdD done. If you have any more feedback please let me know – stevec Jan 29 at 9:04
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Yes, the FDA has determined that astaxanthin is "generally recognized as safe" (GRAS), at 0.15 mg/serving. This doesn't indicate whether there are any health considerations associated with it (that's not on topic for this site), but it's not poisonous.

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  • That is good to know, but 0.15mg is as much astaxanthin as found in 25g of Atlantic salmon or just 4g of sockeye salmon (not a realistic serving). "Among the wild salmonids, the maximum astaxanthin content in wild Oncorhynchus species was reported in the range of 26–38 mg/kg flesh in sockeye salmon whereas low astaxanthin content was reported in chum. Astaxanthin content in farmed Atlantic salmon was reported as 6–8 mg/kg flesh. Astaxanthin is available in the European (6 mg/kg flesh) and Japanese market (25 mg/kg flesh) from large trout." – stevec Jan 29 at 9:29
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    Hi @stevec, if you want to know whether it is harmful in larger doses than you'd find in foods for consumption then it's off topic for this site. – GdD Jan 29 at 9:52
  • @GdD typical serving size for a salmon steak is 80 - 120 grams (much more than 4-25g) – stevec Jan 29 at 9:54
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    Yes, salmon is not poisonous. – Sneftel Jan 29 at 16:00
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According to a meta-study from 2014, there are no negative health effects associated with consumption of astaxanthin, even in doses more than 100X greater than what is found in salmon. This is true whether the astaxanthin come from krill or is grown from yeast for farmed salmon:

Astaxanthin is safe, with no side effects when it is consumed with food. It is lipid soluble, accumulates in animal tissues after feeding of astaxanthin to rats and no toxic effects were found [15,17,133] ... Supratherapeutic concentrations of astaxanthin had no adverse effects on platelet, coagulation and fibrinolytic function [139]. Research has so far reported no significant side effects of astaxanthin consumption in animals and humans. These results support the safety of astaxanthin for future clinical studies.

Additionally, yeast-grown astaxanthin is currently being researched as a dietary supplement because of beneficial effects on the heart, eyes, and tissues, and may contribute to beneficial weight loss.

So, to sum up: it's not bad for you, and is probably even good for you.

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