Astaxanthin is a hard word. There are few Google searches that encounter more misspellings than this one. First, the best way to pronounce astaxanthin is to break it down:
“Asta-zan-thin”. There’s a minor “k” sound in the z, but nobody will think much of it if you pronounce the x as a z.
The origin of astaxanthin
Astaxanthin was discovered in 1972 by professor Basil Weedon in London, Great Britain. He published with several team members a paper that identified astaxanthin as the red carotenoid in Scottish salmon. (1)
The meaning of astaxanthin
Asta means “crab” in Greek.
Xanten is old Greek for “blond edges” or “blond leaves”.
Astaxanthin is a pigment that falls in the category of xanthophylls. In Europe they are used as food coloring and have a color code of E161. Astaxanthin has the color code of E161j.
The category of xanthophylls was first identified as the red and yellow colors that give the fall colors their charm. Leaves have mostly green pigments in the form of chlorophylls, but in the fall the chlorophylls fall apart and the more stable yellow and red pigments including the xanthophylls become dominant.
How does lobster turn red?
When astaxanthin is bound to proteins the color can be brown and sometimes purple/blue. When the proteins are heated the astaxanthin separates from the protein and turns intense red or pink. This happens when lobster or crab is boiled.
Common misspellings of astaxanthin
There shouldn’t be an “e” at the end. Astaxanthine versus astaxanthin.
There should be an “h” in “tin”. Astaxantin versus astaxanthin.
This is the easy way to pronounce it, but not to spell it. Astazanthin versus astaxanthin.
There should be an “i” and not an “a” in “than”. Astaxanthan versus astaxanthin.
There should be an “n” in “xan”. Astaxathin versus astaxanthin
There should be an “s”and not an “x” in “axta”. Axtaxanthin versus astaxanthin.
There shouldn’t be an “n” but an “s” in “anta”. It’s probably a mixture of antioxidant and astaxanthin. Antaxanthin versus astaxanthin.
Again, don’t be too harsh on yourself if you have a hard time pronouncing this difficult word astaxanthin.
References: (1) Identification of astaxanthin in Scottish salmon. Khare A, Moss GP, Weedon BC, Matthews AD. Comp Biochem Physiol B. 1973 Aug 15;45(4):971-3.