Astaxanthin boosts muscle performance by 55% after taking 4 mg over a 6 month period. This was the main conclusion of Part 1. The researchers Lignell and Malmsten also reviewed previous astaxanthin studies for clues about how astaxanthin could improve athletic performance.
Previous astaxanthin studies
Before Malmsten and Lignell did their endurance study with astaxanthin, scientist Sawaki had already researched the effect of astaxanthin on sports performance . In his astaxanthin study he showed better vision and less muscle fatigue in humans. Especially, muscle fatigue was measured as substantially less creatine kinase value (CK) in blood of exercising humans after the astaxanthin use. In addition, there was a substantial decrease in lactic acid in the blood of exercising people after using astaxanthin. Since creatine kinase and lactic acid are accepted biomarkers for fatigue, Sawaki concluded that astaxanthin significantly reduces human muscle tiredness.
Less muscle fatigue
In animal experiments, scientist Aoi showed that astaxanthin reduces muscle damage in mice which are pushed to their physical limits. . He also concluded that astaxanthin improves lipid metabolism in the muscles while exercising  by protecting mitochondrial carnitine from oxidation.
What is Astaxanthin
Astaxanthin, a red carotenoid color, is an organic food component that is naturally present in various living plants and animals such as algae, fish, and birds. It's a strong antioxidant and astaxanthin has many very potent physiological activities, such as antioxidant action [1,3], anti-inflammation , anti-high blood pressure , anti-diabetes , anti-obesity , anti-tumor and anti-cancer effects , mental improvement , improvement of age-related vision , and less eye fatigue or tiredness . Astaxanthin also suppresses muscle fatigue.
Scientist Ikeuchi concluded in his astaxanthin study that astaxanthin use results in better muscle endurance in mice which swam to exhaustion . His study shows that astaxanthin reduces muscle fatigue.
These older research studies all point to the astaxanthin benefits for better physical performance. However, until Curt Malmsten and Ake Lignell did their study with humans there was no clinical proof for the impact of astaxanthin on human physical performance, such as endurance and explosivity.
In their study, Malmsten and Agnell expanded the results from the animal studies to human astaxanthin benefits on physical exercise. Malmsten and Lignell claimed to be the first to prove the astaxanthin benefits on human strength and endurance performance.
The astaxanthin used in their tests was extracted from the alga Haematococcus pluvialis, under the brand name AstaREAL. The astaxanthin was encapsulated in colored hard gelatin capsules with 4 mg astaxanthin per pill. The placebo pills contained starch and they looked identical to the real astaxanthin capsules. The study subjects took an astaxanthin dose of one capsule orally per day with a meal. No information was given about the contents of the pills until after the experiment had ended.
The participants were forty young healthy male medical students (most of them between 17 and 19 years old). They didn't take any medication. There were two equal groups. One group received astaxanthin, and the other got the placebo. The students were told to do normal exercises and to go about their life as normal as possible. Three students fell out of the experiment because of illness, surgery, or moving abroad.
Standard training exercises were carried out before the astaxanthin (or placebo) supplements started, and again after 3 and 6 months. Each time blood serum hemoglobin (Hb) was taken and their health was checked. Each time the scientists measured the students' fitness, strength / endurance and strength / explosivity. Also, each student did a monthly self assessment of their general well being.
Astaxanthin benefit for fitness
The effect of astaxanthin on fitness was measured by a less than maximum load until a steady state heart rate was reached. The exercise was performed in a step-up training with a 32 centimeter high bench at 25 steps per minute. Each individual had a 17 kilogram gas tube that was used for smoke diving. Steady state heart rate was reached when the change in heart rate from minute to minute was less than three. All individuals reached stead pulse state in six to nine minutes.
The effect of astaxanthin on strength/endurance was measured by counting the number of squats each student could make on a standard Smith machine. The students warmed up on a bike for three minutes. The squatting was done by bending knees in a ninety degree angle fixed by an adjustable chair. The students held a 42.5 kilogram barbell during the workout.
The effect of astaxanthin on strength/explosivity was tested with a Wingate machine for thirty seconds. Again, the students warmed up on a bike for 3 minutes. The Wingate exercise entailed biking with an individually calculated load based on body weight. The test looked at maximum effort for five seconds - a rest and slow biking period for sixty seconds, followed by a full out effort for thirty seconds. The effect was recorded for these last thirty seconds.
Astaxanthin study conclusion
The astaxanthin and placebo groups showed no difference in fitness. The placebo group gained on average 2.1 kilo weight and the astaxanthin group gained on average 1.0 kilo. The weight gain difference was not statistically significant. Similarly, no difference was observed in steady state pulse between astaxanthin and placebo students. The pulse rate dropped on average 1.31 per minute for the placebos and on average 1.75 per minute for the astaxanthin students. The strength / explosivity was also insignificant. The decrease for the placebo student group was on average 5.81 and in the astaxantin student group was on average 4.13.
The main conclusion of the clinical study was that there was a significant and positive change in strength / endurance for the astaxanthin taking student group. The placebo group increased the number of squats after six months by 9.00 (plus or minus 6.28). The astaxanthin group increased the number of squats by a significant 27.05 (plus or minus 6.12) compared to before the astaxanthin supplementation started. The scientist are highly confident in the outcome, because of a 0.047 P-value.
The original study results were published in Carotenoid Science, Vol.13, 2008 ISSN 1880-5671 21.
Title: Dietary Supplementation with Astaxanthin-Rich Algal Meal Improves Strength Endurance; A Double Blind Placebo Controlled Study on Male Students.
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