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Astaxanthin and Health and Wellness in Animals

What benefits does astaxanthin have on health and wellness in animals?

Astaxanthin is primarily used as a flesh colorant added to feeds for fish and poultry. The pink flesh characteristic of wild salmon and trout occurs in farmed fish only if pigment is added to their feed (Bernhard 1990). In the poultry industry, supplementary pigment enhances yolk color in eggs. Beyond its role in pigmentation, Astaxanthin has been found to benefit various aspects of animal production and animal health.

Astaxanthin may serve as a Vitamin A precursor in fish, some species of which appear unable to absorb beta-carotene (Torrissen and Christiansen 1995), the usual precursor in humans. Higher survival rates in kuruma shrimp, increased egg buoyancy and survival rate in red sea-bream, enhanced liver cell structure and glycogen storage in red tilapia, and increased fertilization and survival rates of eggs and higher growth rates during the early-feeding period of young salmonids have all been associated with dietary astaxanthin supplementation (Sommer et al. 1991; Torrissen and Christiansen 1995; Kawakami et al. 1998). Astaxanthin supplementation has also been reported to increase the amounts of Vitamins A, C, and E in some body tissues of Atlantic salmon (Christiansen et al. 1995), although not consistently (Storebakken et al. 1987). In rainbow trout fed oxidized oil, astaxanthin supplementation reduced high levels of triglyceride and total cholesterol in the blood, and increased defenses against oxidative stress (Nakano et al. 1995, 1999). Astaxanthin also appears to stimulate the immune system in this species, although not enough to warrant inclusion as an immunostimulatory agent in feed formulations (Thompson et al. 1995).

It has been hypothesized that astaxanthin may be essential in salmonid reproduction and in the development of prawn eggs and larvae, because it is rapidly mobilized into the ovary from other maternal tissues during the final stages of egg development (Sigurgisladottir et al. 1994; Dall et al. 1995). It has even been suggested that astaxanthin should be considered an essential vitamin for fish and crustaceans (Torrissen and Christiansen 1995), or at least a fertilization hormone and growth enhancer (Sigurgisladottir et al. 1994). However, because the mechanisms of action are not well understood, some of the biological actions attributed to astaxanthin in fish remain unconfirmed (Sigurgisladottir et al., 1994).

When included in poultry feeds, dietary astaxanthin was reported to improve egg production and the general health of hens (Lignell et al. 1998). Astaxanthin-supplemented feed was found to also increase the hatching percentage, resistance to Salmonella infection, and shelf life of eggs." Astaxanthin also improved chick growth and feed utilization during the first 3 weeks after hatching, and reduced chick mortality due to yolk sac inflammation (Lignell et al. 1998).

Astaxanthin also appears to have some beneficial effects on mammals. For example, astaxanthin fed to pigs increased boar semen volume and piglet litter size and survival rate (Lignell et al. 1999). Astaxanthin is an active ingredient in several patented medications for mammals. In an anti-stress formulation, it is claimed to enhance the effect of anti-stress agents administered to farm animals and household pets to minimize weight loss and reduced immunity due to crowding, extreme temperatures and other sudden environmental changes (Ito et al. 1999). Esterified astaxanthin from Haematococcus pluvialis algal meal is the preferred form in several oral prophylactic and therapeutic formulations for muscular dysfunction such as exertional rhabdomyolysis (also known as exertional myopathy, tying-up syndrome, azoturia, or Monday morning sickness) in horses (Lignell 1999), as well as for mastitis (mammary inflammation) in dairy cows (Lignell and Inborr 1999), and for gastrointestinal tract inflammation due to infections by Helicobacter sp. bacteria (Wadström and Alejung 1998).

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References:

Bernhard, K. (1990) Synthetic astaxanthin. The route of a carotenoid from research to commercialisation. In N. I. Krinsky, M. M. Mathews-Roth and R. F. Taylor (eds.), Carotenoids: Chemistry and Biology, pp. 337-363. Plenum Press, New York.

Christiansen, P., J. Glette, O. Lie, O. J. Torrissen, and R. Waagbo. (1995) Antioxidant statis and immunity in Atlantic Salmon, Salmo salar L., fed semi-purified diets with and without astaxanthin supplementation. J. Fish. Diseases, 18:317-329.

Dall, W., D. M. Smith, and L. E. Moore. (1995) Carotenoids in the tiger prawn Penaeus esculentus during ovarian maturation. Mar. Biol., 123:435-441.

Ito, S., E. Ogata, and M. Yamada. (1999) Anti-stress agent for animals and a method of reducing stress in animals, United States Patent 5,937,790. Showa Denko Kabushiki Kaisha (Tokyo, Japan), United States.

Kawakami, T., M. Tsushima, Y. Katabami, M. Mine, A. Ishida, and T. Matsuno. (1998) Effect of beta,beta-carotene, b-echinenone, astaxanthin, fucoxanthin, vitamin A and vitamin E on the biological defense of the sea urchin Pseudocentrotus depressus. J. Exp. Mar. Biol. Ecol., 226:165-174.

Lignell, Å. (1999) Medicament for improvement of duration of muscle function or treatment of muscle disorders or diseases, Patent Cooperation Treaty application #9911251. AstaCarotene AB, Sweden.

Lignell, Å., and J. Inborr. (1999) Method of the prophylactic treatment of mastitis, Patent Cooperation Treaty application #9930701. AstaCarotene AB, Sweden.

Lignell, Å., C. Nicolin, L.-H. Larsson, and J. Inborr. (1998) Method for increasing the production of/in breeding and production animals in the poultry industry, United States Patent #5744502. Astacarotene AB, Sweden.

Lignell, Å., J. Inborr, and C. Nicolin. (1999) Method of increasing the production and improving the quality of semen, Patent Cooperation Treaty application #9929313. AstaCarotene AB, Sweden.

Nakano, T., M. Tosa, and M. Takeuchi. (1995) Improvement of biochemical features in fish health by red yeast and synthetic astaxanthin. J. Agric. Food Chem., 43:1570-1573.

Nakano, T., T. Kanmuri, M. Sato, and M. Takeuchi. (1999) Effect of astaxanthin rich red yeast (Phaffia rhodozyma) on oxidative stress in rainbow trout. Biochim. Biophys. Acta, 1426:119-125.

Sigurgisladottir, S., C. C. Parrish, S. P. Lall, and R. G. Ackman. (1994) Effects of feeding natural tocopherols and astaxanthin on Atlantic salmon (Salmo salar) fillet quality. Food Res. Internat., 27:23-32.

Sommer, T. R., W. T. Potts, and N. M. Morrissy. (1991) Utilization of microalgal astaxanthin by rainbow trout (Oncorhyncus mykiss). Aquaculture, 94:79-88.

Storebakken, T., P. Foss, K. Schiedt, E. Austreng, S. Liaaen-Jensen, and U. Manz. (1987) Carotenoids in diets for salmonids IV. Pigmentation of Atlantic salmon with astaxanthin, astaxanthin dipalmitate and canthaxanthin. Aquaculture, 65:279-292.

Thompson, I., G. Choubert, D. F. Houlihan , and C. J. Secombes. (1995) The effect of dietary Vitamin A and Astaxanthin on the immunocompetence of rainbow trout. Aquaculture, 133:91-102.

Torrissen, O. J. and Christiansen, R. (1995) Requirements for carotenoids in fish diets. J. Appl. Ichthyol., 11:225-230.

Wadström, T., and P. Alejung. (1998) Oral preparation for the prophylactic and therapeutic treatment of Helicobacter sp. infection, Patent Cooperation Treaty application #9837874. AstaCarotene AB, Sweden.

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