Effect of Astaxanthin Supplementation on Psychophysiological Heart-Brain Axis Dynamics in Healthy Subjects

Shawn M Talbott, Don Hantla, Bob Capelli, Lixin Ding, Yanmei Li, Christian Artaria


Objective: Marine microalgae is the predominant source of natural astaxanthin (NAX), a red-orange carotenoid with powerful antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. Previous studies suggest that NAX supplementation improves antioxidant capacity and reduces oxidative stress, while also enhancing fat utilization, exercise endurance, cardiovascular function, and neurological parameters. The purpose of this study was to assess the effects of NAX on the psychophysiological “heart-brain-axis” while nutrition (astaxanthin) may impact physiology (cardiovascular function) and psychology (mood state) in a coordinated manner.

Methods: Using a double-blind parallel design, 28 healthy subjects (male=14, female=14, age=42) were supplemented for 8 weeks with NAX (12mg/day Haematococcus pluvialis algal extract) or a matching placebo. Before and after supplementation, subjects performed a cardiovascular stress test (VO2max) and completed a validated Profile of Mood States (POMS) survey to assess global mood state (GM) and related subscales: Vigor (V), Tension (T), Depression (D), Anger (A), Fatigue (F), and Confusion (C).

Results: Subjects in the NAX group showed a significant ~10% lower average heart rate at submaximal exercise intensities compared to those in the placebo group (aerobic threshold, AeT; NAX 130+17 v. PL 145+14; and anaerobic threshold, AT; NAX 139+20 v. PL 154+11, p<0.05). Significant improvements were found in the NAX group for both positive mood state parameters: GM (+11%, p<0.05) & V (+5%, NS); and negative mood state parameters: T (-20%, NS), D (-57%, p<0.05), A (-12%, NS), F (-36%, p<0.05), and C (-28%, NS). 

Conclusions: NAX supplementation lowered average heart rate at submaximal endurance intensities (suggesting a “physical” heart benefit) and improved mood state parameters (suggesting a “mental” brain benefit). While previous studies have shown NAX supplementation to improve parameters associated with heart health (antioxidant, fat oxidation, endurance) and brain health (neuro-inflammation, cognition, antidepressant/anxiolytic), these results suggest that natural astaxanthin supplementation supports the psychophysiological “heart-brain-axis” with simultaneous improvements in both physical and mental wellness.

Keywords: Antioxidant; Carotenoid; Cardiovascular; Mood State; Mental Wellness

Full Text: [Abstract] [Full Article]

DOI: 10.31989/ffhd.v9i8.636


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Copyright (c) 2019 Shawn M Talbott