The global astaxanthin market is estimated to be worth about $200 million by 2015, most of which is used as a pigment to enhance the pink coloration of fish such as salmon. The human uses market is growing and estimated at about $35-60 million, according to 2008 data from Frost & Sullivan.
Its main health benefits are eye and skin health although it has also been linked to joint health and central nervous system health and is said to have an antioxidant payload 500 times that of vitamin E.
The research, published in the Journal of Clinical Therapeutics & Medicines (Japenese), states that individuals were treated with AstaReal astaxanthin for eight weeks in a double-blind, placebo-controlled study.
it adds that the study was designed to induce fatigue and stress, similar to that encountered in daily life. There was a mental challenge, where individuals were subjected to a number of timed calculations (the Uchida-Kraepelin test), and a physical test with a bicycle ergometer. Metrics of fatigue were assessed both before and after the stressor tests.
The study states: "Thirty-nine healthy subjects reporting awareness of fatigue were divided onto two groups.
"The subjects in one group (Astaxanthin group) ingested 12mg of astaxanthin and 20mg of tocotrienols for eight weeks. The other group (control group) ingested 20mg of tocotrienols for eight weeks."
Visual Analogue Scale (VAS) analysis showed that AstaReal astaxanthin significantly reduced perceived symptoms of mental and physical fatigue compared to the placebo.
These included improvements in clarity of thinking, concentration, motivation, and mood. Irritation and feeling of body heaviness were reduced.
In the calculation test, an increase in errors observed in the placebo during the second half of the test was almost eliminated in the astaxanthin group.
Supplementation with astaxanthin also significantly reduced salivary cortisol, a biomarker for stress.
The study concludes: "The results suggest that astaxanthin supplementation has beneficial effects on fatigue encountered in daily life."
Dr. Robert Corish, AstaReal's medical advisor, said: "This trial evaluated the most common type of fatigue that most of us experience during our daily routines; both mental fatigue and physical fatigue.
"The results show that AstaRealastaxanthin suppresses and fights both types of fatigue and improves performance. Fatigue is the most common complaint heard by physicians today; and in my experience, this is the first time that a natural ingredient has been shown to improve this common condition."
Previous studies have linked the typically algae-sourced carotenoid to skin health, anti-ageing, muscle performance, cardiovascular health, cognitive function, vision and immunity.
And while awareness of the potential benefits is strong, especially in the US, the 400-paper body of science has to date failed to impress the health claims panel at the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA).
Under the strict EU nutrition and health claims regulation (NHCR) 15 astaxanthin applications have been rejected by EFSA scientists.
AstaReal harvests its astaxanthin from the microalgae Haematococcus pluviailis at closed photobioreactor sites in Sweden and the US.
Last month, the firm marked the 70th anniversary of its parent company, Fuji Chemical Industries, with the establishment of its first Asian branch outside of Japan in Singapore.
President of AstaReal Singapore Vincent Wood said: "With Fuji's strong pharmaceutical heritage, I truly believe that AstaReal has an edge in the nutraceutical business model for a sustainable astaxanthin market. Today, no other astaxanthin company can say that.
"The choice of Singapore as our first Asian base outside of Japan is to leverage the fast growing market of middle income demographic population in South East Asia for AstaReal astaxanthin products. Being closer, we can provide a faster response and better marketing support," he added.