NAXA, DSM Disagree on Quality of Synthetic Astaxanthin

<p>The Natural Algae Astaxanthin Association (NAXA) accused DSM&#8217;s AstaSana&#174; of being an inferior form of astaxanthin. DSM countered by saying NAXA's approach to evaluating its product is inadequate.</p>

KAILUA-KONA, Hawaii—The Natural Algae Astaxanthin Association (NAXA) accused DSM’s AstaSana® of being an inferior form of astaxanthin. DSM countered by saying NAXA's approach to evaluating its product is inadequate.

 AstaSana is a synthetic astaxanthin, but DSM’s said it is chemically equivalent to naturally occurring astaxanthin.

NAXA said antioxidant testing results showed AstaSana has an inferior antioxidant potential than natural astaxanthin from Haematococcus microalgae.  Natural astaxanthin was from nine times more active against peroxyl radicals to more than 100 times more active against singlet oxygen, according to the association.

NAXA said this is the second study conducted on natural vs. synthetic astaxanthin. In December 2013, researchers from Cyanotech (an astaxanthin supplier) and University of Houston found natural astaxanthin from Haematococcus pluvialis microalgae was more than 50 times stronger than synthetic astaxanthin in singlet oxygen quenching and approximately 20 times stronger in free radical elimination (Nutrafoods. 2013 Dec;12(4):145-152).

"We believe that the approach taken by NAXA is inadequate and inappropriate to evaluate, study and compare the biological function of ingredients for humans," DSM said in a statement. "Drawing conclusions  from in-vitro tests of antioxidant activity to biological functions is not an accepted scientific approach. In-vitro antioxidant testing, is a non-physiological test and thus not reflecting a human situation nor can you extrapolate to health benefits in humans."

Comparing natural and synthetic astaxanthin, Dr. Robert Corish, a member of NAXA said, “Plain and simple, the two products are completely different—not only in antioxidant potential, but the molecules are also different in three crucial ways.  It’s only logical that these products will perform differently in antioxidant testing because they’re inherently different molecules.  And while all the human clinical research showing a wide variety of health benefits has been performed exclusively on natural astaxanthin from algae, we still don’t know how artificial astaxanthin will react in our bodies long term." 

Dr. Corish also questioned the safety and regulatory status of DSM's AstaSana, saying, "There has not been one published safety study on direct human consumption of this synthesized molecule, and it hasn’t gone through the FDA’s NDI (new dietary ingredient) process."

However, DSM said its safety studies are based on synthetic astaxanthin and have been used for the approval of the safety in the food chain with numerous authorities in the world, including FDA and EFSA. "As far as we know," DSM said in a statement, "these safety studies  have facilitated the commercialization of most if not all of the astaxanthin, including fermentation sources."

NAXA was formed in January 2014 by three natural algae astaxanthin manufacturers—Fuji Chemical Industry Co Ltd., Algatechnologies Ltd. and Cyanotech Corporation—with the goal of educating the public and industry on the differences between astaxanthin sources.

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