Astaxanthin – The king of antioxidants. Have you heard of this? If not, lets start with these facts….Astaxanthin is 6,000 times stronger than vitamin C, 800 times stronger than CoQ10, 550 times stronger than green tea catechins and 75 times stronger than alpha lipoic acid.
What Exactly is Astaxanthin?
Astaxanthin (pronounced “asta-ZAN-thin”) is a naturally occurring carotenoid found in algae, shrimp, lobster, crab and salmon. Carotenoids are pigment colors that occur in nature and support good health. Beta carotene, for example, is orange. Astaxanthin, dubbed the “king of the carotenoids” is red, and is responsible for turning salmon, crab, lobster and shrimp flesh pink.
In the animal kingdom, astaxanthin is found in the highest concentration in the muscles of salmon. Scientists theorize astaxanthin helps provide the endurance these remarkable animals need to swim upstream.
For humans, astaxanthin is a powerful antioxidant with broad health implications and unlike other antioxidants, such as beta carotene, zeaxanthin, vitamin E, C, D and selenium, astaxanthin never becomes pro-oxidant in the body.
Best Astaxanthin Sources
Wild Pacific salmon, especially sockeye salmon, have the highest astaxanthin content. However, you’d have to eat about 6 ounces (165 grams) daily to get a 3.6 milligram dose. Since studies show that doses greater than that provide anti-inflammatory benefits, I always suggest an astaxanthin supplement.
Shop wisely, because you want to make sure that your particular brand has undertaken all the special precautions to harvest it properly, purify it, encapsulate it and protect its potency right up to the expiration date on the bottle. You can find astaxanthin supplements by many makers at health food stores nationwide.
A Few of the Many Health Benefits of Astaxanthin
Astaxanthin Can Help Relieve Pain and Inflammation – Astaxanthin is a potent anti-inflammatory and pain reliever, blocking different chemicals in your body that make you scream “ouch!” More than that, astaxanthin reduces the inflammatory compounds that drive many chronic diseases. Even though it’s 100 percent natural, astaxanthin works like some prescription analgesics, but without the risk of addiction, GI bleeds or heartburn.
More specifically, astaxanthin blocks COX 2 enzymes just like Celebrex, the blockbuster drug prescribed for osteoarthritis, Rheumatoid arthritis, acute pain and monthly dysmenorrhea. In fact, astaxanthin works well with Celebrex — it would be wise to take both together if you want to and if your doctor approves of astaxanthin.
Natural astaxanthin not only affects the COX 2 pathway, it suppresses serum levels of nitric oxide, interleukin 1B, prostaglandin E2, C Reactive Protein (CRP) and TNF-alpha (tumor necrosis factor alpha), and all of this has been proven. Natural astaxanthin was shown to reduce CRP by more than 20 percent in only eight weeks; there is not a prescription drug out there that does that! Even the American Heart Association claims CRP is a key indicator of heart disease.
Astaxanthin Helps Fight Fatigue – Fatigue is one of the most common complaints heard by physicians from their patients. This means a lack of energy, physical endurance or mental focus often triggered by stress, poor sleep, or inadequate nutrition and exercise.
There are also routine physiological functions to consider, such as neurons firing in the brain and the heart pumping blood, all requiring energy to get us through the day. In the workplace, mental fatigue has been found to be one of the most frequent causes for workplace accidents since mental fatigue impacts physical performance.
Astaxanthin improved symptoms of fatigue in healthy adults participating in a study that was designed to simulate transient fatigue experienced in daily life. Participants in this study reported improved clarity of thinking and concentration while performing cognitive tasks and made fewer calculation errors when supplementing with 12mg/day astaxanthin after 8 weeks.
They also reported improved recovery, feeling less physically and mentally fatigued after completing both mental and physical challenges.
Astaxanthin Supports Eye Health – Astaxanthin has the unique ability to cross through a barrier and reach your retina. Well-designed clinical trials have shown that astaxanthin helps diabetic retinopathy, macular degeneration, eye strain and fatigue and seeing in fine detail. There are well-designed positive human clinical trials supporting eye health.
Astaxanthin Cleans Up the Cells – Astaxanthin is in a class of its own when it comes to antioxidant coverage, because it filters into every cell of the body. Its unique molecular lipophilic and hydrophilic properties allow it to span the entire cell, with one end of the astaxanthin molecule protecting the fat-soluble part of the cell and one end protecting the water-soluble part of the cell.
Great Skin and Sunscreen Protection – Astaxanthin has been shown to protect the body’s largest organ. The studies are clear and consistent and show excellent results for helping with skin moisture levels, smoothness, elasticity, fine wrinkles, and spots or freckles.
If you have fair skin that tends to freckle, take astaxanthin, in part because it reduces damage caused by ultraviolet radiation from the sun. In fact, if you get a sunburn, which causes inflammation, astaxanthin penetrates the skin cells and reduces UVA damage. Think of it as an internal sunscreen.
Astaxanthin & Brain Health – The brain needs powerful and specialized antioxidants because it is the main generator of free radicals in our bodies. Free radicals that build up as a byproduct of metabolism in the brain can cause damage to the sensitive membranes of brain neurons.
Free radicals also attack red blood cell membranes, forming phospholipid hydroperoxides (PLOOH). Increased PLOOH levels in red blood cells have been observed in cases of dementia and appear to influence the severity of this condition.
Access to the brain is restricted by a protective membrane known as the blood brain barrier. This membrane shields the brain from toxins and some antioxidants too. Remarkably, astaxanthin can cross this barrier and reach the brain where it improves the antioxidant status of red blood cells, reduces formation of PLOOH, and enhances blood flow bringing oxygen and nutrients to the brain.
Healthy adults, aged 45-65, had improved information processing, spatial reasoning and short-term memory when challenged with a cognitive test (CogHealth) after supplementing with 12mg/day astaxanthin for 12 weeks.
Astaxanthin helps With Heart Disease – There is a growing number of research and studies that seem to suggest that astaxanthin can play a role in keeping your heart healthy. This is particularly important given that cardiovascular conditions are the leading causes of death worldwide.
For example, a heart attack happens every 40 seconds in the US alone, with heart disease causing over 630,000 American deaths each year.
That’s why it comes as a huge sigh of relief to know that astaxanthin can help prevent or reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease. How so?
It helps curb bad cholesterol. High LDL (bad cholesterol) and low HDL (good cholesterol) in the body is a bad combination and risk factor for cardiovascular disease.
It regulates blood lipids. Astaxanthin use can also improve the levels adiponectin and HDL, the good cholesterol. A comprehensive study published in 2010 concurs. After 12 weeks of using astaxanthin, subjects with high levels of blood fat experienced a considerable increase in HDL levels.
It reduces oxidative stress in blood. Another 2000 study examined blood profile of 24 participants after 14-day use of astaxanthin. Results seem to indicate that the supplement can reduce blood oxidation and delays blood clotting.
Astaxanthin Improves Your Blood Pressure – Hypertension is a condition that’s characterized by unusually high blood pressure.
Nearly half of US adults are hypertensive, but the vast majority are not aware of it. That’s quite unfortunate given there are numerous high-quality heart rate monitors which can help you keep a tab on your blood pressure.
The narrower your blood vessels the higher your blood pressure. Untreated hypertension can become an increased risk factor for obesity, heart disease, and even stroke. Astaxanthin has shown great potential in preventing and reducing high blood pressure as well as ameliorating associated effects. And there are several studies that seem to agree.
High cholesterol in the blood can clog your arteries up, which then leads to a buildup in the blood pressure. As we’ve stated above, astaxanthin as an antioxidant helps reduce bad cholesterol and therefore prevent hypertension.
Astaxanthin also fights hypertension by reducing blood oxidative stress and relaxing the walls of the blood vessels.
When coupled with these activities, astaxanthin can be more effective at reducing high blood pressure.
Astaxanthin Helps Manage High Cholesterol – High cholesterol is a dire condition that is typified by too much low-density lipoprotein (LDL) in the blood. Close to 34 percent of adult Americans are considered to have high LDL cholesterol.
Cholesterol in and of itself isn’t bad. It is produced naturally by the liver and is transported via the blood to be used to make cell membranes, vitamin D and some hormones.
The trouble begins when there’s too much of it in the blood. Because it’s not water-soluble, excess cholesterol usually ends up being deposited on the walls of the blood vessels, specifically on your arteries. That’s never good news because narrow arteries are a perfect recipe for stroke or heart attack.
Traditionally, doctors recommend quitting smoking, eating healthy, exercising and weight loss to people with high cholesterol. Supplementing your diet with astaxanthin has also shown results when it comes to reducing high LDL levels.
One eye-opening study seems to suggest that taking between 6mg and 18mg of astaxanthin every day for 84 days reduces the blood levels of lipids often associated with high LDL levels in individuals with high cholesterol. Not just that — the study also indicated that astaxanthin helps increase the levels of good cholesterol.
Astaxanthin Assists with Heart Damage Repair – Heart damage is more common than you think, and it’s caused by myriads of factors. One of the leading causes is a heart attack, high blood pressure or heart failure.
In the US, it’s estimated that close to 400,000 cases of heart attacks happen outside a hospital environment every year, while another 200,000 cases occur within the confines of a medical facility. As you might already know, some people do survive a heart attack, but they don’t always come out of it unscathed.
What happens in the aftermath of a heart attack can have a huge impact on the quality of life, life expectancy, and chances of repeat cardiac arrest.
That’s where astaxanthin can come to the rescue.
Specifically, astaxanthin use has been discovered to prevent heart damage not only during an attack but also in the aftermath.
In a 2004 study involving dog, rabbit and rat heart attack models, scientists found that there was a reduction in the damage of heart cells in animals pre-treated with astaxanthin.
Although extensive research has not been conducted on human subjects, scientists believe these results can be replicated in humans.
Astaxanthin can also help restore the subtle balance between nitric oxide and peroxynitrite. A nitric oxide/peroxynitrite imbalance is often considered the leading cause of abnormalities in the endothelium, which is the lining of arteries and other blood vessels.
Major complications in the endothelium have been associated with serious health issues, including diabetes, hypertension, poor immune system, insulin resistance, cancer, and atherosclerosis.
Changes to the endothelium can also increase damage to the heart in case of a heart attack. By reducing oxidative stress in the blood, astaxanthin help protect endothelium and therefore “reverse” or prevent extensive heart damage.
Astaxanthin Reduces the Risk of Developing Alzheimer’s – Alzheimer’s Disease is a neurodegenerative disorder that has become quite rampant in American seniors. Its symptoms include serious memory lapses, dementia, confusion, erratic behavior, difficulty thinking, and other symptoms that can affect your daily life.
Did you know that 4 out of every 5 cases of dementia are due to Alzheimer’s? There is no known cure for this chronic ongoing condition at the moment. However, there are several psychotherapies, medications and other treatment options that can help reduce Alzheimer’s disease progression, improve quality of life and mitigate the symptoms.
As an antioxidant, astaxanthin has joined the list of potential treatment options for Alzheimer’s. There is a multitude of ongoing studies on the effects of astaxanthin for Alzheimer’s, but preliminary results are something to write home about.
For example, in a 2010 study, scientists were thrilled to discover that antioxidant properties of astaxanthin can be instrumental in reducing the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease, especially the early onset type. While the condition cannot be treated fully, protecting those at higher risk for the disease is very crucial.
When combined with lifestyle changes, studies have shown that astaxanthin can be effective at preventing and decelerating the progression of Alzheimer’s.
That’s groundbreaking because the substance can help reduce neurodegeneration and recover some of the neurological functions.
Astaxanthin May Help with Male Infertility – It’s no big secret that infertility is a major headache for many male Americans. Genetic issues, testicular trauma, obesity, and hormonal disorders are some of the leading causes of infertility in men. However, there are a ton of other hidden causes.
Fertility experts and scientists have been actively studying how to use antioxidants to deal with sperm oxidative stress and therefore cure male infertility. It turns out, astaxanthin is literally what the doctor prescribed!
One intriguing study published in 2005 shows positive results of astaxanthin for treating infertility in men. In a 3-month period, the researchers assessed 30 individuals diagnosed with male infertility. In the course of the study period, scientists noted uptick and positive improvements in several sperm metrics.
The first positive results in men treated with astaxanthin included reduced death of sperm, increased the count and an overall improvement in vitality and fertility. The small size of the study group warranted further and more extensive research to establish for sure that the antioxidant can help with male infertility.
Astaxanthin is currently one of the most talked-about carotenoids, a class of reddish-pink pigments found naturally in algae, and in salmon, crabs, shrimp, lobster, and other seafood. It’s also what gives the feathers of flamingo that beautiful pink coloration.
Carotenoids have a colorful and fascinating history, having been researched since the early 1800s. Astaxanthin belongs to the Xanthophylls subgroup of carotenoids, with the famous carotenes like lycopene, alpha-carotene, and beta-carotene being the other subclass.
Astaxanthin is a powerful antioxidant, which is the overarching property behind its several health benefits. What that means is that it naturally reduces oxidation, a biological process that helps keep many health issues and conditions at bay.
After reading this blog about all the benefits, can you honestly think of one reason why you shouldn’t take Astaxanthin? After all, its called Astaxanthin – The king of antioxidants for many good reasons.