What is Astaxanthin?
Astaxanthin is a red pigment and belongs to the carotenoid family alongside beta-carotene, lycopene, lutein and more. Astaxanthin occurs naturally in algae and is what provides fish such as salmon and trout with their pink colour.
Astaxanthin is an Antioxidant
Astaxanthin is a highly sought-after antioxidant and the most powerful antioxidant to be found in nature; it is 6000 times more powerful than vitamin C. It’s so powerful in-fact that it never turns pro-oxidant, as many antioxidants do. This means that it can never cause oxidative damage to the body, making it ideal for cases of inflammation in the body.
Astaxanthin is Anti-Inflammatory
Inflammation in the body is responsible for the root cause of a lot of serious diseases. Astaxanthin helps lower C-reactive Protein (inflammatory marker) and also pain associated with inflammatory conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis, carpal tunnel and other joint sorenesses. Astaxanthin also suppresses inflammatory mediators such as nitric oxide, TNF-alpha and prostaglandin E-2, further reducing the inflammatory load in the body.
Astaxanthin has Benefits for Eye Health
Most ocular conditions stem from inflammation or oxidative stress. Over time, the eyes can be severely affected by free radicals which oxidise fatty acids in the retina. Some damage, such as to the retinal cells can be permanent, so prevention and support is crucial. Such damage and inflammation can manifest as retinal arterial occlusion, macular degeneration, cataracts and glaucoma. In order to reach such areas, one requires an antioxidant and anti-inflammatory that can cross the blood-barriers in the body.
The blood-brain and blood-retina barrier work to keep the ‘bad stuff’ out of the brain and eye tissue, however because of the tight junctions, it also means that some beneficial substances can’t get through either. Astaxanthin has unique effects on eye related health as it is one of the very few to be able to cross the blood-brain barrier and from there, into the blood-retina barrier to provide direct antioxidant and anti-inflammatory support.
More ways in which astaxanthin can help the eyes:
- Improve visual acuity
- Prevent eye fatigue / strain
- Reduce eye soreness
- Prevent eye dryness
- Increase blood flow to the retina and vascular layer of the eye
Skin and Anti-Ageing Benefits of Astaxanthin
The skin is the largest organ of the body. Its health and youthful appearance can be measured by UV damage, moisture levels as well as collagen and elasticity.
UV damage (sunburn) results in the ageing of the skin. Astaxanthin has been studied for its ability to reduce the occurrence of sunburn. The mechanism by which it works is likely because of its anti-inflammatory effects. Sun burn is inflammation of the skin, and when UV light penetrates the skin, it reddens from that inflammation. Astaxanthin is able to reduce many inflammatory markers, and by reducing the inflammatory markers in the skin, there is reduced sunburn and skin damage.
A 2006 study, in which 49 middle-aged women took 4mg of astaxanthin for 6 weeks, found that the following had all improved in their skin:
- Fine lines and wrinkles
- Moisture content
Combining astaxanthin with other natural products such as vitamin E, collagen and omega 3 can work synergistically to improve the health and appearance of the skin. A 2002 study in Japan demonstrated that using astaxanthin alongside vitamin E also improved hydration and elasticity of the skin.
Astaxanthin for Cholesterol & Heart Health
Oxidised cholesterol is extremely dangerous for the body. It can lead to autoimmune diseases, clogs arteries and creates inflammation that leads to plaque in the arteries. Over time, this can lead to a heart attack or a stroke. As we’ve already established, astaxanthin is a powerful antioxidant and anti-inflammatory and can neutralise free radicals before they lead to oxidised LDL cholesterol.
Astaxanthin is able to lower blood pressure, improve blood flow throughout the body (including the eyes as mentioned earlier) and decrease heart rate (often used in endurance athletes to delay exhaustion).
Astaxanthin and Immunity
Astaxanthin is often found to come up on-top when compared to other carotenoids. There is no equivalent when it comes to the immune system. There have been many studies supporting astaxanthin and its role in increasing the body’s immune responses:
- Improves anti-body production
- Performs as a T1 cell
- Other than zeaxanthin, astaxanthin is the only other carotenoid to stimulate immunoglobulin M cells
- Reduction in DNA damage
- Reduction of C-Reactive protein (inflammatory marker)
Astaxanthin and Fertility
Beta-carotene is often used by people seeking to improve their fertility naturally. As we’ve already established in this article so far, astaxanthin has time and time again exceeded carotenoid expectations. We have often spoken about fertility in this blog, such as Fertility for Men and Women and Nutrients for Men’s reproductive health in which we address the subject of infertility.
Human trials have found that astaxanthin was able to make sperm reach the egg faster; likely by removing oxidative obstacles and lowering total reactive oxygen species (ROS). This study resulted in 55% of astaxanthin treated couples becoming pregnant who previously were unable to.
The most versatile nutrient for eye health: Natural astaxanthin by Bob Capelli, Algae health sciences.
Natural Astaxanthin: The supplement you can feel by Bob Capelli