Astaxanthin, pronounced Asta-Zan-Thin, is a powerful antioxidant belonging to the group of natural pigments, called xanthophylls, a subcategory of the carotenoid family. Carotenoids are produced by both plants and animals and are antioxidants that are part of the survival mechanisms.
Sea animals such as lobster, crab and salmon get their colour from their diet of krill and other small organisms that eat plankton and algae which are rich in astaxanthin. Astaxanthin, used is supplements, is usually derived from the algae, Haematococcus pluvialis, which manufactures this antioxidant as a protective mechanism to shield itself from the harmful UV rays.
Astaxanthin has been shown to be one of the nature’s most powerful antioxidant nutrient. It has been shown to be many more times potent than vitamins C or E, beta carotene, lutein or pycnogenol which is why it is often referred to as a super-antioxidant.
Why is astaxanthin good for you?
In laboratory tests, astaxanthin has been shown to exhibit impressive antioxidant properties when compared to some of the more established nutrients and herbs. Astaxanthin may be:
- 6000 times more powerful than vitamin C.
- 800 times more powerful than CoQ10.
- 500 times more powerful than green tea.
- 75 times more powerful than alpha lipoic acid.
But that’s not all. Astaxanthin:
- Crosses the blood-brain barrier to protect the nervous system.
- Has the ability to cross the blood-retinal barrier offering protection to our eyes.
- Can enter each and every cell offering its remarkable antioxidant properties.
- Protects every part of your body including organs, joints and skin.
Additionally, most antioxidants neutralise free radicals by donating an electron from their molecule rendering them thereafter ineffective. Astaxanthin on the other hand has a massive number of electrons which means that it can remain active for longer periods of time.
Carotenoids like many other compounds are either water soluble or oil soluble. Astaxanthin is unique in that it can interact with both oil and water meaning that it is not just circulating in the bloodstream but the molecule can attach itself to the cell membrane, which is composed of oil-like structure, meaning that it can neutralise free radicals in all parts of the body.
Astaxanthin also exhibits powerful anti-inflammatory properties and since inflammation is one of the leading causes of ageing, this nutrient helps protect the body against ageing.
The benefits of astaxanthin
Because astaxanthin quenches inflammation and is soluble in every part of our bodies, it is easy to understand that it provides multiple benefits to the body. Some of its benefits include:
- Cardiovascular protection: Numerous studies indicate that astaxanthin helps protect the heart and its mode of action appears to be reducing C-reactive protein. This protein is a marker of inflammation within the body and lower levels are linked to reduced risk of heart disease and other diseases too. Additionally, astaxanthin appears to integrate with the mitochondrial membranes of the heart muscle cells helping to protect these.
- Nerve protection: Several studies point to astaxanthin’s ability to protect the nerve cells and therefore slow down cognitive decline and other nerve related diseases. This makes astaxanthin very useful for preventing the loss of brain function.
- Eye Health: We have known that eating foods rich in carotenoids may be of benefit in protecting our eye sight. The most notable carotenoids for the eyes include lutein and zeaxanthin which are often recommended for preventing age-related macular degeneration. However astaxanthin is in a different league when comparing its antioxidant properties to other carotenoids. Studies indicate that astaxanthin prevents damage to most of the eye tissues and structures and could be useful in preventing age related eye concerns such as retinopathy, glaucoma and neuropathy.
- Skin Health: Astaxanthin has been shown to of benefit for skin health helping to protect skin against UV radiation, improving skin elasticity, improving firmness and ameliorating fine lines. Astaxanthin has been shown to prevent UV damage to the cells. Even more interesting is that it does not block UVB rays; these are the rays that help with the manufacture of vitamin D from the sun.
Astaxanthin has been implicated as being of value in preventing numerous other concerns including supporting the immune system, protecting gum health and enhancing reproductive health.
How safe is astaxanthin?
Astaxanthin is not suitable for use during pregnancy or whilst breastfeeding, but other than that is has been shown to be safe even at dosages of 500 mg per day with the only side effect at these dosage being one of skin developing a slightly more redder appearance.
What are the best astaxanthin supplements?
There are many astaxanthin supplements on the market. It is important that you ensure that the astaxanthin supplement you purchase is derived from the algae and not from fungus and also ensure that the supplement contains some sort of oil or essential fatty acid within the formulation since this enhances absorption.
Life Extension’s Astaxanthin with Phospholipids delivers 4 mg of astaxanthin in a blend of four phospholipids. Phospholipids are molecules which are a major component of cell membranes and thus this form of astaxanthin offers not just maximum absorption but it ensures that the astaxanthin is actually delivered to the cells of the body where it can perform its protective role.