Astaxanthin is a red colored carotenoid pigment that naturally occurs in most marine crustaceans and some species of fish. Astaxanthin is what gives the pink and red color to salmon, shrimp and lobster. This pigment is commercially produced from the microalga Haematococcus pluvialis, the richest known natural source for Astaxanthin. This microalgae often grows in places that are exposed to harsh environmental conditions such as intense sunlight, excessive heat during its dormant phase.
Free radicals and other reactive oxygen species are produced during normal life-sustaining aerobic metabolism. In excess, these molecules can cause protein and lipid oxidation and DNA damage. Recent scientific findings indicate that Astaxanthin is a powerful antioxidant and can serve as a potent free-radical scavenger. It’s 6,000 times more effective than vitamin C, 800 times more than CoQ10 and 550 times more than vitamin E or green tea. Results of a 2002 study into the effects of astaxanthin on liver function showed that it protects the liver from oxidative damage. It also seems to decrease oxidative consumption of glutathione and increase hepatoprotective antioxidant activity. Astaxanthin provides protection from more types of free radicals than many other antioxidants. Additionally, scientific research has proven that astaxanthin is able to cross the blood-brain barrier and the central nervous system better than many other antioxidants. This feature allows its benefits to reach and protect the eyes and brain from free radical damage.
Astaxanthin seems to improve the immune response by increasing the number of antibody producing cells. Enhanced dietary concentrations of astaxanthin have demonstrated the ability to support healthy immunoglobulin activity and immune function. Increases immune system function including heightened production of antibody-secreting cells and Interleukin 2 and suppression of Interferon-gamma. Several tests carried out at the University of Minnesota found it enhances antibody production in mouse spleen cells by exerting actions on T-cells, especially T-helper cells.
Astaxanthin showed potential benefits against various cancer cells in animal studies or test-tube studies. By quenching free radical production in oxidatively stressed tissues, astaxanthin can prevent the DNA damage that is required to initiate many forms of cancer. Astaxanthin inhibitsthe enzyme 5-a-reductase responsible for prostate growth and astaxanthin supplementation was proposed as a method benign prostate hyperplasia and prostate cancer. Dietary astaxanthin was found to significantly inhibit the occurrence of colonic mucosal ulcers, dysplastic crypts, and colonic adenocarcinoma at week 20 in a study of mice.
Astaxanthin possess strong anti-inflammatory properties which are beneficial for muscle and bone pains, and joint inflammations. Inflammation is an immune system response. However, excess or chronic inflammation can be damaging to our health. C-reactive protein measures general levels of inflammation in your body. C-reactive protein (CRP) is released by the body in response to acute injury, infection, or other inflammatory stimuli. A study was done in 2006 on the effects of Astaxanthin on CRP levels. After 3 months of taking Astaxanthin supplements, 43% of the treatment group had low enough levels of CRP to take them out of the high risk category. The double-blind study by an independent research group of 15 subjects taking astaxanthin and eight subjects taking placebo found that subjects who took astaxanthin for 56 days showed an average decrease in their measured CRP levels of over 20%. A health survey of 247 astaxanthin users showed that over 80 percent of those reporting back pain and symptoms from osteoarthritis or rheumatoid arthritis reported an improvement from supplementing with astaxanthin. Astaxanthin has been shown to be a viable alternative to anti-inflammatories such as aspirin, acetaminophen and the prescription drug Celebrex.
Astaxanthin is a very good tonic for the heart. In laboratory studies, astaxanthin improves endothelial function, allowing arteries to respond normally to stimuli that get them to relax. To carry out their research, the Japanese scientists recruited 61 people, aged 25-60 years, with mildly abnormal blood lipids. The results showed that the 12 and 18 mg per day doses of astaxanthin reduced the participant’s triglyceride levels by 25% and 24%, respectively. Another potential benefit for cardiovascular health may be Astaxanthin abilityto decrease blood pressure.
Recently several published clinical studies have shown a link between astaxanthin intake and the reduction of eye fatigue. A study by Nakamura, demonstrated significant improvements in reducing asthenopia and positive accommodation in 4 mg per day and 12 mg per day groups. Another study showed that astaxanthin is effective in preventing ameliorating retinal injury and the degeneration of photoreceptors due to ageing. A study by Nagaki, demonstrated that subjects who received 5 mg astaxanthin per day for one month showed a %54 reduction of eye fatigue complaints.
Alzheimer’s is the most common form of dementia, a general term for memory loss and other intellectual abilities serious enough to interfere with daily life. Many studies indicate that astaxanthin may be a potential candidate to treat neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson disease. Astaxanthin exhibits exceptionally potent free-radical scavenging activity, and protects your cells, organs and body tissues from oxidative damage. Recent research has validated astaxanthin’s ability to protect our central nervous system. Research conducted by Japanese scientists shows that an antioxidant called astaxanthin prevents the build-up of dangerous compounds linked to neurodegenerative diseases, including Alzheimer’s.
The formation of ulcers in the stomach is part of an inflammatory process that astaxanthin can protect one from. Experimental studies have shown that using astaxanthin is protective against the development of ulcer disease due to a variety of factors. Extract out of algae that have astaxanthin is noticed to help in alleviating the pain due to gastric ulcers while reducing the inflammation at the same time. Animal research shows that high levels of astaxanthin might both prevent and treat gastric ulcers, according to an article in the 2008 issue of the European Journal of Pharmacology. Scandinavian researchers have found that astaxanthin reduces gastric inflammation and bacterial load.
Oxidative stress reduces the sperm quality which can cause infertility. As an antioxidant, Astaxanthin may be helpful in reversing or improving damage to sperm caused by oxidative damage. A clinical study involving 30 men showed that taking 16 mg daily of astaxanthin increased sperm motility and other measured sperm parameters. In the astaxanthin group, 54,5 % of the couples were pregnant within three month meanwhile only 5,4% in the placebo group had a baby.
UV radiation from sunlight is the most potent environmental risk factor in skin cancer pathogenesis. Astaxanthin protects the cells from oxidation and UV- radiation. In a 1998 study with rats, astaxanthin was found to be 100 times stronger than beta-carotene and 1000 times stronger than lutein in preventing UVA light-induced oxidative stress. Astaxanthin is more efficient than other carotenoids in protecting the skin from UV damage, according to recent in vitro study findings. Unlike other lesser antioxidants, Astaxanthin captures and eliminates free radicals by binding them to its molecular structure.
Astaxanthin Food Sources
Astaxanthin is derived from Haematococcus pluvialis microalgae and cultivated under highly controlledconditions. Lobster, shrimp, crab, crawfish and other crustaceans are very high in astaxanthin. Fish such as rainbow trout, salmon, pink salmon and red bream are great sources of astaxanthin thanks to their diet. Analyses have shown that wild Atlantic salmon have between 3 and 11 mg astaxanthin per kilogram in muscle. Red peppers, and other red-pigmented vegetables and fruits contain astaxanthin.
Recommended dosages range from 2-8 mg/day for preventive measures up to. Higher doses up to 20 mg have been shown to be tolerated, but have not been studied beyond 2 weeks. (One human study noted no side effects with 21 mg daily but was only 2 weeks in duration). Astaxanthin has been found to be a very potent lipid soluble antioxidant through in vitro and ex vivo studies. Since astaxanthin is fat-soluble, it is best taken with a meal that contains fat. Synthetic Astaxanthin is produced from petrochemicals. Natural Astaxanthin is biosynthesized by living microalgae (H. Pluvialis) whereas. Natural Astaxanthin possesses greater biological activity than the artificial synthetic Astaxanthin. Synthetic astaxanthin still dominates farmed salmon industry worldwide. Synthetic astaxanthin fetches $2000 per kg, while the natural product is sold for over $7000 per kg.