Astaxanthin, a red-orange carotenoid pigment, is strong biological antioxidant that occurs naturally in a wide variety of living organisms. Astaxanthin is quite common in nature, particularly in the marine environment and is best known for eliciting the pinkish-red hue to the flesh of salmon and trout, as well as crayfish, shrimp, and lobsters. Although natural sources of astaxanthin are numerous, nearly all are found in very low concentrations. By far, the green algae Haematococcus pluvialis provides the most concentrated natural source of astaxanthin known, from 10,000-40,000 ppm astaxanthin in addition to other carotenoids such as beta-carotene, canthaxanthin and lutein.
Astaxanthin Antioxidant Benefits
Astaxanthin provides cell membranes with strong protection against free radical or other oxidative attack. Astaxanthin, are distinguished by their capacity to interact with chemically reactive species of oxygen known as singlet oxygen and free radicals. Deleterious reactive oxygen species such as singlet oxygen, superoxide, peroxyl and hydroxyl radicals are commonly formed as a consequence of photooxidation, physiological stress and normal immune system functions. Astaxanthin, protect cells against oxidation by quenching singlet oxygen and dissipating the energy as heat and, scavenging free radicals to prevent and terminate chain reactions. Astaxanthin is superior to other antioxidants because of the unique role it may play in protecting the cell membrane because of its unique chemical structure and orientation within the living cell.
Astaxanthin’s antioxidant activities, both as a quencher of singlet oxygen and a scavenger of free radicals; its capability to protect lipids from peroxidation; and its strong effect on prevention DNA damage, have been clearly showed. In vitro and in vivo studies have showed the antioxidant efficacy of astaxanthin and its advantages in the prevention and/or therapy of oxidative stress-related neurodegenerative diseases and cardio-vascular diseases, as well as in protecting the skin and eyes from UV-induced damage.
New researches show that astaxanthin is much more effective than beta-carotene against the singlet oxygen free radical. Vitamin E is another key lipid-soluble antioxidant for the body. Astaxanthin has been shown to be 100-500 times stronger than vitamin E in preventing lipid peroxidation in rat- mitochondria. A research reported in 1990 in the Physiological Chemistry and Physics showed that astaxanthin is a powerful antioxidant, protecting cells and boosting immunity.
Astaxanthin provides protection from more types of free radicals than many other antioxidants. Also, 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. In lab studies, astaxanthin protects retinal cells against oxidative stress and significantly decreases the area of destructive new blood vessel growth on retinas, a hallmark of advanced macular degeneration. According to a study published in February 2009 in the Chemical Research Toxicology; astaxanthin may decrease the risk of developing cataracts. In a study showed that astaxanthin is effective in preventing ameliorating retinal injury and the degeneration of photoreceptors due to ageing. In another study that subjects who received 5 mg astaxanthin per day for one month showed a %54 reduction of eye fatigue complaints.
Some researches demonstrate that astaxanthin may be a candidate to treat neurodegenerative diseases such as Parkinson and Alzheimer disease. Astaxanthin exhibits exceptionally potent free-radical scavenging activity, and protects cells, organs and body tissues from oxidative damage. Research conducted by Japanese scientists shows that astaxanthin prevents the build-up of dangerous compounds linked to neurodegenerative diseases, including Alzheimer’s. In a small study 10 healthy men ages 50-69, who had been complaining of forgetfulness, received astaxanthin (12 mg/day) for twelve weeks. On a computerized test designed to accurately detect early cognitive deterioration, they demonstrated development on measures of reaction time, attention, and working memory. Scientists from “Tohoku University” have concluded that of the natural pigment astaxanthin lowers the accumulation of compounds called PLOO (phospholipid hydroperoxides) which are known to accumulate abnormally in the erythrocytes (red blood cells) of individuals with dementia. The placebo-controlled study demonstrated that PLOOH levels in erythrocytes fell substantially in the group taking the astaxanthin decreasing 40% and 50% in the 6 and 12 mg dose groups, respectively, compared with no change in the placebo group.
Studies indicate that 6 mg/day of astaxanthin for six-eight weeks decreases crow’s feet wrinkles, water loss, and age spot size while enhancing moisture content, elasticity, and skin texture in both women and men, particularly when combined with topical astaxanthin application. Astaxanthin may help protect skin from UV damage from sunlight, particularly during prolonged exposure. In human studies, astaxanthin has been shown to decrease visible signs of UV-aging through both topical and dietary supplement within 4 to 6 weeks of use. A double-blind placebo controlled study demonstrated that astaxanthin in combination with vitamin E (tocotrienol), improved several aspects of overall skin condition. In a study human dermal fibroblasts were pre-incubated with astaxanthin and other antioxidants and then exposed to singlet oxygen. Cell viability was restored to more than 80 percent when the cells were treated with astaxanthin. Another study; shows in healthy males that topical natural astaxanthin significantly reduces burn level by 60% at 98 hours after UVB exposure.