Many health foods and supplements have a nice, natural, simple ring to them. Think: Green Tea, Whey, Pumpkin Juice. Astaxanthin doesn’t elicit the same simplicity of mind. It sounds a bit more like a food source from the future or another planet. But, let’s not be too quick to judge. We’ll take a closer look at astaxanthin, discover what it is, hear the health claims, and think about whether we want to invite it along on our healthy quest.
What in the world is Astaxanthin?
Astaxanthin comes from the carotenoid family. It is present in some types of marine algae. This algae is eaten by shrimp and other sea creatures. By eating astaxanthin, the animals gain their red and pink shells or skin because astaxanthin is actually a red pigment molecule. Astaxanthin starts as lunch for these creatures and slowly advances up to other animals that eat the shrimp and crustaceans. It is partly responsible for the hues of salmon and flamingos (Life Extension Foundation).
Astaxanthin is something of a super antioxidant. It remains active for a longer period of time after transferring free electrons. It does not require any break down (of chemical reactions) after neutralizing free electrons, unlike other antioxidants (Mercola).
A little history of Astaxanthin
The organic chemist, Richard Kuhn discovered, or rather identified, astaxanthin in 1938. He isolated the pigment from a lobster. This made astaxanthin nearly the first carotenoid to make its way into the wider research trends. Kuhn realized that astaxanthin tended to improve the health of animals and this pushed him and others to study it further. And it has been. There have been many studies since Kuhn’s work, and people continued to study this interesting carotenoid (Cardax).
You might be wondering when astaxanthin made its way into our nutritional lives. Well if you’ve ever eaten anything that gets its color from this pigment, you’ve already made it a part of your diet. It hasn’t been very long since we started using astaxanthin in a supplemental way. (Febico).
Benefits of Astaxanthin
We now know that astaxanthin is something of a super antioxident, which sounds good, but what are some of the more easily understood (and visualized) benefits of astaxanthin? Astaxanthin is said to:
Astaxanthin is said to reduce inflammation because it can limit the compounds in the body that cause inflammation and accompany some chronic diseases. It is natural, but somehow works something like an analgesic. It works like this prescription but without any addictive properties.
Astaxanthin blocks the chemicals that make you feel pain, such as COX 2 enzymes. It is believed to be very useful in treating pain associated with arthritis and said to work much like Celebrex dose for osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis.
Help muscles recover and counter fatigue
If you are a gym enthusiast and work out at intense levels, astaxanthin may help you in your daily muscle recovery and performance. It is said to help athletes perform well by improving muscles recovery, promoting endurance and even enhancing your strength and energy helping you to be ready for the next workout.
Keep eyes healthy
Astaxanthin, by reaching the hard-to-reach retina, is shown through studies to help treat eye conditions such as diabetic retinopathy and macular degeneration. It is also believed to help with less serious eye conditions such as eye strain and fatigue of the eyes.
Cleaning cells is a simple way to put it, but astaxanthin because of its properties at a molecular level, can provide benefits throughout the entire cell at all levels. It is both lipophilic and hydrophilic so it can protect fat-soluble regions of the cell and also protect the water-soluble corners too.
In addition to its super-cellular properties, Astaxanthin is something of a sunscreen from the inside, too. It minimizes the sun’s damage to the skin via ultraviolet radiation. It can be helpful even after a sunburn by going deep within the skin and lowering the harmful effects of the UVA.
Beautify the Skin
Not only is astaxanthin good for skin health, it’s also useful for the skin’s appearance. Think of it as a sunscreen and a cosmetic beauty product. It is said to keep skin’s moisture balanced while also maintaining a smooth and elastic feel. Some say it also helps with wrinkles and spots (Huffington Post).
Keep the heart healthy
Studies have shown that Astaxanthin may have benefits for the heart, too. It was shown (in rats) that Astaxanthin improved high blood pressure and may even have positive effects on elastin levels and artery walls. Some say astaxanthin can lower cholesterol, but more studies are needed.
Improve male fertility
Now its official, astaxanthin can do it all! Or at least it is claimed to have an impressive breadth of positive benefits. From an exercise enhancer, to cancer prevention, all the way to improving male fertility. A semi-recent study gave results that indicated that astaxanthin helped a sample of men with their previous infertility. Though this is hopeful, more research is needed in this area, too (Healthline).
How to use
If you’re ready to up your intake of astaxanthin in your daily diet, there are a few things to keep in mind for maximal benefits. Dosage recommendations vary depending on your current health and your health goals, so its best to take a look at your overall diet and have a talk with your nutritionist. It helps to take it with healthy fats. Astaxanthin is a carotenoid. Because it is also fat-soluble, if you take it with healthy fats it will reach the most of your body more efficiently. Try taking it with food such as:
- coconut oil
- chia seeds
- fish oils
- flaxseed oil (Natural News)
As with all new diet and nutrition trends we must keep safety in mind. There is such thing as too much of a good thing. Luckily, in the case of astaxanthin, it is pretty difficult to get there. Astaxanthin is not able to cross over to pro-oxident, reducing chances for toxicity from overdosing. This doesn’t mean to intentionally over-do it of course. Too much astaxanthin can discolor your skin.
When choosing your astaxanthin supplement be sure to choose one that was extracted in a non-toxic way. There are several ways of extracting the astaxanthin from the micro algae, so just be sure to take a deeper look to ensure an optimal version of astaxanthin (Mercola).
- Adams, M., Natural News, Astaxanthin: The little-known miracle nutrient for inflammation, anti-aging, athletic endurance, and more, 2008, online.
- Bowman, J., Healthline, 7 Health claims about Astaxanthin, online.
- Febico, Astaxanthin – The ultimate anti-oxidant, online.
- Cardax Pharma, Astaxanthin History and Background, online.
- Cohen, S., Huffington Post, 5 reasons to take Astaxanthin every day, 2013, online.
- Hawkins, L., Life Extension Foundation, Astaxanthin Provides Broad Spectrum Protection, 2013, online.
- Mercola.com, Nature’s most powerful antioxidant, 2013, online.
- Image Source: isotonixblog.marketamerica.com & naturalnews.com