King of the Carotenoids
Astaxanthin is a naturally-occurring carotenoid, a compound responsible for the pinkish pigments of shrimp, lobster, crab, salmon, and many fruits and veggies. Honored with the title “king of the carotenoids,” astaxanthin is unique in that it never becomes a pro-oxidant in the body. Though krill supplements contain a trace amount of astaxanthin, your body can benefit dramatically from therapeutic doses of this super antioxidant. After being featured on The Dr. Oz Show, astaxanthin sales skyrocketed, with the current market sitting at a whopping $200 million per year.
Here’s a snippet of astaxanthin’s impressive résumé of robust health benefits:
1. Amazing Anti-Inflammatory Effects
Astaxanthin is a potent anti-inflammatory that is not only thought to help relieve pain, but may also play a vital role in reducing widespread inflammation. Low-grade inflammation is now widely recognized as a major health problem at the root of many chronic diseases. Astaxanthin plays a vital role in protecting against harmful levels of C-reactive protein (CRP), a protein produced by the liver that rises when the body is under seige by inflammation. One study demonstrated that in a short eight weeks, astaxanthin supplementation reduced CRP by over 20 percent, while the placebo group saw no reduction (now that’s impressive, folks!).
Fast Facts: In nature, the highest concentration of astaxanthin is found in the muscles of salmon, and may actually be responsible for the muscle strength that helps them swim upstream against strong river currents.
2. Reduces Muscle Recovery Time
Astaxanthin may help reduce muscle recovery time after exercise, while increasing stamina and endurance during exercise. Mitochondria, energy powerhouses concentrated in your muscle tissue, produce up to 95% of your body’s energy. Unfortunately, bursts of energy from your mitochondria can create harmful free radicals that cause oxidation and make muscles sore. Astaxanthin acts as an antioxidant, scavenging free radicals left and right. That’s why in recent years, astaxanthin has become an essential supplement for endurance athletes like marathon runners and triathletes seeking joint and muscle support.
Fast Facts: When runners hit the infamous “wall” during a marathon, scientists suggest that the body is depleted of its glycogen stores. Glycogen, a carbohydrate-based energy source for muscle contractions, occurs naturally in limited amounts in the body. Studies have shown that after exercise, glycogen stores were greater in the muscles of mice supplemented with astaxanthin than the placebo group.
3. Protects Against Dementia?
Astaxanthin has the rare ability to cross the blood-brain barrier and offer its potent antioxidant power to your hard-working nervous system. A recent study in the British Journal of Nutrition outlined just how this bold antioxidant works in the brain. After 12 weeks of astaxanthin supplementation, subjects experienced a significant drop in levels of phospholipid hydroperoxides (PLOOH), compounds that accumulate in the red blood cells of people with dementia. Though the placebo group saw no changes, those in the 6mg astaxanthin/day group brought PLOOH levels down by 40 percent, while subjects given 12mg astaxanthin/day saw a 50 percent reduction. Pretty intriguing, eh?
4. Promotes Glowing Skin and Protects Against Sun Damage
Though the sun may not be shining where you live right now, supporting healthy skin is as important in winter as in summer (especially when dealing with harsh wind and frigid temperatures). Astaxanthin not only protects against UV damage, but also helps moisturize, tighten, and smooth irritated skin. It can also be directly applied to the skin to act as a natural sunscreen. So, whether you’re shoveling persistent snow up north or taking long walks on clear days down south, astaxanthin may have you covered, even if you forget to put on sunscreen.
Fast Facts: Astaxanthin is best absorbed when taken with a meal rich in healthy fats like nuts, fish, and avocados.
5. Supports Eye Health
All antioxidants are good at preventing oxidation, but astaxanthin has the unique ability to reach the retina and reduce irritation. While we often look to vitamin E to support visual acuity, studies suggest that the antioxidant power of astaxanthin exceeds that of vitamin E by a factor of 500. Thought to also prevent against cataracts and macular degeneration, astaxanthin is most widely known for its eye health benefits.
Fast Facts: When asked which of your five senses are you most afraid of losing, 82% of people respond with “vision.” Unfortunately, the most at-risk populations are also the ones who are not taking proactive protective actions.
6. Detoxifies Your Cells
And reason number 6 why astaxanthin outshines many other antioxidants…its ability to dissolve in both fats and water allows it to permeate every cell in the body! It has also been found to be the strongest antioxidant at defending against reactive oxygen species that can cause damage to your body’s building block fats, proteins, and DNA. In particular, astaxanthin has shown remarkable ability to protect cells against singlet oxygen formation, an especially damaging type of oxidation. Studies have shown that astaxanthin is 65 times better than vitamin C and 54 times more effective than beta-cartotene at scavenging free radicals. A recent study out of Washington State University found that after supplementing with 8mg astaxanthin for eight weeks, a marker of DNA damage was 43% lower in the astaxanthin group than the placebo group. Seems there’s a whole arsenal of benefits in hard-working astaxanthin.
Fast Facts: Most astaxanthin is grown from the algae Haematococcus pluvialis (yep, those slimy water-dwelling mosses) commonly consumed by crustaceans and other seafood. In nature, algae produce astaxanthin to protect themselves against UV radiation when water supplies in its habitat are depleted.