Astaxanthin: From Algae to Antioxidant
It’s a tricky one to spell and even harder to pronounce, but it is mighty powerful within the body. Astaxanthin benefits us as an antioxidant, but more specifically, a carotenoid. Naturally occurring in algae, this carotenoid has a remarkable red color. When marine life routinely snack on these algae, the antioxidant accumulates in the body. This is what gives salmon, shrimp, krill, and flamingos their reddish-pink coloring. There are many antioxidants out there, and they all work in slightly different ways. Some are even more powerful than others. Astaxanthin is one of them. While astaxanthin is so beneficial to us, it is not naturally occurring in the body and must be consumed from diet or supplement.
Sources of Astaxanthin
Wild sockeye salmon is the absolute best natural source of this incredible antioxidant. Salmon, especially wild salmon, eat lots of krill. Krill primarily eat algae, giving them the most robust astaxanthin-filled diet. Trout, shrimp, and crawfish also eat lots of algae, giving them substantial amounts of astaxanthin too.
However, not everyone can eat seafood, whether they have an allergy to it or they’re just not a fan. That’s where a convenient supplement can swoop in.
Potent Antioxidant Power
Since astaxanthin is such a powerful antioxidant, it works hard to super-scavenge free radicals and put the body’s cells back into balance. This, in turn, protects the cells and the tissues of the body from suffering from potentially detrimental oxidation. Astaxanthin is a fat-soluble carotenoid. Thus, a supplemental form would be most absorbable when taken with food.
The health benefits of astaxanthin have been well studied. There are over 365 human studies, 55 of which are clinical trials. Studies show that astaxanthin is a cell membrane protector, especially for tissues that are highly comprised of fat. Since it is a fat-soluble compound, it easily passes through the blood-brain and blood-retinal barriers, making it especially beneficial to supporting brain and eye health.
Supporting Brain Health
In addition to oxidative stress’s impact on the decline of our overall cellular health, there is also a direct correlation between oxidative stress and memory decline in aging adults. Since astaxanthin is known to protect our cells and has an affinity for being absorbed into fatty tissues, it is a no-brainer (pun intended) that astaxanthin is great for supporting brain health. Happy brain cells help with long-term cell proliferation, neuroplasticity, and neurogenesis.
Neuroplasticity is the brain’s ability to organize the cars (information we gather every day) on all of the inter-brain highways (the neural pathways the information must travel through to be stored). The more flexible these “roads” are, the better we can get the information to where it belongs to recall and use it later.
Neurogenesis is the process of forming new neurons in the brain. Neurons are our nervous system’s cells. Without new neurons constantly being developed, we would have no “cars” to collect information and send on our inter-brain highway. When our neurons are not in proper shape, we may experience a short in our memory, but many other body functions may be affected too.
Several recent clinical trials are highlighting the potential role of astaxanthin in promoting eye health. The studies show promising advancements in preventing age-related macular degeneration and loss of vision. Most antioxidants work in either the inner or outer layer of a cell membrane. Astaxanthin stretches through the bilayer of the membrane, making it scavenge oxidizing free radicals on both the inner and outer layers. Since oxidative stress is a major factor in many degenerative eye issues, astaxanthin is a real winner in our eyes.
A Helping Hand as We Age
As we age, many systems in our bodies begin to slow down. It is no different for the very foundation of all our systems, our cells. Several occurrences lead to this happening. One of which is a long-term imbalance of free radicals leading to an abundance of oxidative stress and inflammation. While some oxidation and inflammation is a normal part of human functioning, too much can be bad. This oxidative stress takes a toll on our organs, tissues, and cells’ ability to reproduce quickly. Astaxanthin can help take some of this burden and work to neutralize the free radicals we accumulate from environmental sources.
Our skin is the biggest organ of all. It goes without saying that it contains many cells. It is also our first line of defense to the outside world, so it takes on a lot! Many free radicals occur in our environment from pollution, sun exposure, and cigarette smoke. Giving our skin a line of defense against these irritants can hopefully prevent the oxidative stress caused by those free radicals. Super-antioxidant astaxanthin is one of the best for that job. The benefit of healthier skin cells? The potential for less skin dryness and hyperpigmentation, a slower skin aging process, fewer wrinkles, and perhaps preventing UV-induced weakening of the immune system.
Wait, There’s More!
Studies have shown prolonged supplementation of astaxanthin to be incredibly safe. However, when taken for long periods of time, it can have an effect on the color of the skin. However, there’s no need to worry! You won’t be looking like a flamingo anytime soon. This has only been noted to occur in animals and when ingested in extremely high doses. Follow the suggested supplement directions and you’ll be A-OK.
It should also be noted that with astaxanthin, slow and steady wins the race. This antioxidant gets to the point of working so well by building up a presence in the body. In order to do this, you have to stay the course and make sure to take your astaxanthin consistently. Hang in there, it’s worth it!