Astaxanthin - The Super Antioxidant?
What is Astaxanthin?
Astaxanthin is a powerful but relatively unknown antioxidant that is produced by the microalgae Haematoccous Pluvialis when stressed by sun and dehydration.
It is also found (in lesser amounts) in sea animals that feed off the microalgae. e.g. krill and shrimp. In turn, as part of the food chain, larger sea life such as salmon pick up Astaxanthin as they feed on the shrimp.
The microalgae contains as much as 1,000 times the concentration of natural Astaxanthin that you'll find in salmon.
Astaxanthin is a Carotenoid…
Carotenoids are naturally occurring pigments produced by plants and some animals and gives them their vibrant colour e.g. lycopene (found in tomatoes) and beta-carotene (found in carrots). These Carotenoids are responsible for a variety of essential biological functions especially in photosynthesis and protection of the plant/organism from oxygen and sun damage.
Astaxanthin itself has an orange/red pigmentation – this is the reason why salmon flesh is pink, crab/lobster and crayfish have red shells and why pink flamingos are pink (as they eat shellfish that feeds off the microalgae).
Why is Astaxanthin considered a Super Antioxidant?
Some studies have shown Astaxanthin removes free radicals faster than any other antioxidant, offering increased protection from damage to organs and tissues.
It is also unique among the many known Carotenoids, as it is the only one found (so far) that can cross the blood-brain barrier. Therefore it has great protective potential for the brain and central nervous system.
What health benefits could Astaxanthin offer?
Internationally there have been many papers in scientific and medical journals published on the effectiveness of Astaxanthin as an antioxidant and its claimed health benefits. Some of these benefits are:
Prevention of inflammation
Benefitting those with symptoms from osteo or rheumatoid arthritis and joint/muscle pain
Immune boosting capabilities
Studies have shown Astaxanthin is 65 times more potent than Vitamin C
Astaxanthin may offer protective benefits against a number of vision-related problems e.g.
• Macular degeneration
• Diabetic retinopathy
Exercise benefits - strength, stamina and recovery
Improving strength, workout performance, stamina and recovery. Astaxanthin could also be effective in reducing lactic acid build up during intense exercise.
Astaxanthin and skin protection…
Plants and organisms produce Carotenoids to protect themselves from sun and environmental damage. Astaxanthin could help protect human skin from over exposure due to sun-induced free radicals.
Some cosmetic manufacturers have even begun to use Astaxanthin as an ingredient in facial creams to provide additional sun protection and help heal damaged skin.
Other claims about Astaxanthin…
- Reduces wrinkles and age spots, improving moisture levels, elasticity and smoothness.
- Diabetes – helping to stabilize blood sugar
- Improving cardiovascular health - reduces C-Reactive Proteins (CRP), reducing triglycerides, and increases beneficial HDL
- Reproductive health - Improving fertility by increasing sperm strength and sperm count
Natural Astaxanthin and Synthetic Astaxanthin…
Some fisheries around the world use synthetic Astaxanthin (made from petrochemicals) as fish food so that the salmon and shellfish will have a more appealing orange-red or pink colour.
Research consistently demonstrates that Natural Astaxanthin outperforms Synthetic Astaxanthin in all of its antioxidant and biological functions (by 20 times).
The European Commission categorises synthetic Astaxanthin as a ‘food dye’.