What is Astaxanthin?
What is Astaxanthin?
Astaxanthin (pronounced asta-ZAN-thin) is one of a group of natural pigments known as xanthophylls (pronounced ZAN-tho-fils), a subcategory of the carotenoid family.
Carotenoids are phytochemicals (plant chemicals) produced by plants (and some animals, too) as part of their survival mechanisms. Plants use carotenoids and their natural antioxidant properties to protect themselves from the harsh rays of the sun.
Salmon and shellfish get their red or pinkish color from a diet of krill and other small organisms that in turn eat astaxanthin-rich algae and plankton. You can get some astaxanthin by eating these foods, but taking supplements made from microalgae is far more beneficial. Microalgae contain as much as 1,000 times the concentration of natural astaxanthin that you'll find in salmon.
The Properties of Astaxanthin
Make It Unique Among Antioxidants
Astaxanthin has been shown by some standards to be the strongest natural antioxidant known. Although it's hard to say that about any one specific nutrient, astaxanthin does have a combination of properties that make it completely unique in the world of antioxidants:
- Astaxanthin can reach into every part of the cell,
inside and out, similar to lipoic acid.
- Astaxanthin can cross the blood-brain barrier to
protect the brain and nervous system.
- Astaxanthin can cross the blood-retinal barrier and
bring protection to the eyes.
- Astaxanthin works in every part of your body, organs and skin.
- Astaxanthin does not oxidize after it does its job,
like many other antioxidants do
Many antioxidants can only handle one type of free radical at a time, and they tend to have a preference for one type – a singlet oxygen free radical, a nitric oxide free radical, or a peroxyl free radical.
The Benefits of Astaxanthin for Inflammation
Inflammation is your body's response against infection, and the mechanism it uses for repairing injured tissue. When a virus attacks your cells, your inflammatory system kicks in to fight it off. If you sprain an ankle, your inflammatory system works to repair the damage. Other examples of inflammation include the swelling you experience from arthritis and sunburn.
"Silent" inflammation underlies many diseases. While occasional inflammation is a normal, healthy process, chronic inflammation can lead to serious problems. This is often called systemic or "silent" inflammation.
This chronic inflammation has commonly been associated with with asthma and arthritis, but now is thought to be an underlying cause of atherosclerosis, strokes, ulcers, Alzheimer's and Parkinson's disease, cancer, diabetes and more.
Common treatments for inflammation come with significant side effects. These include aspirin, acetaminophen and the prescription drug Celebrex. None of these are harmless; they all have significant side effects, serious enough to result in over 100,000 hospitalizations and 15,000 deaths per year in the United States. Complications from the use of these medications represent about 40% of all drug-related emergency visits.
People are discovering the benefits of astaxanthin for any problem resulting from chronic inflammation. It's a completely safe alternative, and is effective for a large percentage of users.
Astaxanthin for Joint Pain
Astaxanthin can help reduce pain and inflammation in tendons, joints and muscles. Astaxanthin has been shown to be a very effective remedy for all types of joint pain, including tennis elbow, carpal tunnel syndrome, arthritis, and joint soreness after strenuous exercise.
A health survey taken by the Nutrex-Hawaii company showed that over 80% of those experiencing back pain and symptoms from osteo- or rheumatoid arthritis reported an improvement from supplementing with astaxanthin.
for Athletic Endurance and Recovery
A convincing demonstration of the benefits of astaxanthin for athletic performance is the feat of salmon swimming upstream to spawn.
Salmon often go without food for days, drawing on their own reserves while making their way upstream for hundreds of miles. Where do they acquire such endurance? Much of it comes from their considerable dietary intake of astaxanthin.
The benefits of astaxanthin for serious athletes are significant. Regular users report that supplementing with astaxanthin:
- increases strength and stamina
- reduces recovery time
- prevents joint and muscle soreness after exercise
If you excercise regularly, you don't want to be slowed down from fatigue or sore joints and muscles. Anything that can reduce inflammation will benefit your performance — and astaxanthin has been shown to be one of the most effective natural inflammatories there are.
How does astaxanthin help with stamina and endurance?Astaxanthin's ability to increase your endurance is due to its beneficial effect on your mitochondria, the part of your cells that generates up to 95 percent of your energy. Many of your mitochondrial cells are found in your muscle tissue; that's where you have the greatest need for them. When your mitochondria can't produce enough energy to meet your body's demands, your strength and endurance suffer.
This energy-producing activity of your mitochondria also has a downside — it generates highly reactive free radicals that damage your cell membranes. The more strenuous your activity, the more free radicals you produce. This cellular damage results in excessive inflammation which results in tired and sore muscles.
When you're engaged in any strenuous aerobic exercise, your body is using oxygen at an accelerated rate, and generating 12 times as many free radicals as when you are resting. Numerous studies, with humans as well as animals, have shown that astaxanthin's powerful ability to quench these free radicals gives you more strength and endurance.
Astaxanthin is also effective in reducing lactic acid buildup during intense exercise. Lactic acid is what produces the "burn" you feel when you're exerting your muscles to their max; lactic acid buildup will reduce your overall stamina.
Many competitive and endurance athletes have become believers in astaxanthin supplements for all of the above reasons.
Astaxanthin for Youthful, Beautiful Skin
One of the most frequently-reported benefits of astaxanthin is an improvement in skin quality. There is evidence that astaxanthin not only prevents UV sun damage from occurring, but may actually help to reverse external signs of aging, from the inside out. This has been clearly demonstrated in human clinical trials.
Many users of astaxanthin supplements report that they are able to spend significantly more time out in the sun without burning than they were able to before. This is due to the powerful anti-inflammatory properties that astaxanthin has. (A sunburn is essentially an inflammation of your skin).
Dr. Nicholas Perricone, one of the world's leading antiaging experts, highly recommends astaxanthin for reducing wrinkles and age spots, improving moisture levels, elasticity and smoothness, and for giving your skin a beautiful, healthy glow.
Several cosmetic manufacturers have begun to use astaxanthin in facial and body creams for its UV protection and ability to heal damaged skin.
The Benefits of Astaxanthin for Eye Health
Recent studies reveal that astaxanthin is the ultimate supplement for eye health and the prevention of blindness, because it's one of the few antioxidants that can penetrate the retinal barrier in your eyes. Supplementing with astaxanthin has been found to have protective benefits against a wide range of vision-related problems, including:
- macular degeneration
- diabetic retinopathy
- glaucoma and many others
Other Reported Benefits of Astaxanthin
Astaxanthin benefits cover virtually the entire spectrum available from antioxidants. Aside from those previously mentioned, studies have demonstrated an amazing number of benefits of astaxanthin:
- boosts immune system
- helps prevent heart attacks
- helps prevent the initiation of cancer cells
- helps prevent Alzheimer's and Parkinson's
- normalizes blood pressure
- relieves prostate problems
- gives you better resistance to colds
- prevents and relieves diabetes
- prevents gum disease
- enhances reproductive health
- protects all parts of the cells from oxidative damage