10 Astaxanthin Benefits You Didn’t Know
What is Astaxanthin?
Astaxanthin is a natural, red-pigmented plant color found in certain microalgae species. The technical term for this plant color is ketocarotenoid. These ketocarotenoids are closely linked to oxygenated plant colors called xanthophylls, like lutein.
These xanthophylls are associated with benefits like improved eye health and vision. In addition, algae and yeast naturally produce astaxanthin as a food source for certain marine animals like crawfish and krill. Astaxanthin is also a food source for salmon, trout, lobsters, shrimp, and other marine species.
Humans get exposure to astaxanthin and astaxanthin benefits from the seafood we eat. Fish accumulate astaxanthin in their flesh primarily. Crustaceans accumulate astaxanthin in their shells and flesh. So when we eat certain types of seafood, we can experience incredible health benefits.
Holistic nutritionists and other alternative practitioners believe astaxanthin and astaxanthin supplements can offer various health benefits, some of which can potentially treat diseases such as heart disease, liver disease, eye health problems, male infertility, and more. In addition, some studies suggest astaxanthin may offer health benefits when consumed regularly via diet or as a supplement.
Astaxanthin Benefit #1: Heart Health
Circulating your blood and keeping you alive, your heart is one of the most important muscles in your body. It's stating the obvious, but we all want a healthy ticker! Claims of astaxanthin helping prevent heart disease and high cholesterol are also being studied. One 2006 study showed some benefits for rats when supplementing astaxanthin for hypertension.
Research also suggests that astaxanthin helps reduce LDL levels. In addition, a 2014 study suggests it may eliminate free radicals that can damage heart tissue. Mind you, all these studies are on animals, but the results are promising nonetheless. The only study related to heart health in humans was conducted in 2016 in Japan, and there were some promising positive results for astaxanthin lowering cholesterol. Still, more research is needed before the results can be more than correlation.
Astaxanthin Benefit #2: Inflammation
The older we get, the more joint pain many of us experience. Some people use supplements like fish oil to avoid inflammation and joint pain. It turns out that astaxanthin might be able to help as well. Since plenty of astaxanthin can come from a seafood-rich diet, as does omega-3 sources, eating more fish can help improve joint pain.
Some research suggests that supplementing with astaxanthin may help treat some forms of arthritis and carpal tunnel too. Astaxanthin accomplishes this because the pigment can reduce proteins within reactive oxygen species. This protein reduction can reduce the risk of rheumatoid arthritis, celiac disease, and other inflammatory diseases.
Astaxanthin Benefit #3: Infertility
Infertility is becoming an increasingly common concern for men. Diabetes, obesity, hormonal disorders, mental health problems, and more can cause infertility. A 2005 study reported improvements in sperm count and motility in 30 men after receiving astaxanthin. In addition, the antioxidant properties in astaxanthin can help reduce oxidative stress in sperm, which can help combat male infertility. While this is a small study, there is still some evidence supporting astaxanthin being beneficial for male fertility.
Astaxanthin Benefit #4: Exercise Performance
Astaxanthin's effects on exercise performance are key because intense workouts take a toll on the body. When we exercise, we release the stress hormone cortisol and free radicals. This creates oxidative stress leading to fatigue, tiredness, and sore muscles. Several studies show astaxanthin might help improve endurance and stamina and reduce fatigue during and after workouts.
More research needs to be done to support the health claims further, but preliminary studies such as one done in 2005 have been promising. Staying hydrated, getting quality sleep, eating a balanced diet, and having a strong protein intake all boost exercise performance, but astaxanthin can be a useful supplement.
Astaxanthin Benefit #5: Taming Cancer Growth
Because astaxanthin is a source of antioxidants, it can have potential benefits for those with cancer. So naturally, short-term and long-term benefits for treating cancers have been studied. One study demonstrated astaxanthin combats breast cancer by helping slow cancer cell growth.
Astaxanthin Benefit #6: Skin Health
Healthier skin is a potential benefit of supplementing with astaxanthin. Applying topical doses and consuming oral doses of astaxanthin can help promote an array of benefits, including smoother wrinkles, reduced age spots, and moisturizing the skin. These benefits are fantastic if you spend a lot of time in the sun. The damage caused by UV rays can be reduced by supplementing oral and topical astaxanthin. A 2013 study also suggested astaxanthin can potentially slow the growth of skin cancer.
Astaxanthin Benefit #7: Manages Ulcers
Ulcers are sores that develop inside the body, typically in the stomach and esophagus. Ulcers are painful, can take a long time to heal, and can reappear if the underlying causes are not addressed. For most people, stomach ulcers are the most common, but they can also be found in the mouth, genitals, and arteries. Symptoms of ulcers include heartburn, nausea, bloating, vomiting, and discomfort when eating or drinking. Antibiotics can help speed up the healing process, but they can continue returning.
Since astaxanthin has antioxidant properties, it can help alleviate oxidative stress. Taking astaxanthin orally can help control bacteria that can cause ulcers to appear. Astaxanthin can help protect the lining of the intestinal wall to prevent ulcers from popping up.
Astaxanthin Benefit #8: Immune Support
The immune system is the main defense system against viruses, bacteria, and all sorts of nasty intruders that enter our bodies. But if the immune system is not functioning properly, diseases can enter the body and wreak havoc on your health. With this in mind, how rapidly your immune system responds to threats is critical. Too slow, and you end up sick. Many diseases that work specifically by attacking the immune system, such as HIV.
Astaxanthin can help boost your immune system by helping activate white blood cells and natural killer cells. For those that don't know, white blood cells (T-cells) attack foreign intruders based on antigen markers. Natural killer cells (NK cells) work to stop intruders that weaken your health. Simply put, astaxanthin can help ensure your immune system is functioning optimally by stimulating immune response time.
Astaxanthin Benefit #9: Supports Brain Health
Astaxanthin can positively affect brain health by lowering the risk of cognitive diseases. This is possible because astaxanthin is capable of crossing the blood-brain barrier to protect your brain. Some diseases astaxanthin can help protect you from are Alzheimer's, dementia, memory problems, and other cognitive issues. A 2010 study supports the idea that astaxanthin and lifestyle changes can slow down the onset of neurodegenerative disorders. According to the same study, even some neurological functions can possibly be recovered over time.
Astaxanthin Benefit #10: Liver Support
Fatty liver disease is becoming more common as obesity rates rise. Fatty liver disease occurs due to inflammation in the liver. Like most inflammation, this kind is the result of oxidative stress. Astaxanthin can be helpful both as an anti-inflammatory and as a health booster. The antioxidants within astaxanthin work to reduce oxidative stress in the liver, thereby promoting and protecting its health. Ridding the liver of free radicals helps restore liver function and avoid further damage to the liver. Astaxanthin is also able to help improve glycolipid metabolism. Glycolipids are carbohydrates attached to lipids via covalent bonds.
Risks Associated With Astaxanthin
Yes, astaxanthin comes with a host of health benefits, but there are a couple of associated risks. If you fit into a couple of categories, do a little more research before committing to supplementation.
Blood Pressure Medication
Astaxanthin can help lower blood pressure naturally, so if you have blood pressure issues and are medicated or looking into medication, you need to talk to your doctor about it before taking it.
Pregnancy And New Moms
You need to know that there is no research on the potential side effects of astaxanthin on pregnant women or new mothers who are breastfeeding. Like most supplements and medications, you will want to talk to a doctor and/or just avoid astaxanthin in high quantities while you are pregnant and/or breastfeeding to be safe.
Most natural astaxanthin comes from seafood and algae. So, if you have a seafood allergy, find other astaxanthin supplements instead. It also wouldn't hurt to talk to your doctor before supplementing astaxanthin just to ensure you find a source that won't cause an allergic reaction.
What Supplement Should You Use?
Astaxanthin is a powerful antioxidant from which the majority of the benefits are derived. By supplementing an antioxidant, you can rid your body of free radicals that can cause many health concerns. Antioxidants are why people dote on blueberries, so what's the harm in adding a seafood-based antioxidant? Truthfully, if you're like me, you're thankful all those surf and turf dinners and sushi have some benefit to them. For those looking for a sustainable source of astaxanthin, the company you want is Purity Labs. They have a long list of USDA-certified organic products, including astaxanthin. Purity Labs sources their carotenoids from Algatech, a company focused on eco-friendly sourcing of the bounties nature offers for our health.