10 Astaxanthin Benefits You Didn't Know
What is Astaxanthin?
Astaxanthin is a natural, red-pigmented plant color found in certain species of microalgae. This plant color's technical term is ketocarotenoid. To make this as simple as possible, these ketocarotenoids are closely linked to oxygenated plant colors called xanthophylls like lutein. These xanthophylls are linked to benefits such as improved eye health and vision. 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 various other marine species. Humans get exposure to astaxanthin and astaxanthin benefits through the seafood we eat. Fish accumulate astaxanthin in their flesh pigment primarily. Crustaceans accumulate astaxanthin in their shells and flesh. When humans eat seafood like these marine species, we can experience some incredible health benefits.
Holistic nutritionists and other holistic/alternative practitioners believe astaxanthin and astaxanthin supplements can tout a variety of health benefits. Some of these astaxanthin benefits can potentially treat diseases such as heart disease, liver disease, eye health problems, male infertility, and more. There have been some studies that suggest astaxanthin may offer some health benefits when consumed regularly via diet or as a supplement.
Astaxanthin Benefit #1: Heart Health
The heart is one of the most important muscles in your body. It pumps your blood and keeps you alive. It's stating the obvious, but we all want a healthy ticker. There was a 2006 study that showed some benefits for rats when supplementing astaxanthin for hypertension. Claims of astaxanthin helping prevent heart disease and high cholesterol are also being studied. There is some research suggesting astaxanthin helps reduce LDL levels. A 2014 study suggests 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 but more research is needed before the results can be more than correlation.
Astaxanthin Benefit #2: Inflammation
The older we get, the more joint pain we experience. It is a harsh truth for many of us. Some people try to supplement things like fish oil as a means of avoiding 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. However, some research suggests supplementing astaxanthin may help treat some forms of arthritis and carpal tunnel. 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
Here we will be looking at men and how astaxanthin can help with fertility issues. Infertility is becoming an increasingly common concern for men. Diabetes, obesity, hormonal disorders, mental health problems, and more can cause infertility in men. A 2005 study reported improvements in sperm count and motility in 30 men after receiving astaxanthin. The antioxidant properties in astaxanthin can help reduce oxidative stress with sperm so can combat male infertility. While this is a small study, it is still some evidence in support of astaxanthin being beneficial.
Astaxanthin Benefit #4: Exercise Performance
The effects astaxanthin has on exercise performance have been studied. 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, improve stamina, and reduce fatigue during and after workouts. More research needs to be done to further support the health claims, 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 to add.
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 down cancer cell growth.
Astaxanthin Benefit #6: Skin Health
Healthy skin promotion is a potential benefit of supplementing astaxanthin. Applying topical doses and consuming oral doses of astaxanthin can help promote an array of benefits. Astaxanthin can help promote smooth wrinkles, reduce age spots, and moisturize 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 suggested astaxanthin can slow down the potential of skin cancer.
Astaxanthin Benefit #7: Manages Ulcers
Ulcers are sores that develop inside the body. They typically develop in the stomach and esophagus. Ulcers are painful and take a long time to heal. Ulcers can reappear if underlying causes for them are not dealt with. For most people, stomach ulcers are the most common. Ulcers 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 to come back.
Since astaxanthin has antioxidant properties, it can alleviate oxidative stress. If you take astaxanthin orally it can help control bacteria that can cause ulcers to appear. Astaxanthin can help protect intestinal wall lining 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. However, if the immune system is not functioning properly diseases 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. There are plenty of 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 have a positive effect on 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 is Alzheimer's, dementia, memory problems, and other cognitive issues. A 2010 study supports the idea that astaxanthin can slow down the onset of neurodegenerative disorders with lifestyle changes. Even some neurological functions can possibly be recovered over time according to that 2010 study.
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. This inflammation comes from oxidative stress like most inflammation. 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. Ridding the liver of free radicals helps restore liver function and avoid further damage to the liver. Astaxanthin also works to protect the liver's health. Astaxanthin is also able to help improve glycolipid metabolism. Glycolipids are just carbohydrates attached to lipids via covalent bonds.
Risks Associated With Astaxanthin
Yes, astaxanthin comes with a host of health benefits associated with it. However, there are a couple of risks associated with it as well. These are minor and for most people, they won't matter. If you fit into a couple of categories, do a little more research before you commit to supplementing astaxanthin.
Blood Pressure Medication
Astaxanthin can help lower blood pressure naturally, so if you have blood pressure issues and you are medicated or looking into medication, you need to talk to your doctor about astaxanthin before taking it.
Pregnancy And New Moms
What you need to know is 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 make sure you find a source that won't cause an allergic reaction.
What Supplement Should You Use?
Astaxanthin is a powerful antioxidant which is where the majority of the benefits are derived from. By supplementing an antioxidant, you can rid your body of free radicals that can cause a long list of health concerns. Antioxidants are the reason 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.