Why is Astaxanthin So Amazing For you?
Astaxanthin is a juggernaut of an antioxidant found in certain plants, marine animals, and algae. Astaxanthin is classified as a carotenoid due to its red pigment and, in recent years, has become a trendy antioxidant supplement. It has an array of health benefits backed by numerous studies adding to the credibility of this antioxidant. For example, astaxanthin has been stated to have inflammation-reducing and anti-fatigue properties on top of all the other health benefits. These properties can help your skin, hair, nails, and heart stay youthful and healthy. We’re looking at several of the benefits and uses of astaxanthin to understand better why it is such a hot commodity.
What is Astaxanthin?
Astaxanthin is a carotenoid belonging to the xanthophyll subclass. It is a phytonutrient commonly found in algae and fish. It has a red pigment, which is responsible for the color of a lobster, salmon, trout, crab, krill, shrimp, and other seafood. Certain species of yeast also contain astaxanthin. Since humans cannot naturally produce carotenoids, we must get them through diet and/or supplements. The highest concentration of astaxanthin per kilogram is in wild-caught salmon. However, we only need 3-4 mg of astaxanthin to start noticing some health benefits.
Astaxanthin Hunts Down Free Radicals
Astaxanthin is one of the most potent antioxidants found in nature. And like all antioxidants, it hunts down free radicals in the body. Free radicals create oxidative stress, which allows inflammation to occur. Adding astaxanthin to your diet can prevent that inflammation. Prolonged exposure to inflammation can lead to damage such as early aging, cognitive problems such as dementia, eye health problems, arthritis, and other joint problems. With this in mind, you can see the importance of having antioxidants in your diet.
How does it work?
Since our bodies cannot produce astaxanthin on their own, we must get it from our diets or through supplements. If you don't have any seafood allergies, getting it through foods like salmon, shrimp, and other seafood is the way to go. However, if you do have a seafood allergy or have a hard time eating enough seafood to reap the benefits of astaxanthin, you might want to turn to supplements. Supplements derived from the Pluvialis genus of algae have the highest bioavailability of astaxanthin. An excellent example of a supplement that uses the Pluvialis genus microalgae as well as multiple other sources while adhering to eco-friendly and ethical collection practices would be the AstaPure Avara and AstaPure Astaxanthin from Algatech.
So how does it actually work? Simply put, it just does what all antioxidants do...it kills free radicals. Most of the benefits come from the destruction of free radicals. Astaxanthin is significantly more potent than vitamins C, E, and green tea.
To set the record straight, there are nuances to the whole “antioxidant killing off free radicals” thing. For example, the immune system does use some free radicals to kill viruses and other foreign intruders. It is when there are too many free radicals roaming around that problems arise. A balance between antioxidants and free radicals is needed to optimize our health.
Health Benefits of Astaxanthin
Since this antioxidant has become very popular, thousands of studies have examined the health benefits. Here are just a few of the most notable benefits of supplementing with astaxanthin.
Boosts Skin Health
one side effect of oxidative stress is skin damage, including wrinkles and other signs of aging. This occurs because exposure to free radicals causes the skin to lose liveliness as collagen and elastin degrade. Since astaxanthin regulates the free radicals in the body, skin health can be greatly improved.
One of the biggest culprits of damaged skin is UV light exposure. Prolonged exposure to sunlight allows for harmful UVA and UVB damage. When this exposure occurs, the body responds with inflammation and releases free radicals. Astaxanthin can reduce the effects of UV exposure by preventing this reaction.
Some studies revealed that astaxanthin could even help restore the skin's collagen in some capacity. This collagen replenishment can occur by inhibiting certain enzymes that degrade collagen and elastin. With all this, we can see astaxanthin has the potential to delay the onset of wrinkles and age spots to promote a longer youthful appearance.
Helps With Diabetes
According to recent CDC numbers, roughly 1/3 of all US adults are pre-diabetic. With so many people already at risk of developing diabetes, it is no wonder that over 30 million people already have it. Diabetes is the 7th leading cause of death in the US. As you might expect, the population with the highest risk is people who are overweight and obese. Diabetes develops when the pancreas produces little to no insulin. Insulin is the hormone that regulates sugar and fats storage and usage, so it’s absolutely crucial to our health.
Oxidative stress caused by high blood pressure can speed up the malfunction of pancreatic cells. Astaxanthin protects the beta cells that keep the pancreas functional. It can also improve sugar metabolism and reduce sugar toxicity in people with type 2 diabetes.
Astaxanthin Reduces Blood Pressure
High blood pressure is a problem that plagues roughly half of all US adults, and many are not aware of it. High blood pressure is a result of blood vessels resisting blood flow. The narrower your blood vessels are, the higher your blood pressure is. If this remains untreated, you develop an increased risk for obesity, heart disease, and stroke. That being said, astaxanthin lowers blood pressure as well.
Helps Lower Cholesterol
According to trial tests, astaxanthin lowers elevated triglyceride levels. Adding this powerful antioxidant to your regimen will increase HDL (healthy cholesterol) according to some studies.
Improves Eye Health
Astaxanthin helps prevent retinal damage brought on by UV radiation and macular degeneration. Research has also gone into the effects of astaxanthin on eye strain. There has been some positive feedback in favor of astaxanthin improving blurred vision after 4 weeks or more of daily use.
Astaxanthin Improves Brain Health
Our central nervous system is very susceptible to the effects of free radicals. Oxidative stress and inflammation are common since the brain has a high metabolic rate and high energy use. The product of this is more opportunities for cellular decay and the inability to regulate the development of dysfunctional cells. This increases the risk of developing various neurodegenerative disorders. Something to understand about neurodegenerative disorders is that they are notoriously difficult to treat. This is largely due to the blood-brain barrier keeping things out that could both help and hinder brain health. Thankfully, this antioxidant is capable of penetrating the blood-brain barrier. Therefore, the chance of astaxanthin helping prevent free radicals from creating too much oxidative stress is greater. This, in turn, allows the antioxidant to function better.
Furthermore, astaxanthin has nerve regeneration potential, helping the brain recover when necessary from injury and physical trauma. This is because it can increase the gene expression of proteins involved in brain health and brain repair. So not only can this antioxidant help prevent diseases like Alzheimer's and dementia, but it can also regenerate nerve cells after an injury.
Lastly, astaxanthin can increase neural plasticity. This is the ability of the brain to re-wire itself efficiently when needed. With all these amazing brain support benefits, you would be crazy to not at least consider supplementing with astaxanthin!
Astaxanthin Side Effects
As with any new item introduced to the body, there will always be side effects. Astaxanthin is safe to supplement, and it is also safe to use as a food coloring agent. However, here are a few things to consider before adding astaxanthin to your daily regimen.
Skin Color Changes
Carotenoids can cause lighter skin tones to develop a yellow-orange color. Since astaxanthin is a carotenoid, this is a possibility. However, this effect is temporary. Also, when supplementing astaxanthin, it is not a common occurrence.
High doses of astaxanthin can potentially cause stomach pain.
Excessive doses of astaxanthin cause increased bowel movements as well as red feces in some cases. However, plenty of pigmented foods cause color changes in the stool. Therefore, there is no reason to fear due to color changes.
Is Astaxanthin Safe?
Generally speaking, astaxanthin is safe for most people to consume. The biggest problem is the method of consumption. For those with known/unknown seafood allergies, it’s not safe. But for most people, there are no major adverse side effects from astaxanthin use.
Most of the negative side effects that have been reported are associated with high doses and excessive use. However, even with high doses, there is no reported toxicity associated with astaxanthin.
It is generally recommended to take 2-4 mg per day. Some suggestions list up to 6 mg per day. It can be difficult to consume enough seafood to get the desired dosage of astaxanthin, so adding a supplement will likely benefit most people, regardless of how much they get through their diet.
When shopping for astaxanthin supplements, naturally occurring astaxanthin is a better choice than synthetic variations. The highest concentrations of astaxanthin can be found in Haematococcus Pluvialis. Therefore, a supplement containing Haematococcus Pluvialis has the highest health benefit potential.
The Astaxanthin Takeaway
Astaxanthin is a recently trendy but well-studied antioxidant with a plethora of health benefits for the brain, heart, eyes, and more. While more research is needed to further establish the claimed benefits of astaxanthin, there is already enough to firmly plant it as a "must-have" for your longevity arsenal. To maximize the health benefits potential of this powerhouse antioxidant, eat plenty of seafood such as salmon, lobster, and shrimp. Alternatively, if you choose to supplement it instead, find a reputable seller that endorses ethical and eco-friendly harvesting practices.