What Are The Health Benefits Of Astaxanthin?

by John Biggs BSc, NCP, OHP on June 13, 2019

What Are The Health Benefits Of Astaxanthin

As we age our skin wrinkles, our energy decreases and we lose muscle mass. Our immunity fails, and our ability to detoxify diminishes. We incur cumulative oxidative damage, regenerate our cells less effectively, our memory starts to betray us, and we dearly hope that we can maintain our mental faculties to the end.

Overall, we become more susceptible to chronic diseases such as cancer or neurological diseases like Alzheimer's and Parkinson's. Meanwhile we burn less fat, as our levels of inflammation and free-radicals/oxidation (body rust) go up.

The furnaces that generate our energy (our mitochondria) become increasingly less efficient and leaky, and the "sparks and heat" that they generate spread through our tissues, causing more inflammation and oxidation.

So, what can we do?

What if there was a substance that could counteract and/or slow-down all of these tendencies? That could protect our mitochondria, reduce oxidation and inflammation, help us burn energy efficiently, maintain our memory, skin, and joints, and much more.

An extensive breadth of research indicates that there is such a substance. It's called Astaxanthin and it's capable of accomplishing these regenerative and protective effects and more.

What's special about Astaxanthin? 

Natural Astaxanthin The brilliant red, fat-soluble carotenoid pigment produced by the algae Haematococcus pluvialis is what gives organisms that consume it their pink/red hues. Fish like salmon, and crustaceans such as shrimp, crab lobster, or krill. (Eating this algae or xanthin-rich crustaceans is what gives Flamingos their pink hue.)

Human and animal studies indicate an absolute myriad of potential benefits for astaxanthin (AST) including those for brain health, cognitive ability and memory; protection from degenerative diseases such as Parkinson's, Alzheimer's, arthritis and cancer; better hormone balance; protective benefits for our skin, including photoprotection against sun damage and wrinkle reduction; improved muscle strength and energy, better clearing of lactic acid; preservation of vision and prevention of cataracts; a normalizing effect on lipid profiles and metabolic syndrome, helping to burn fat for energy... and all without side-effects, (references below).

Absorption is ultra important  

There is no better delivery system for astaxanthin from algae than in the form of the naturally occurring, extremely well-absorbed phospholipid matrix that occurs in krill oil... itself a rich source of astaxanthin. The specific benefits of this combination have been scientifically reviewed. [1]

Related article: Krill Oil Plus Astaxanthin For PMS, Hormone Imbalances and Inflammation

At Optimum Health for decades we have focused on the critical roles of inflammation, oxidation, mitochondrial dysfunction, and excess acidity in the process of aging /dysfunction. Astaxanthin directly addresses all four of these issues. Due to its unique molecular structure AST fully spans the layers of both our cell and mitochondrial membranes where it acts as a potent and versatile antioxidant/anti-inflammatory. [1] [2] [3] [4] [5] [6] [7]

Why does this matter?

If we have too much inflammation and oxidation (heat) where it doesn't belong, it burns (oxidizes) our tissues and causes dysfunction. And if we have excessive amounts it burns down our house.

Astaxanthin improves energyYou can reasonably think of an anti-oxidant/anti-inflammatory like astaxanthin as water to calm the heat/flame. Yet, we don't want to put our fire out. Rather, we want the most of the heat (oxidation) to be kept contained inside our furnaces, the mitochondria, so we can "burn" fuel and produce energy! After all, which of our cells function properly without energy?... None of them!

What astaxanthin and other antioxidants do is to protect the house, keep the flame in the furnace, and keep the energy coming!

Astaxanthin accomplishes this by insulating the walls of the furnace, i.e. protecting the mitochondrial membrane from the fire within ... the oxidative damage, which accumulates as we age. This is where the unique structure of astaxanthin is so critical, as it protects both our cell and mitochondrial membranes from free-radical attack across their entire widths.

Superior antioxidant properties

Astaxanthin neutralizes the most damaging of Reactive Oxygen Species (ROS) such as hydrogen peroxide, hydroxyl radical, and superoxide anion. [3] [6] As a free-radical scavenger astaxanthin is superior:

"ROS-scavenging capacity is 6000 times that of VC, 800 times that of coenzyme Q10, 550 times that of VE, 200 times that of polyphenols. 150 times that of anthocyanins, and 75 times that of alpha- Lipoic acid " [3]

Astaxanthin complexes with heavy metals such as Lead, Cadmium and Mercury reducing their free radical generating potentials. [8]

Neurological disease and memory-loss protection

Astaxanthin protects and promotes healthy redox balance and proper function within the mitochondria, brain and nervous system. [9] Astaxanthin's  antioxidant/anti-inflammatory roles indicate its usefulness in protecting against neurodegenerative conditions, (such as Alzheimer's and Parkinson's), and studies have shown astaxanthin can bring about improvements in memory and cognition. [10] [11] [12][13] [14]

Astaxanthin protects the part of the brain crucial to memory called the hippocampus, and decreases the negative effects of amyloid-beta plaques...the hallmark of Alzheimer's. [15] [16] It can even help grow new hippocampal neurons...a process called neurogenesis. [15] [16]

A big part of how all this is accomplished is by protecting the integrity of your mitochondria, upon which the brain and central nervous system are critically dependent. [9]

Astaxanthin is also a potent NRF2 activator, which brings about over 200 positive genetic responses. [41]

Burn fat and fortify muscles

Astaxanthin dosage for weight lossAstaxanthin penetrates the mitochondria, and protects its membranes, once again helping it to work more efficiently. [17] Accordingly, it has been shown to help the mitochondria utilize fat as an energy source during exercise, and improve endurance and muscle strength/performance. [18] [19] [20]

Regarding muscles it has also been shown to decrease sarcopenia...the loss of muscle mass as we age, (which is again largely an oxidative/inflammatory process). [21] [22]

Cardioprotective and anti-diabetic

Given the importance of muscle metabolism, insulin sensitivity, and oxidative stress to blood sugar regulation, studies have also shown that astaxanthin can potentially be cardioprotective, anti-diabetic, help prevent metabolic syndrome, hyperlipidemia and help prevent build-up/stiffening in the arteries. [23] [24] [25] [26]

Skin benefits/protection

Skin benefits of astaxanthinCosmetically, astaxanthin has been shown to be a boon for protecting and maintaining our skin. [27]

Two studies were performed...one in women, using both topical and consumed astaxanthin (supplemental dose 6mg) and one in men, also supplementing 6mg/day. [27] In both studies astaxanthin reduced wrinkles and fine lines, (crows feet) increased skin elasticity, and increased moisture content.  

The authors state:

"Haematococcus pluvialis showed improvements in skin wrinkle (crow's feet at week-8), age spot size (cheek at week-8), elasticity (crow's feet at week-8), skin texture (cheek at week-4), moisture content of corneocyte layer (cheek in 10 dry skin subjects at week-8) and corneocyte condition (cheek at week-8). It may suggest that astaxanthin derived from H. pluvialis can improve skin condition in all layers such as corneocyte layer, epidermis, basal layer and dermis by combining oral supplementation and topical treatment." [27]

Astaxanthin has also demonstrated extensive protection of the skin from UV and sun damage, and to increase resistance to sunburn. [28] [29] [30] [31] [32]

Vision protection

The effects of oxidative damage from UV exposure can also accumulate in the eyes, not surprisingly astaxanthin is also highly protective for the eyes and vision, including macular degeneration and cataracts. [33] [34] [35]

Not at all least, AST has numerous properties that protect us against cancer. [7] [36] [40]

Natural Astaxanthin is vastly superior to synthetic forms

Regarding which form of astaxanthin you should choose, the natural form, such as that from H. pluvialis has been shown to be dramatically superior to the synthetic. [37] (In one paper I reviewed on astaxanthin it was stated "The intracellular antioxidant activity in natural extracts was approximately 90-times higher than synthetic astaxanthin" [38]) 

Astaxanthin is fat-soluble, so consuming it with fat will increase absorption. But it is the phospholipid matrix in Krill Oil that yields optimal bioavailability, both in the gut and our tissues.

Neptune Krill Oil Optimized wtih Astaxanthin available in Canada How much should you take? 

Astaxanthin has been studied to be safe up to 40mg per day. [39] Yet 3-4 mg is a standard preventive daily dose, and when combined with Krill Oil, less can be effective. 

If you are looking for more pronounced effects 5-8mg may be more appropriate. (Optimum Health's Neptune Krill Oil with Astaxanthin provides 2.8mg astaxanthin per serving of 2 capsules.)

To Conclude 

At Optimum Health identifying and providing such versatile nutritional supplements has been our goal for over 25 years. Of all the supplements you can take, two that have some of the most well-researched and extensive benefits are Astaxanthin and Krill Oil, yet because Krill oil contains astaxanthin as one of its constituents, separating the benefits can be challenging. In the end it is the combination that provides the most benefits.

Until next time,

Be well!

John

John Biggs

 

References

[1] Neuroprotective Properties of the Marine Carotenoid Astaxanthin and Omega-3 Fatty Acids, and Perspectives for the Natural Combination of Both in Krill Oil

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3967194/

[2]Astaxanthin as antioxidant

http://www.phytochemicals.info/phytochemicals/astaxanthin/antioxidant.php

[3] Mitochondrion-Permeable Antioxidants to Treat ROS-Burst-Mediated Acute Diseases

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4663357/

[4] Astaxanthin decreased oxidative stress and inflammation and enhanced immune response in humans.   

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20205737

[5]   Astaxanthin, oxidative stress, inflammation and cardiovascular disease.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19656058

[6] Astaxanthin Protects Primary Hippocampal Neurons against Noxious Effects of AB-Oligomers

https://www.hindawi.com/journals/np/2016/3456783/

[7]  Astaxanthin: Sources, Extraction, Stability, Biological Activities and Its Commercial Applications—A Review

http://www.mdpi.com/1660-3397/12/1/128/htm

[8] The Metal Cation Chelating Capacity of Astaxanthin. Does This Have Any Influence on Antiradical Activity?

file:///C:/Users/Admin/Downloads/molecules-17-01039.pdf  

[9]   Astaxanthin protects mitochondrial redox state and functional integrity against oxidative stress.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19423317

[10] Neuroprotective mechanisms of astaxanthin: a potential therapeutic role in preserving cognitive function in age and neurodegeneration

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5352583

[11] Astaxanthin, Cell Membrane Nutrient with Diverse Clinical Benefits and Anti-Aging Potential. Kidd, Paris; Alt Med Rev 2011;16(4):355-364)

http://www.health-right.com/wp content/uploads/images/stories/astaxanthinreview.pdf

[12]  Inhibition of inflammation by astaxanthin alleviates cognition deficits in diabetic mice

https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S003193841530069X

[13]  Effects of astaxanthin-rich Haematococcus pluvialis extract on cognitive function: a randomised, double-blind, placebo-controlled study

http://citeseerx.ist.psu.edu/viewdoc/download?doi=10.1.1.812.7938&rep=rep1&type=pdf

[14]  Astaxanthin improves cognitive deficits from oxidative stress, nitric oxide synthase and inflammation through upregulation of PI3K/Akt in diabetes rat

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4525820/

[15] Astaxanthin supplementation enhances adult hippocampal neurogenesis and spatial memory in mice.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26643409

[16] Astaxanthin Protects Primary Hippocampal Neurons against Noxious Effects of Aβ-Oligomers

https://www.hindawi.com/journals/np/2016/3456783/

[17] Mitochondrion-Permeable Antioxidants to Treat ROS-Burst-Mediated Acute Diseases

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4663357/

[18] The astaxanthin-induced improvement in lipid metabolism during exercise is mediated by a PGC-1α increase in skeletal muscle

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3947967/

[19] Astaxanthin boosts muscle performance

https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/BF03223388

[20]  https://www.nutraingredients.com/Article/2015/01/28/Astaxanthin-may-extend-endurance-by-boosting-mitochondrial-action-Study

[21] http://www.nutritioninsight.com/news/BioAstin-Natural-Astaxanthin-May-Reduce-Sarcopenia-According-to-a-Japanese-Study.html

[22] http://www.nutritioninsight.com/news/Astaxanthin-Improves-Muscle-Strength-in-Sarcopenia-Patients.html?tracking=Nutrition%20and%20Health%20News-Related%20Articles

[23] https://pdfs.semanticscholar.org/e0cf/f659c28512947049e57984e70067f138d50a.pdf

[24]  Astaxanthin from Haematococcus pluvialis Prevents Oxidative Stress on Human Endothelial Cells without Toxicity  

file:///C:/Users/Admin/Downloads/marinedrugs-13-02857.pdf

[25]   Effects of astaxanthin on blood coagulation, fibrinolysis and platelet aggregation in hyperlipidemic rats

https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/13880209.2016.1261905

[26]  Potential Anti-Atherosclerotic Properties of Astaxanthin

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4771988/

[27]  Cosmetic benefits of astaxanthin on humans subjects.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22428137

full paper: http://www.actabp.pl/pdf/1_2012/43.pdf

[28] Clinical Trial Indicates Sun Protection from BioAstin Supplement

https://www.cyanotech.com/pdfs/bioastin/batl33.pdf

[29] The Basics of Astaxantin Skin Benefits

http://www.fujichemical.co.jp/english/newsletter/newsletter_nutra_0811.html

[30]  Astaxanthin, a xanthophyll carotenoid, inhibits ultraviolet-induced apoptosis in keratinocytes

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24521161

[31]  Modulatory effects of an algal extract containing astaxanthin on UVA-irradiated cells in culture

https://www.jdsjournal.com/article/S0923-1811%2802%2900063-4/abstract

[32] Superior Skin Protection via Astaxanthin

http://www.cyanotech.com/pdfs/bioastin/batl32.pdf

[33] 5 Reasons to Take Astaxanthin Every Day

https://www.huffingtonpost.com/suzy-cohen-rph/astaxanthin_b_2750910.html

[34]   Astaxanthin, a dietary carotenoid, protects retinal cells against oxidative stress in-vitro and in mice in-vivo.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18812030

[35] Effects of astaxanthin on antioxidation in human aqueous humor.

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3705160/

[36] Multiple Mechanisms of Anti-Cancer Effects Exerted by Astaxanthin.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26184238

[37] Synthetic astaxanthin is significantly inferior to algal-based astaxanthin as an antioxidant and may not be suitable as a human nutraceutical supplement

Nutrafoods December 2013, Volume 12, Issue 4, pp 145–152

[38]  Astaxanthin from Haematococcus pluvialis Prevents Oxidative Stress on Human Endothelial Cells without Toxicity

http://www.mdpi.com/1660-3397/13/5/2857/htm

[39] WebMD Astaxanthin

https://www.webmd.com/vitamins/ai/ingredientmono-1063/astaxanthin

[40] Astaxanthin Induces Mitochondria-Mediated Apoptosis in Rat Hepatocellular Carcinoma CBRH-7919 Cells

https://www.jstage.jst.go.jp/article/bpb/34/6/34_6_839/_pdf

[41] Health Benefits of Polyphenols and Carotenoids in Age-Related Eye Diseases

https://www.hindawi.com/journals/omcl/2019/9783429/

Topics: John Biggs' Articles, Antioxidants, Inflammation, SkinCare, supplements

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