The Antioxidant Power of Astaxanthin


Astaxanthin is one of the most powerful antioxidants among the carotenoids. It’s a pigment found in salmon, shrimp, and other foods.

Scientific investigation into astaxanthin's health-associated properties has been fairly recent, exposing a number of impressive benefits.

So far, this powerful carotenoid has been associated with protective effects against cardiovascular disease risk factors, eye issues, and a range of other conditions.

Astaxanthin Offers Cardiovascular Protection

Studies have uncovered the ability of astaxanthin to inhibit the oxidation of low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol leading researchers to conclude that it may help protect against atherosclerosis.1

Additional research has shown astaxanthin’s cardio-protective effects which can be attributed to its antioxidant activity and anti-inflammatory action as evidenced by a reduction in C-reactive protein levels.2

Three months of supplementation with astaxanthin showed a significant decrease in fatty acid oxidation and also an increase in healthy high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol.3,4 Furthermore, overweight and obese adults who supplemented with astaxanthin had a decrease in lipid peroxidation as well as an increase in antioxidant levels.5

Astaxanthin Supports Stomach Health

Research has shown that astaxanthin may have an antimicrobial effect against H. pylori, which is the bacterium that’s been implicated in the development of stomach ulcers and stomach cancer.6 Also, high dose astaxanthin has been found to reduce esophageal reflux symptoms.7

Astaxanthin May Enhance Fertility 

Astaxanthin even shows promise for couples attempting to conceive. Men experiencing infertility for a year who took astaxanthin for three months had an increase in sperm parameters and fertility. The partners of more than 50% of the men who received astaxanthin became pregnant by the end of the trial, compared to only 10.5% in the non-supplemented group.8

Astaxanthin Supports Testosterone Balance

Astaxanthin has shown the ability to inhibit the enzyme 5-alpha-reductase.9 5-alpha-reductase is an enzyme that converts testosterone to dihydrotestosterone (DHT), a hormone that is involved in prostate enlargement, male pattern hair loss and, possibly, prostate cancer.

Astaxanthin May Protect Against Kidney Disease

Astaxanthin's powerful antioxidant effect was demonstrated to protect the cells surrounding the blood vessels in the kidneys.10 This finding suggests that astaxanthin could help slow the progression of diabetic kidney disease.

Astaxanthin's Potential Brain Benefits

Astaxanthin may also benefit the brain. The compound is capable of crossing the blood-brain barrier in order to act on nerve cells. It has been shown to reduce ischemia-related injury in brain tissue.11

Additionally, astaxanthin has shown to promote the formation of new cells in the brain’s hippocampus, an area of the brain that’s critical for long term memory. Further research revealed four genes induced by astaxanthin supplementation, which were correlated with increased spatial memory.12

Astaxanthin Supports Eye Health

No discussion of astaxanthin would be complete without mentioning its benefit to the eye. Astaxanthin has been associated with positive effects in humans with macular degeneration,13 as well as protective effects in subjects with elevated intraocular pressure.14

The Bottom Line

Astaxanthin is a relative newcomer on the nutritional market, and it's worth giving a try. Look for it either within supplements that target macular degeneration or as a stand-alone supplement.

References:

  1. J Atheroscler Thromb. 2000;7(4):216-22.
  2. Cardiovasc Drug Rev. 2005 Fall;23(3):199-216.
  3. Int J Vitam Nutr Res. 2007 Jan;77(1):3-11.
  4. Atherosclerosis. 2010 Apr;209(2):520-3.
  5. Phytother Res. 2011 Dec;25(12):1813-8.
  6. Clin Microbiol Infect. 2002 Jul;8(7):438-41.
  7. Phytomedicine. 2008 Jun;15(6-7):391-9.
  8. Asian J Androl. 2005 Sep;7(3):257-62.
  9. J Herb Pharmacother. 2005;5(1):17-26.
  10. J Cell Biochem. 2008 Apr 15;103(6):1925-37.
  11. FASEB J. 2009 Jun;23(6):1958-68.
  12. Mol Nutr Food Res. 2016 Jan 7.
  13. Eur J Ophthalmol. 2012 Mar-Apr;22(2):216-25. 
  14. Regul Toxicol Pharmacol. 2010 Oct;58(1):121-30.

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