Quick Reference Guide healthy living through science & education
Astaxanthin is a reddish-orange carotenoid and xanthophyll pigment common in the natural environment. Many animals derive their distinctive coloring from astaxanthin salmon, shrimp, krill, lobster, flamingoes. Animal life must obtain carotenoids from plants, bacteria and algae.
That many forms of life retain and concentrate astaxanthin in their tissues suggest its somehow useful. In plants, it assists in photosynthesis and while in all organisms it offers protection from oxygen and light. For example, it is believed that astaxanthin in salmon eggs (hence their orange color) helps to protect them from the suns UV radiation before they hatch.
Unsurprisingly, astaxanthin has been found to be a powerful antioxidant possessing upwards of 100 times and 10 times greater capacity to neutralize reactive oxygen species (ROS) than vitamin E and beta-carotene, respectively. Like most carotenoids, astaxanthin cannot be converted into vitamin A. It is believed that the strong antioxidant and inflammation-modulating properties of astaxanthin are at the root of its clinically observed effects on skin, eye and joint health.
The Eyes Have It
Although lutein is probably the most recognizable eye-carotenoid, since its been long known to concentrate in the macula, it is now understood that astaxanthin will also accumulate in the retina of mammals. There it likely acts similar to lutein and zeaxanthin in warding-off oxidative assaults that commonly lead to the formation of advanced glycation end products (AGEs). For instance, the retinal photoreceptors of rats fed astaxanthin were better protected from UV-light injury than those not fed astaxanthin.
Clinically, astaxanthin has also demonstrated effects on eye accommodation and increased blood flow in humans. Accommodation relates to the eyes ability to bend the lens to bring the visual field into focus. Accommodation ability tends to decrease as we age because the lens becomes less pliable as it accumulates oxidative damage to its constituent proteins. The muscles that flex the lens in the eye can also become fatigued after long-use leading to eye-strain and loss of acuity. Seemingly, by increasing bloodflow and protecting ocular tissue astaxanthin can have both short and long term protective effects on the eyes.
Grade A-xanthin for Skin
Much like in salmon eggs, astaxanthin seems to protect human skin from harmful UV-induced oxidative stress and hence damage. An in vitro study, using human skin cells, has shown that preincubation with astaxanthin prevents ultraviolet A (UVA)-induced decreases in cellular superoxide dismutase (SOD) activity and cellular glutathione content, which are the skins natural protectants.
Via this protection, astaxanthin also seems to dampen the skins inflammatory response to the sun and lessen collagen degradation. In fact, astaxanthin seems to modulate levels of inflammatory mediators in the body like nuclear factor kappaB (NF-KB), TNF a and interleukin-1 beta (IL-1ss). Since an out-of-balance inflammatory cascade can be an enemy to healthy skin, it should not come as a surprise that astaxanthin supplementation appears to help maintain healthier, smoother, and lighter looking skin.
Inflammation isnt a process that specifically afflicts the skin. Joint discomfort and degradation often result from a surfeit of pro-inflammatory activity. In a double-blind study of people that experienced recurrent joint discomfort, astaxanthin appeared to significantly increase comfort levels after eight weeks of daily use. In another clinical study with men who normally worked out with weights, 4 mg of astaxanthin was given daily over the course of three weeks. Men taking astaxanthin experienced significantly more joint comfort after a strenuous knee work-out.
Natural astaxanthin has a different complement of isomers than synthetically produced astaxanthin, like that commonly fed to farmraised salmon. Naturally-derived astaxanthin is also typically found in the form of esters and protein conjugates, whereas synthetic astaxanthin is not. These differences may alter the effects of astaxanthin in humans. Jarrow Formulas astaxanthin is naturally harvested from Haematococcus pluvalis microalgae grown in environmentally-friendly sustainable ponds
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