By Lisa Kowalyk, CNP, B.Kin
We don’t believe in quick fixes, but if there was ever a supplement to deliver one, it would be astaxanthin. Astaxanthin is a remarkable whole-body antioxidant that comes from an ancient algae. It has long been used in health and wellness, but it’s only recently gotten traction in the public eye. Given its long list of extensive benefits, it’s no coincidence that the research is surging in a time where rapid onset of chronic conditions is occurring. As we reach a global climax in chronic disease, astaxanthin can offer a much-needed edge to help restore human health and gives us an advantage in preventative health.
What is Astaxanthin?
Astaxanthin is a fat-soluble carotenoid made from Haematococcus pluvialis, a fresh water algae. When the algae are under stress they go into hibernation, and to protect themselves, they produce astaxanthin. Under the protective coat of astaxanthin, the algae can survive up to 40 years without food or water!
Astaxanthin is one of the most potent antioxidants of the natural world. It belongs to the same family as Vitamin A and beta carotene, but it has 10x the potency of them. It’s 6,000x stronger than vitamin C, 500x stronger than vitamin E and 800x stronger than CoQ10.
Unlike these other nutrients, the body doesn’t need astaxanthin to survive. Due to this, it doesn’t replace the need for these other antioxidants, but it in fact, potentiates them.
We often see low levels of glutathione and vitamin C in the general population because they get depleted fighting the excess inflammation that is generated from modern living. Astaxanthin helps “clean up” excess free radicals and inflammation, allowing other essential nutrients like vitamin C and glutathione to do the jobs they were intended for.
Astaxanthin does not have an affinity for any particular part of the body, and it will go where it is most needed. While offering whole body benefits the research is concentrated on its use in eye, brain, heart, skin and joint health.
Carrots for eye health isn’t an old wives’ tale. The carotenoids in carrots have been repeatedly shown to offer protection to our eyes.
Astaxanthin can be looked at like carrots on steroids. 10x stronger than the carotenoids found in carrots, astaxanthin also crosses the blood retinal barrier. This allows it to reduce inflammation directly in the eye.
Beyond reducing inflammation, it protects the delicate tissue of the eyes from free radicals and other common insults while increasing blood flow (nutrients) to eye tissue.
Astaxanthin has been studied extensively for its role in heart health, specifically in lowering cholesterol levels. It can also help to lower blood pressure, and through its affect in the arteries, evidence suggests astaxanthin in may help reduce the risk of strokes.
Astaxanthin belongs to a class of nutrients that are neuroprotective because they can cross into the brain through the protective blood brain barrier. This allows astaxanthin to exert it’s anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects directly in the brain.
Above this, research shows that it can promote the growth of new neurons (brain cells) and keep existing ones healthy and thriving.
Currently research is being done on Alzheimer’s, cognitive decline and concussions in conjunction with astaxanthin because of the amazing brain benefits science is beginning to uncover.
Antioxidants in general have a positive effect on the aging experience. Astaxanthin decreases collagen breakdown and promotes the production of it through its interaction with certain enzymes.
Studies have shown those who regularly take astaxanthin have a decrease in the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles along with improvements in skin moisture and elasticity.
Due to the regenerative effect of collagen production and its anti-inflammatory nature, astaxanthin has been studied in non-pathological joint pain and in osteoarthritis.
Over time astaxanthin has been shown to reduce joint pain through preserving the cartilage that surrounds the bone and through blocking an inflammatory pathway that is conducive to pain. It can be used both preventability and therapeutically when it comes to joint health.
Too Good To be True? Nope!
The addition of astaxanthin to a daily routine frees up resources in the body such as vitamin C and glutathione. We like to think of astaxanthin as the multivitamin of antioxidants.
It works to optimize the whole body, and users will see the effects where they are most needed.
Astaxanthin is like a rain bucket when it’s raining, it doesn’t stop the rain, but it takes care of it enough that a mess (tissue damage) doesn’t occur.
We love astaxanthin for health, wellness and general biohacking and also to help relieve symptoms and reduce risk for several diseases.
Astaxanthin is found moderately in food. Salmon has the highest concentration (it’s what gives salmon it’s nice pink color), but in order to get a therapeutic dose, four fillets a day would need to be eaten!
Lisa Kowalyk, B.Kin, is a certified nutritional practitioner.