THE BLOG

5 Reasons to Take Astaxanthin Every Day

02/28/2013 03:29 pm ET | Updated Apr 30, 2013
  • Suzy Cohen, R.Ph. Author, 'œDrug Muggers', 'Diabetes WIthout Drugs' and 'The 24-Hour Pharmacist'

Astaxanthin (pronounced "asta-ZAN-thin") is a naturally-occurring carotenoid found in algae, shrimp, lobster, crab and salmon. Carotenoids are pigment colors that occur in nature and support good health. Beta carotene, for example, is orange. Astaxanthin, dubbed the "king of the carotenoids" is red, and is responsible for turning salmon, crab, lobster and shrimp flesh pink. In the animal kingdom, astaxanthin is found in the highest concentration in the muscles of salmon. Scientists theorize astaxanthin helps provide the endurance these remarkable animals need to swim upstream. For humans, astaxanthin is a powerful antioxidant with broad health implications and unlike other antioxidants, such as beta carotene, zeaxanthin, vitamin E, C, D and selenium, astaxanthin never becomes pro-oxidant in the body. [23, 24, 25, 26]

Astaxanthin has been discussed by Dr. Mehmet Oz and Dr. Joe Mercola and recommended by many health experts, including myself. I take 12 milligrams every morning. I'd like to clarify one myth now: Krill supplements contain trace amounts of astaxanthin, not nearly what you need to achieve the therapeutic benefits discussed today. Here are five reasons to take astaxanthin supplements every day:

1. Astaxanthin Can Help Relieve Pain and Inflammation
Astaxanthin is a potent anti-inflammatory and pain reliever, blocking different chemicals in your body that make you scream "ouch!" More than that, astaxanthin reduces the inflammatory compounds that drive many chronic diseases. Even though it's 100 percent natural, astaxanthin works like some prescription analgesics, but without the risk of addiction, GI bleeds or heartburn. More specifically, astaxanthin blocks COX 2 enzymes just like Celebrex, the blockbuster drug prescribed for osteoarthritis, Rheumatoid arthritis, acute pain and monthly dysmenorrhea. [1] In fact, astaxanthin works well with Celebrex -- it would be wise to take both together if you want to and if your doctor approves of astaxanthin.

Natural astaxanthin not only affects the COX 2 pathway, it suppresses serum levels of nitric oxide, interleukin 1B, prostaglandin E2, C Reactive Protein (CRP) and TNF-alpha (tumor necrosis factor alpha), and all of this has been proven. [1] Natural astaxanthin was shown to reduce CRP by more than 20 percent in only eight weeks; there is not a prescription drug I know of that does that! [21] Even the American Heart Association claims CRP is a key indicator of heart disease. [22]

2. Astaxanthin Helps Fight Fatigue
Astaxanthin provides excellent recovery from exercise. [17] Just like salmon making the heroic upstream swim, astaxanthin can help athletes do their best. Pure natural astaxanthin is indicated for recovery of muscles, better endurance, enhanced strength and improved energy levels. [18, 19, 20] 

3. Astaxanthin Supports Eye Health
Remember the famous song, "I can see clearly now, the rain is gone..." Well, I associate that song with astaxanthin. It has the unique ability to cross through a barrier and reach your retina. Well-designed clinical trials have shown that astaxanthin helps diabetic retinopathy, macular degeneration, eye strain and fatigue and seeing in fine detail. There are well-designed positive human clinical trials supporting eye health. [4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9]

4. Astaxanthin Cleans Up the Cells
Astaxanthin is in a class of its own when it comes to antioxidant coverage, because it filters into every cell of the body. Its unique molecular lipophilic and hydrophilic properties allow it to span the entire cell, with one end of the astaxanthin molecule protecting the fat-soluble part of the cell and one end protecting the water-soluble part of the cell. You might think of it as giving your cell a full-body hug!

Natural astaxanthin is exceptionally powerful in singlet-oxygen quenching. A 2007 study analyzed several popular antioxidants and their antioxidant power. [10] This study found astaxanthin was 6,000 times stronger than vitamin C, 800 times stronger than CoQ10, 550 times stronger than green tea catechins and 75 times stronger than alpha lipoic acid.

5. Gorgeous Skin and Sunscreen Protection
Astaxanthin has been shown to protect the body's largest organ. The studies are clear and consistent and show excellent results for helping with skin moisture levels, smoothness, elasticity, fine wrinkles, and spots or freckles. [12]

I have fair skin that tends to freckle, so I take astaxanthin, in part because it reduces damage caused by ultraviolet radiation from the sun. In fact, if you get a sunburn, which causes inflammation, astaxanthin penetrates the skin cells and reduces UVA damage. Think of it as an internal sunscreen. Other than skin benefits, I love astaxanthin because it relieves my minor aches and pains from yoga, dance, hiking, kayaking and whatever else I get into in the name of fun!

Best Astaxanthin Sources

Wild Pacific salmon, especially sockeye salmon, have the highest astaxanthin content. However you'd have to eat about 6 ounces (165 grams) daily to get a 3.6 milligram dose. [11] Since studies show that doses greater than that provide anti-inflammatory benefits, I always suggest an astaxanthin supplement.

Shop wisely, because you want to make sure that your particular brand has undertaken all the special precautions to harvest it properly, purify it, encapsulate it and protect its potency right up to the expiration date on the bottle.  You can find astaxanthin supplements by many makers at health food stores nationwide.

For more by Suzy Cohen, R.Ph., click here.

For more on diet and nutrition, click here.

References:

1. Lee SJ, Bai SK, Lee KS, Namkoong S, Na HJ, Ha KS, Han JA, Yim SV, Chang K, Kwon YG, Lee SK, Kim YM. Astaxanthin inhibits nitric oxide production and inflammatory gene expression by suppressing I(kappa)B kinase-dependent NF-kappaB activation. Mol Cells. 2003 Aug 31;16(1):97-105. PubMed PMID: 14503852.

2. Kearney PM, Baigent C, Godwin J, Halls H, Emberson JR, Patrono C. Do selective cyclo-oxygenase-2 inhibitors and traditional non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs increase the risk of atherothrombosis? Meta-analysis of randomised trials. BMJ. 2006 Jun 3;332(7553):1302-8. PubMed PMID: 16740558; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC1473048.

3. Belknap SM. NSAIDs were associated with increased risk for mortality, regardless of time since first MI. Ann Intern Med. 2013 Jan 15;158(2):JC10. doi:
10.7326/0003-4819-158-2-201301150-02010. PubMed PMID: 23318332.

4. Iwasaki Tsuneto, Tahara Akihiko. Effects of Astaxanthin on Eyestrain Induced by Accommodative Dysfunction. Journal of the Eye VOL.23;NO.6;829-834(2006)

5. Nagaki Y., Hayasaka S., Yamada T., Hayasaka Y., Sanada M., Uonomi T. Effects of Astaxanthin on accommodation, critical flicker fusion, and pattern visual evoked potential in visual display terminal workers. Journal of Traditional Medicines 2002: 19 (5), 170 - 173.

6. Nagaki Yasunori et al. The Effect of Astaxanthin on Retinal Capillary Blood Flow in Normal Volunteers. Journal of Clinical Therapeutics & Medicines Vol.21;No.5;537-542(2005)

7. Sun Z, Liu J, Zeng X, Huangfu J, Jiang Y, Wang M, Chen F. Protective actions of microalgae against endogenous and exogenous advanced glycation endproducts (AGEs) in human retinal pigment epithelial cells. Food Funct. 2011 May;2(5):251-8. doi: 10.1039/c1fo10021a. Epub 2011 Apr 21. PubMed PMID: 21779563.

8. Ishida S. Lifestyle-related diseases and anti-aging ophthalmology: suppression of retinal and choroidal pathologies by inhibiting renin-angiotensin system and inflammation. Article in Japanese: Nihon Ganka Gakkai Zasshi. 2009 Mar;113(3):403-22; discussion 423. Review. Japanese. PubMed PMID: 19348185.

9. Liao JH, Chen CS, Maher TJ, Liu CY, Lin MH, Wu TH, Wu SH. Astaxanthin interacts with selenite and attenuates selenite-induced cataractogenesis. Chem Res Toxicol. 2009 Mar 16;22(3):518-25. doi: 10.1021/tx800378z. PubMed PMID: 19193053.

10. Nishida Y. et. al, Quenching Activities of Common Hydrophilic and Lipophilic Antioxidants against Singlet Oxygen Using Chemiluminescence Detection System.
Carotenoid Science 11:16-20 (2007)

11. Iwamoto T, et al. Inhibition of low-density lipoprotein oxidation by astaxanthin. J Atherosc Thromb 2000;7:216-22.

12. Camera E, Mastrofrancesco A, Fabbri C, Daubrawa F, Picardo M, Sies H, Stahl W. Astaxanthin, canthaxanthin and beta-carotene differently affect UVA-induced oxidative damage and expression of oxidative stress- responsive enzymes. Exp Dermatol. 2009 Mar;18(3):222-31. Epub 2008 Sep

13. Yamashita, E. Beauty From Within: A Synergistic Combination Of Astaxanthin And Tocotrienol For Beauty Supplements (2002) Cosmetic Benefit of Dietary Supplements Containing Astaxanthin and Tocotrienol on Human Skin. Food Style 21 6(6):112-17.

14. A novel micronutrient supplement in skin aging: a randomized placebo-controlled double-blind study. Journal of Cosmetic Dermatology Volume 4 Page 277 - December 2005

15. Suganuma K, Nakajima H, Ohtsuki M, Imokawa G. Astaxanthin attenuates the UVA-induced up-regulation of matrix- metalloproteinase-1 and skin fibroblast elastase in human dermal fibroblasts. J Dermatol Sci. 2010 May;58(2):136-42. Epub 2010 Feb 18.

16. Arakane Kumi. Effect of Antioxidant to Inhibit UV-Induced Wrinkles. Journal of Japanese Cosmetic Science Society Vol. 27;No.4; 298-303(2003).

17. Aoi, et al, 2003. Astaxanthin limits exercise-induced skeletal and cardiac muscle damage in mice. Antioxid Redox Signal. 2003 Feb;5(1):139-44.

18. Curt L. Malmsten and Åke Lignell. Dietary Supplementation with Astaxanthin-Rich Algal Meal Improves Strength Endurance. A Double Blind Placebo Controlled Study on Male Students. Carotenoid Science, Vol.13, 2008 ISSN 1880-5671.

19. Aoi W, Naito Y, Takanami Y, Ishii T, Kawai Y, Akagiri S, Kato Y, Osawa T, Yoshikawa T. Astaxanthin improves muscle lipid metabolism in exercise via inhibitory effect of oxidative CPT I modification. Biochem Biophys Res Commun. 2008 Feb 22;366(4):892-7. Epub 2007 Dec 17.

20. Ikeuchi M, Koyama T, Takahashi J, Yazawa K. Effects of astaxanthin supplementation on exercise-induced fatigue in mice. Biol Pharm Bull. 2006 Oct;29(10):2106-10.

21. Gene A. Spiller, PhD, Antonella Dewell, MS, RD, Sally Chaves, RN, Zaga Rakidzich. Effect of daily use natural astaxanthin on C-reactive protein. Health Research & Studies Center, Los Altos, CA. Study Report, January, 2006.

22. Pearson, Thomas; Mensah, George, et al. Markers of inflammation and cardiovascular disease: application to clinical and public health practice: A statement for healthcare professionals from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the American Heart Association.2003 Jan 28; 107(3) :499-511.

23. Beutner, S., Bloedorn, B., Frixel, S., Hernández Blanco, I., Hoffmann, T., Martin, H.-D., Mayer, B., Noack, P., Ruck, C., Schmidt, M., Schülke, I., Sell, S., Ernst, H., Haremza, S., Seybold, G., Sies, H., Stahl, W. and Walsh, R. (2001), Quantitative assessment of antioxidant properties of natural colorants and phytochemicals: carotenoids, flavonoids, phenols and indigoids. The role of β-carotene in antioxidant functions. J. Sci. Food Agric., 81: 559-568. doi: 10.1002/jsfa.849.

24. Spallholz JE. Free radical generation by selenium compounds and their prooxidant toxicity. Biomed Environ Sci. 1997 Sep;10(2-3):260-70. Review. PubMed PMID: 9315319.

25. Koren R, Hadari-Naor I, Zuck E, Rotem C, Liberman UA, Ravid A. Vitamin D is a prooxidant in breast cancer cells. Cancer Res. 2001 Feb 15;61(4):1439-44. PubMed PMID: 11245448.

26. Pearson P, Lewis SA, Britton J, Young IS, Fogarty A. The pro-oxidant activity of high-dose vitamin E supplements in vivo. BioDrugs. 2006;20(5):271-3. PubMed PMID: 17025373.