There are more than 400 different carotene family pigments in nature. Historically, the effectiveness of carotene in improving human health lies in its ability to be converted into vitamin A. Nutritional Highlights-Astaxanthin
For example, β-carotene, which makes carrots appear orange, has the highest vitamin A value and has long been considered the most important carotene. However, it is now discovered that some of the most important carotenes for human health will not be converted into vitamin A.
The crowning “king” of all non-vitamin A carotene is astaxanthin. It was awarded this honor because of its unique benefits, as well as its role in promoting health and preventing cell damage, especially in the brain and vascular system.
Where does astaxanthin
exist in nature?
Astaxanthin is a bright crimson carotene pigment, mainly found in marine life. The most abundant source is a kind of microalgae called Haematococcus Pluvialis. After salmon, lobster, shrimp, krill, and other marine life eat it, the rich red pigment will make the flesh or shell of these animals appear red or pink.
Astaxanthin is essential for the survival of these microorganisms. For example, microalgae need astaxanthin to protect themselves from damage caused by photosynthesis. It is well known that juvenile salmon will die or stunt if they do not get enough astaxanthin in their diet.
Since the red wavelength spectrum of visible light cannot penetrate deep water, astaxanthin also provides some protection for some animals, making it less visible in deep water. Red pigment also has a certain effect on mating and spawning behavior.
How is astaxanthin produced?
Although astaxanthin is found in salmon, herring roe, or krill oil supplements, the content in these sources is much lower than in Haematococcus Pluvialis extract. For example, most astaxanthin supplements extracted from Haematococcus Pluvialis contain 4-12 mg per capsule, and the natural astaxanthin content in a fish oil or krill oil capsule is 100 micrograms (0.1 mg). Within, this number is not much in comparison.
When producing natural astaxanthin, top products use large indoor water tanks to grow Haematococcus Pluvialis under ideal conditions to increase the production of astaxanthin and prevent environmental pollution. Astaxanthin is then released from the thick cell walls of the algae and concentrated.
There are other sources of astaxanthin on the market, but these forms are produced by chemical synthesis or genetically modified yeast (Phaffia rhodozyma). Fish farms often feed these synthetic forms to salmon in order to make their flesh appear red, but this form of astaxanthin is not exactly the same as natural astaxanthin. It has been proven that its effect as an antioxidant is two weaker than the natural form. More than ten times.
How does astaxanthin work?
It is a bit cliché to call various natural compounds antioxidants. Yes, astaxanthin has antioxidant activity, and it certainly helps prevent oxidative damage that leads to aging, insulin resistance, cardiovascular disease, and neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s disease. Many other natural antioxidants have the same effect. But astaxanthin is a relatively unique antioxidant, and it has the added benefit of protecting cells.
First of all, as far as the general antioxidant effect of protecting cell membranes is concerned, astaxanthin is more than 65 times stronger than vitamin C, 50 times stronger than β-carotene, and 10 times stronger than vitamin E. Secondly, a unique feature of astaxanthin is related to its size and how it fits into the cell membrane. It is much larger/longer than other popular carotenes.
Its size and physical form make it integrated with the cell membrane, and it can span the entire thickness of the cell membrane. This allows astaxanthin not only to protect the internal and external cell membranes from oxidative damage but also to fix the cell membranes.
Astaxanthin also has some specific anti-inflammatory effects, which makes it quite effective in protecting the brain and blood vessel cells from damage. Since astaxanthin can effectively protect the membrane system of mitochondria (the energy compartment of the cell), it helps increase cell energy.
What is the role of astaxanthin?
More than 50 clinical and experimental studies have shown that astaxanthin may be helpful in the following situations:
- Cardiovascular health. Protect blood vessel walls, improve blood circulation, and prevent low-density lipoprotein cholesterol from being oxidized (damaged).
- Eye health. Prevent eye fatigue, help improve vision and depth perception, and increase blood flow to eye tissues.
- Brain health. Help prevent aging and improve mental function.
- Sports-related activities. Enhance muscle endurance and prevent muscle damage.
- Diabetes, insulin resistance, and metabolic syndrome. Helps improve antioxidant capacity and prevent blood vessel damage.
- Healthy skin. Reduce fine lines and wrinkles, improve skin elasticity, prevent sun damage, prevent age spots and pigmentation.
- The immune system is healthy. Prevent immune cell damage.
One of the true properties of astaxanthin is its ability to cross the blood-brain barrier and blood-retinal barrier to protect the brain and eyes. This effect is quite unusual for carotene. For example, the popular carotene β-carotene and lycopene (lycopene) cannot cross these two obstacles.
This effect of astaxanthin suggests that it may be particularly effective for improving brain and eye health, as well as preventing the brain from suffering from Alzheimer’s disease, macular degeneration, and other degenerative brain and eye diseases. Of course, it has other benefits, but I feel that this ability to travel through the brain and retina is what makes it special.
Another interesting effect of astaxanthin is red blood cells. Because as we age, red blood cells (RBCs) are more susceptible to damage from an oxidative attack, which can lead to obstruction of oxygen supply to tissues. The effect of astaxanthin on cell membranes may be particularly important for red blood cells.
In a double-blind clinical trial in 2011, 32 healthy subjects aged 50-69 (n=30) received 12 weeks of astaxanthin (6 mg/day or 12 mg/day) or comfort Agent. Both doses of astaxanthin reduced the oxidative damage to red blood cells, and the higher dose did not receive a better effect. Especially when used in combination, this improvement may be significant.
A 2011 study found that astaxanthin (6 mg daily for 10 days) can significantly improve blood circulation (rheology). The reason for these far-reaching effects is that improving the supply of oxygen to the entire body may have many positive effects.
What is the dose of astaxanthin?
The dose of astaxanthin ranges from 4 to 12 mg per day.
What are the side effects and drug interactions of astaxanthin?
There are no known side effects or drug interactions at the recommended dose.
- Ambati RR, Phang SM, Ravi S, Aswathanarayana RG. Astaxanthin: sources, extraction, stability, biological activities, and its commercial applications–a review. Mar Drugs. 2014 Jan 7;12(1):128-52.
- Fassett RG, Coombes JS. Astaxanthin in cardiovascular health and disease. Molecules. 2012 Feb 20;17(2):2030-48
- Kidd P. Astaxanthin, cell membrane nutrient with diverse clinical benefits and anti-aging potential. Altern Med Rev. 2011 Dec;16(4):355-64