Astaxanthin for What Ails You

January 05, 2015

Astaxanthin: Antioxidant extraordinaire

 Reference: Fransceschelli PLOS One Feb 2014 

 Astaxanthin has been getting press recently. It’s the pink color in salmon and shrimp, so it's a naturally occurring compound related to the carotenoid family (carrots and other yellow vegetables.) It started emerging back in the ’90s. Its use as an antioxidant has been found to be its ability to gobble up singlet oxygen. That’s the stuff that’s produced when mitochondria can’t grab onto a free electron and it spins off onto oxygen. That oxygen molecule acts like a tiny hand grenade, wreaking havoc inside the cell by disrupting membranes. The very nature of the cell is the creation of membranes to keep some things in one place, and other things in others. When those membranes get messed up, cellular function declines. 

 Astaxanthin has some unique properties. It can penetrate the blood-brain barrier, which is relatively rare with many antioxidants. Oxidation in the vulnerable brain is part of what makes Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s come about.   Nakagawa in the Br J Nutr in a randomized, placebo-controlled trial showed that astaxanthin reduced indicators of brain oxidative stress in just a few weeks. The neuroprotective effects have been shown in mice, in humans, and in the research lab. 

 Benefits aren’t just on the brain. High blood pressure and heart disease are beginning to be thought of as dysfunction of the lining of arteries – endothelial dysfunction. The core of that dysfunction is the inability of the artery to relax. Renal transplant patients have it the worst.   So a randomized trial in transplant patients using astaxanthin showed significant benefit in arterial stretchiness – in the toughest patients of all. With the picking up of lipids in the artery, artery disease results in heart attack or stroke. Your natural prevention of heart disease comes about with higher HDL cholesterol. 

Astaxanthin has been shown to increase HDLs significantly. Lots of folks have aches and pains and feel fatigued. When you snoop around with some lab, you find that their CRP is slightly elevated. CRP, C-reactive protein, is the common pathway in your body for inflammation. It turns on NFκB inside of cells which is the trigger to make a cell “act inflamed”. Inflammtion is the evil twin of oxidation when it comes to generating disease. Cutting to the chase and reducing CRP is a great way to improve fatigue and aches and pains from chronic, low-grade inflammation.   What does astaxanthin do for that? It lowers CRP

 So astaxanthin has lots of good properties. It would make sense to use it to help all those good qualities. Even Dr. Oz did a whole show on astaxanthin, touting all its benefits.  Is it safe? Yes, as far as anyone knows, there are precious few side effects. In fact, it seems to be synergistic with krill oil in lowering inflammation.   Those two get combined in products on the market now for joint health. And we didn’t mention folks getting help with their eyes, their skin….all the other places than antioxidants help. Astaxanthin has been touted as being 6,000 times as powerful as Vitamin C.   Let’s wait and see. There are detractors

 WWW. What will work for me?   I’m on a mission to lower CRP in folks, and in myself. I’ve done before and after testing in a bunch of people with modestly high CRP and found ways of reducing it. Pycnogenol and Krill oil have been remarkable actors in that line.   I’m adding astaxanthin to that list. 6-12 mg a day.   

 Pop Quiz

  1. Astaxanthin is the pink color in grapefruit? T or F                      Answer:  False – the pink in shrimp, lobster and other seafoods
  1. It has been shown to lower CRP in folks with elevated levels. T or F                   Answer:  True
  1. It works by gobbling up free oxygen radicals that act like hand grenades in your cells? T or F                                Answer:  True – making it your body’s bomb squad
  1. It can penetrate into brain tissue – not common amongst supplements. T or F                  Answer:   Yes
  1. It may play a role in helping Alzheimer’s and memory loss. T or F                         Answer:   True