Astaxanthin is a little-known carotenoid. Carotenoids are compounds that give food bright color and have antioxidant properties. It is produced by the microalgae Haematoccous pluvialis whenever its water supply dries up to protect itself from lack of nutrition and intense sunlight.
Natural astaxanthin is found in only two sources: microalgae and the sea animals that consume them, such as krill, salmon, and shellfish. Astaxanthin gives wild red salmon its vibrant color. More importantly, this carotenoid provides schools of salmon with the additional strength and endurance to swim up rivers and waterfalls for days.
There are more than 700 naturally occurring carotenoids, but most people are familiar with only a few, particularly beta carotene found in carrots. This may soon change, as a large and growing number of peer-reviewed scientific studies elevated astaxanthin to “supernutrient” status.
The Benefits of Astaxanthin
Astaxanthin influences your health in many different ways because it can travel to every cell, tissue, and organ in your body. Dr. Joseph Mercola believes that astaxanthin is one of the most amazing nutrients ever discovered, exceeded only by vitamin D. Here are the reasons why:
- Central Nervous System and Vision Support
Astaxanthin is best known for helping improve your vision. A clinical trial conducted before and after a handball match showed that players who received astaxanthin improved their depth perception by 46 percent.
Unlike its cousins beta carotene and lycopene, astaxanthin can cross the blood-brain barrier and the blood-retinal barrier to help protect and support your brain and eyes. This helps reduce your risk of Alzheimer’s disease, blindness, brain and spine injuries, cataracts, cystoid macular edema, diabetic retinopathy, glaucoma, Huntington’s disease, inflammatory eye diseases, Lou Gehrig’s disease, macular degeneration, Parkinson’s disease, retinal arterial occlusion, and venous occlusion.
- Powerful Antioxidant Activity
Astaxanthin is 65 times more powerful than vitamin C, 54 times more powerful than beta-carotene, and 14 times more powerful than vitamin E when it comes to scavenging free radicals. It is also 550 times more effective than vitamin E and 11 times more effective than beta carotene in fighting “singlet oxygen quenching,” a particular type of oxidation caused by sunlight and various organic materials.
- Anti-Inflammatory Properties
Human clinical studies show that astaxanthin can help relieve common inflammatory problems, including carpal tunnel, exercise-related soreness, rheumatoid arthritis, and tennis elbow.
Astaxanthin also helps protect you from sunburn, another sign of inflammation. Many athletes report that taking astaxanthin allowed them to train outdoors longer without feeling ill or getting sunburned. Current research suggests that taking at least 2 mg of astaxanthin daily for a month will help protect you from excessive sun exposure.
Get Your Astaxanthin from Natural Sources
Adding astaxanthin and other supernutrients to a diet based on a variety of fresh organic foods — along with good sleep, exercise, and stress management — is a sound approach to good health.
Dr. Mercola incorporates astaxanthin into his diet by regularly taking krill oil.
You can also consume wild red salmon, which contains natural astaxanthin. Avoid farmed salmon; it is given petrochemical-based synthetic astaxanthin to change its dark grey color to the desired pink or red-orange.