Prevent Cell Damage, Fight Inflammation, Improve Circulation and Relieve Pain with this Miraculous Marine Secret
Since so many patients and readers have been asking about astaxanthin—one of the hottest supplements on the market—I decided to bring you up to speed on what it is as well as its spectacular health benefits.
Astaxanthin is one of more than 750 different naturally-occurring carotenoids, or the pigments responsible for the brilliant colors in the full spectrum of the fruit and vegetable rainbow—particularly yellow, orange, and red. In the case of astaxanthin, it’s what gives shrimp, trout, crayfish, salmon, and crustaceans (shrimp, crab, lobster) their reddish color!
Carotenoids play an important role in the health of the plants they’re found in (as well as algae and bacteria): they act as an antioxidant and protect against damaging oxidants that are formed during photosynthesis (a.k.a. using sunlight for chemical reactions such as converting carbon dioxide into oxygen).
They also can contribute greatly to the health of those of us a little farther up the food chain. For animals and humans, they act as antioxidants and protect against cell damage from free radicals.
They also facilitate the communication between cells, help immune function, naturally reduce inflammation, and stimulate the body’s own antioxidant production and detoxifying enzymes.1
That means there are a number of practical applications for carotenoids—and astaxanthin in particular—that range from boosting athletic performance and relieving pain to preventing heart disease and cancer.
Whether you’re healthy and just looking for general support… or perhaps you need this carotenoid for more therapeutic purposes… you can get astaxanthin from a variety of natural sources (both food and supplementation) that have a good safety record.
A royal antioxidant and anti-inflammatory
Astaxanthin can help a variety of conditions for two main reasons. First, it is a potent antioxidant that neutralizes the effects of free radicals. Its antioxidant effect that protects cells from damage—both on the inside and outside—is so superior that astaxanthin has earned the nickname “The King of Carotenoids.”
Second, it has a natural anti-inflammatory effect. It works to reduce overactive inflammatory compounds in the body that create pain and tissue damage.
In research, astaxanthin has been shown to lower the blood marker C-reactive protein (CRP) and other markers of inflammation.2 If you’ve been reading my Health Revelations and House Calls for a while now, you know that CRP is released by the liver in response to inflammation—and that the higher the number, the more inflammation you’ve got.
Anything that brings the level of those inflammatory markers down is a good thing.
As well, this mighty carotenoid has been shown to protect against cell DNA damage.3
According to author and natural medicine expert Dr. Michael Murray, no other carotenoid can do quite what astaxanthin can—which is stabilize the cell membranes as well as protect the inner and outer cell membrane from oxidative damage. That’s because, as he says, “its size and physical form allow it to be incorporated into cell membranes where it is able to span the entire thickness of the cell membrane. …”4
A blood flow hero
As I mentioned, there have been a number of human studies conducted with “King” Astaxanthin and its many practical applications.
When it comes to cardiovascular health, research published in the journal Atherosclerosis reported that supplementation of astaxanthin has been shown to reduce triglycerides and significantly increase good HDL cholesterol. Doses in the studies ranged from 6 to 18 mg per day, with an optimal dose of 12 mg.5
Astaxanthin has also been shown to improve circulation. A study of 20 men found that those who took 6 mg of astaxanthin had significantly improved blood flow compared to placebo.6
Astaxanthin is unique among the carotenoids in that it can cross the blood-retinal barrier and reach the inner compartments of the eye. Researchers in Japan have shown in a human study that, at a dose of 6 mg per day, astaxanthin improved capillary blood flow in the eyes, as compared to the placebo group (which had no change).7
As well, studies in animals and humans have demonstrated that astaxanthin improves visual acuity, depth perception, and protects against eye lens damage.8Japanese research has also shown that 6 mg per day consistently improved visual sharpness, even in healthy people.9
A double-blind study found that after four weeks of astaxanthin supplementation (5 mg), 46 percent of uses had a reduction with eyestrain or fatigue—a condition that’s so common in today’s world, dominated by computers and smart phones. Other studies have found that between 4 to 12 mg of supplementation daily helps eyestrain, with more beneficial effects at 12 mg per day. According to even more research, at doses of 6 mg per day, it can improve eye soreness, dryness, tiredness, and blurred vision.
Unlike other carotenoids, astaxanthin also readily crosses the blood-brain barrier. It has been shown in research to protect against human brain neuronal cell damage and damage to from insufficient oxygen delivery.10
A small study gave 12 mg of astaxanthin to men ages 50 to 69 who were healthy but had forgetfulness over the course of 12 weeks. Computerized testing showed improved measures of reaction time, attention, and working memory.11
More research is needed to recommend astaxanthin as a primary supplement for brain health, but it may be used as a secondary treatment, behind better studied brain nutrients.
Did You Know?
Most studies done on the safety and benefits of astaxanthin—including nearly 100 clinical trials—have been done with the form derived from a type of freshwater algae called Haematococcus pluvialis, which is by far the richest natural source of astaxanthin.
Zap the source of pain and aging
I’ve had a number of patients report an anti-inflammatory and pain-reducing effect from astaxanthin—something that’s been confirmed by the scientific literature as well.
For example, a survey of 146 people between the ages of 20 and 87 with muscle and joint soreness found that 88 percent of those who took astaxanthin reported improvement.12 In another survey of people with osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, or back pain, over 80 percent of people reported improvement after supplementing astaxanthin.13
As well, a study of people with wrist pain from overuse in the workplace found that 12 mg of astaxanthin supplementation resulted in a 41 percent daytime pain reduction after eight weeks.14
You should consider astaxanthin as well if you’re overweight or obese, since the excess weight can make you susceptible to increased free radicals and inflammation. In cases like this, astaxanthin supplementation has been shown to normalize free radical levels.15
Studies suggest that a diet rich in carotenoids reduces the risks of some cancer—and astaxanthin specifically has been shown to neutralize free radicals that contribute to skin damage. That makes sense if you understand that carotenoids in general have the unique ability to absorb ultraviolet rays from the sun to prevent eye and skin damage.
A study of forty-nine healthy women with an average age of 47 were given either 4 mg of astaxanthin per day or a placebo. At the end of six weeks, over 50 percent of those taking astaxanthin self-reported improvement in all areas, while dermatology assessments found improvements in wrinkles, fine lines, elasticity, and dryness as well.16
Lastly, a combination of the supplements astaxanthin (2 mg per day) and collagen hydrolysate (3 grams per day) or a placebo for 12 weeks. Those taking the supplements showed significant improvement in elasticity and water content of the facial skin, compared to placebo.17
Discover the secrets of the sea for yourself
The human body can’t synthesize astaxanthin on its own, so in order to reap its benefits, we need to consume it through seafood or dietary supplements.
Healthy people can increase their astaxanthin levels by eating certain foods. Due to problems with contamination with heavy metals and other toxins, I don’t recommend frequent consumption of shrimp, crab, and lobster. Instead, you can eat four ounces of wild-caught sockeye salmon, which contains about 4.5 mg of astaxanthin.18
Another good way to increase your body levels of astaxanthin is by taking krill oil. Many products contain 0.5 mg to several milligrams, and it’s a good source of those healthy omega-3 fatty acids (DHA and EPA) as well.
For people that need a more therapeutic effect, a typical supplemental dose is 4 to 12 mg per day. Research shows that a single dose of 10 mg can stay in the blood for 24 hours, and doses as low as 1 mg can significantly increase your blood levels of it when taken once daily for four weeks.19
Please note that since it’s fat-soluble, your body will absorb it much better if you take it with a meal. You should also note that since it’s not a suppressive drug, astaxanthin takes time for its anti-inflammatory and pain-relieving properties to be noticed. The longer you’re on it, the more noticeable the effects will be.
You may notice improvement within a few weeks, but you should wait at least eight weeks to assess the efficacy for muscle, joint, and tendon pain and soreness.
You can also combine topical astaxanthin with oral supplementation to support the health of your skin. In one study, the combination of 6 mg oral and 2 ml solution demonstrated improvements in skin wrinkles, age spots, elasticity, skin texture, moisture content, and overall health of the outer layer of skin.20
Animal and human studies have shown that naturally-derived astaxanthin is quite safe. Clinical trials have used up to 40 mg daily safely.21 As well, one study found that research done with people taking aspirin as well as those not taking it had no adverse effects on blood clotting with high dosages of astaxanthin supplementation.22
However, always confer with your doctor before taking supplements, especially if you’re on anti-coagulant medications.
Synthetic versions derived from petrochemicals are available, but they’re up to 50 times weaker than natural astaxanthin. As well, the synthetic form has no peer-reviewed safety studies that I am aware of.23
Even though carotenoids are so important to human health, governmental agencies have not recommended a daily intake—so, work with a holistic doctor on the best dosage for you.
- Oregon State University. Linus Pauling Institute. Carotenoids. Accessed January 26, 2017 at www.lpi.oregonstate.edu/mic/dietary-factors/phytochemicals/carotenoids
- Kidd, P. (2011). “Astaxanthin, cell membrane nutrient with diverse clinical benefits and anti-aging potential.” Alternative Medicine Review. 16(4):355-364.
- Park JS et al. Astaxanthin decreased oxidative stress and inflammation and enhanced immune response in humans. Nutr Metab (Lond). 2010 Mar 5; 7():18.
- Michael T. Murray. The Whole Body Benefits of Natural Astaxanthin. Whole Foods Magazine. E book. Page 3. www.wholefoodsmagazine.com/retail-content-library/whole-body-benefits-natural-astaxanthin/
- Yoshida H, Yanai H, Ito K, et al. Administration of natural astaxanthin increases serum HDL-cholesterol and adiponectin in subjects with mild hyperlipidemia. Atherosclerosis 2010;209:520-523.
- Miyawaki, H., et al. (2008). “Effects of astaxanthin on human blood rheology,” Journal of Clinical Biochemistry Nutrition. 43(2): 9–74.
- Ibid, Murray
- Ibid, Murray
- Ibid, Kidd
- Ibid, Murray
- Satoh A, Tsuji S, Okada Y, et al. Preliminary clinical evaluation of toxicity and efficacy of a new astaxanthin-rich Haematococcus pluvialis extract. J Clin Biochem Nutr 2009;44:280-284.
- Ibid, Murray
- Ibid, Murray
- Nir, Y., Spiller, G. (2002a). “BioAstin, a natural astaxanthin from microalgae, helps relieve pain and improves performance in patients with carpel tunnel syndrome (CTS).” Journal of the American College of Nutrition. 21(5):Oct, 2002.
- Choi HD, Kim JH, Chang MJ, et al. Effects of astaxanthin on oxidative stress in overweight and obese adults. Phytother Res 2011 Apr 8. doi: 10.1002/ptr.3494
- Ibid, Murray
- Yoon HS1, et al. (2014). “Supplementing with dietary astaxanthin combined with collagen hydrolysate improves facial elasticity and decreases matrix metalloproteinase-1 and -12 expression: a comparative study with placebo. “Journal of Medicinal Food. Jul;17(7):810-816.
- Astaxanthin. Accessed January 26, 2017 at www.webmd.com/vitamins-and-supplements/astaxanthin#1
- Ibid, Kidd
- Ibid, Murray
- Ibid, Kidd
- Serebruany V, et al. The in vitro effects of Xancor, a synthetic astaxanthine derivative, on hemostatic biomarkers in aspirin-naïve and aspirin-treated subjects with multiple risk factors for vascular disease. Am J Ther. 2010 Mar-Apr; 17(2):125-32.
- Ibid, Murray
- Earnest, CP., et al. (2011). “Effect of astaxanthin on cycling time trial performance.” International Journal of Sports Medicine Int J Sports Med. 2011 Nov;32(11):882-8
- Sawaki, K., et al. (2002). “Sports performance benefits from taking natural astaxanthin characterized by visual acuity and muscle fatigue improvements in humans.” Journal of Clinical Therapeutics & Medicines. 18:(9)73-88.
Printed with permission from Dr. Mark Stengler’s Health Revelations (www.healthrevelations.com)