Antioxidant research is one of the pillars in the study of life extension and general health. However, antioxidants have been defined rather ambiguously, and there are literally thousands that have been isolated - with more being discovered constantly. Therefore, asking what makes a recently discovered antioxidant like astaxanthin so special is not an unfair question. The fact of the matter is that there are some antioxidants that have merited greater scientific interest than others. These include R(+)-lipoic acid and full-spectrum Vitamin E, among others. Not only have these antioxidants served us well (and will continue to do so), they belong to an elite category distinguishing them from other antioxidants due to their unique properties, mechanisms of action, central importance and/or exceptional potency. So why does astaxanthin merit admittance into this exclusive category?
Firstly, astaxanthin is a member of the xanthophyll subcategory of carotenoids - organic pigments that occur mainly in plants. Astaxanthin is found in abundance in marine environments, particularly among algae, and the pink and red colour of salmon, shrimp and lobster is attributable to the astaxanthin-rich diets of these animals. Astaxanthin has a unique molecular structure: its polar end groups have the distinct ability to attach themselves to both sides of the lipid bilayer that contains the cell membrane.
Why to use Astaxanthin Ultra?
From this entrenched position, astaxanthin inhibits the lipid peroxidation of the cell membrane (which is the ‘gatekeeper of the cell' -controlling what comes in and out), by extension protecting the mitochondria and the rest of the cell from potentially damaging peroxidation. Astaxanthin can also quench free radicals by adding them to its structure rather than sacrificing an atom or electron, meaning that unlike most antioxidants, astaxanthin is far less likely to become a mild free radical in its own right after quenching one. This also allows astaxanthin to be more biologically active, enabling it to trap and quench more free radicals - and of a greater variety - than most other antioxidants.
Astaxanthin's fat-solubility and low molecular weight (less than 600 daltons) allows it to effectively cross the blood-brain barrier to alleviate oxidative stress in the eyes, brain and central nervous system. Particular focus has been paid to astaxanthin's effect on ocular health, with several Japanese studies examining its ability to alleviate the symptoms of asthenopia (eye fatigue). This increasingly common condition is often caused by overexposure to visual display terminals (VDT's), and the aforementioned human studies revealed that astaxanthin (at 5mg per day for one month) can alleviate asthenopia symptoms by 54%. Scientists believe the mechanism of action for these benefits is based on the increased ciliary body accommodation, increased retinal blood flow, and anti-inflammatory properties associated with astaxanthin supplementation. The ciliary body is composed primarily of an ocular muscle that stretches across the vitrous humour between the lens and the pupil. Accomodation refers to the ability of the ciliary body to manipulate the thickness of the lens in order to focus light on the retina. If the eye is required to focus on a fixed object for extended periods of time, muscle spasms and other signs of fatigue may occur. Factors such as the speed at which the ciliary body reacts to a change in visual focus are used to evaluate improvements (if any) in the accommodation response. Two studies conducted in 2005 determined that the speed of the ciliary body's reactions in the astaxanthin group were approximately 46% faster than those in the placebo group. This means that those taking astaxanthin were able to spot moving objects that much faster than those who were not. Furthermore, another placebo-controlled study determined that astaxanthin can increase retinal blood flow by approximately 11% (nourishing ciliary muscles) while yet another study (with laboratory rats) found that astaxanthin can reduce ciliary cell inflammation by nearly 80%.
Studies on Astaxanthin Ultra
Astaxanthin has also been studied for its efficacy in addressing the conditions imposed by type II diabetes. Studies have demonstrated that astaxanthin was capable of reducing blood glucose levels by nearly 40% in laboratory mice administered with an Intraperitoneal Glucose Tolerance Test (IPGTT), as well as preserving pancreatic beta-cells from oxidative damage and increasing insulin sensitivity. A later study, also among laboratory mice, revealed that astaxanthin can aid in the prevention of diabetic nephropathy as measured through the inhibition of urinary albumin loss and DNA damage - by 67% and 50% respectively.
Astaxanthin has also been studied for its effect on dyspepsia (digestive problems in the upper abdominal region). An Australian study in 1999 among ten patients with non-ulcerous dyspepsia resulted in astaxanthin supplementation (at 40 mg daily for 21 days) reducing gastric pain, heartburn and total clinical symptoms by 66%, 78%, and 52% respectively. A much larger randomized, placebo-controlled, double-blind study conducted among 131 patients in Lithuania, Denmark and Sweden produced similar results along a dose-dependent basis.
Astaxanthin's anti-oxidant effects are also beneficial in skin treatments. Studies have shown that oral supplementation with astaxanthin reduces skin dryness and fine lines while improving moisture content and elasticity.
Finally, astaxanthin has been examined for its sports-nutrition applications, particularly with respect to endurance athletes. In 1998, a six-month randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial among healthy Swedish men found that supplementation with 4mg of astaxanthin daily increased the number of knee bends these men were able to perform by approximately 45%. A 2002 study among Japanese track athletes found that at a dose of 6 mg daily for 1 month, lactic acid buildup following a 1,200-metre run was reduced by nearly 29%.
In conclusion, astaxanthin exerts all of the aforementioned benefits through the fundamental premise of protecting the cell membrane from lipid peroxidation, and in this role it is 550 times more effective than Vitamin E (alpha-tocopherol). It is also 40 times more potent than beta-carotene in quenching singlet oxygen free radicals, and has been shown to have synergistic effects with lycopene, lipoic acid, resveratrol, ascorbic acid, ginseng, garlic, gingko biloba and tocotrienols, among others. Astaxanthin is clearly an antioxidant whose time has come.
Amount: 1 Vegi-Cap
40 mgHaematococcus pluvialis extract (providing 4 mg of Astaxanthin)
Non-medicinal ingredients: mixed tocopherols (from soy or corn), corn starch, medium chain triglycerides, gum Arabic, tapioca dextrin, silicon dioxide, ascorbyl palmitate, sodium carboxymethylcellulose, polyglycerol esters of fatty acids, microcrystalline cellulose. Capsule: hypromellose, chlorophyll/ chlorophylle.