· By Ashley Heeley
Astaxanthin: Natures most powerful antioxidant
Astaxanthin: Natures most powerful antioxidantAntioxidants are substances that can prevent or slow the damage to cells caused by free radicals, unstable molecules that the body produces as a reaction to environmental and other stressors. It is thought that the free radicals cause changes in the cells that have been associated with numerous health problems including cancer, arteriosclerosis and vision loss in older people.
Carotenoids are naturally occurring pigments produced by plants, algae and fungus. Carotenoids give the characteristic colours to foods we know and love, such as carrots and tomatoes. Scientists long ago discovered that carotenoids held powerful antioxidant properties that are crucial for your health.
A little-known carotenoid called astaxanthin is now believed to be the most beneficial antioxidant nature has to offer. In terms of antioxidant potency, astaxanthin is 550 times stronger than vitamin E, and 6,000 times stronger than vitamin C.
Astaxanthin has a bright red/pink colouration, which can be seen throughout nature from wild pink salmon to the beauty of the pink flamingo.
What Makes Astaxanthin so Unique?Astaxanthin being a carotenoid is related to beta-carotene, lutein, and canthaxanthin, but it has a unique structure, and works in some very unique ways. Antioxidants become depleted after they've transferred all their free electrons, because astaxanthin has a massive surplus of free electrons, it is able to remain "active" far longer than other antioxidants.
Additionally it acts on at least five different inflammation pathways, so it can handle far more free radicals at any given time.
Astaxanthin crosses both the blood-brain barrier and the blood-retinal barrier unlike beta carotene and lycopene. This brings the antioxidant and anti-inflammatory protection to your eyes, brain and central nervous system and reduces your risk for cataracts, macular degeneration, blindness, dementia and Alzheimer's disease.
Two areas of astaxanthin research that are gaining massive momentum are cardiovascular and brain health. Several studies suggest that astaxanthin may be a powerful tool in maintaining brain health, thanks to its anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties. In one example, 10 elderly participants who took 12 milligrams of astaxanthin daily for 12 weeks displayed improved cognitive and psychomotor function.
Another surprising benefit is its ability to improve athletic performance, this is likely down to the anti inflammatory and antioxidant effects, as well as the impact on mitochondria.
Mitochondria are your little intracellular "powerhouses." Your mitochondria produce up to 95 percent of your body's energy by burning fatty acids and other substances.
Many of your mitochondrial cells are found in your muscle tissue, because that is where you have the greatest need for intense bursts of energy. The downside to this energy is the resulting highly reactive free radicals that are produced, damaging your cell membranes and oxidising your DNA. This cellular damage results in the activation of inflammatory markers, and you end up with tired and sore muscles.
When mitochondria are compromised, they are inefficient and can't produce enough energy to meet your body's demands. Your strength and endurance decline, as a result. The tougher your activity, the more free radicals you produce.
By fighting the effects of this free radical activity, astaxanthin can help to improve endurance and speed up recovery time.
Sounds great but is it safe?
If you're worried about potential toxicity, we have good news, unlike other antioxidants (especially synthetic carotenoids), astaxanthin lacks the ability to turn into a pro-oxidant, even at high doses. Meaning it is perfectly safe to use each day. However it can provide a slight coloration to your skin at higher doses due to its natural pigment. But most studies suggest that this coloration is actually perceived as cosmetically beneficial or desirable, in that it gives you a healthy "tan like glow”.
SummaryAstaxanthin is one of the most remarkable supplements I have ever learned about and indeed, take daily. The only one that exceeds it in importance to be taking every day, from my perspective, is vitamin D, due to it’s hugely positive effects on the immune system and Vet D is vital for healthy bones, lungs and cardiovascular system.
If this seems like a supplement you’d be interested in, Hippie Turtle Herbal Co have created a wonderful herbal blend containing astaxanthin and vitamin D3 for your immune support needs. Check out the aptly named “vitality” blend here to fortify your temple this winter.