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Astaxanthin: an effective antioxidant


For several years, researchers have been working on a compound produced by microalgae: astaxanthin. Many of them consider this compound to be the most important nutrient for counteracting oxidative stress.
What is Astaxanthin?
Astaxanthin is a pink to pale pink carotenoid from a large family of carotenoids.
Carotenoids are nutrients with strong antioxidant properties. They protect our cells from the effects of certain free radicals.
Astaxanthin has the highest concentration in the unicellular algae Haematococcus pluvialis.
Nothing happens by chance in nature, therefore astaxanthin plays a special and important role: it ensures their survival in extremely unfavorable conditions (lack of water, excessive solar radiation, insufficient temperature ...). Under these extreme conditions, astaxanthin activates the defense mechanism and changes the color of these algae from green to red. It takes several days and provides them with incredible immunity.
Astaxanthin circulates in the food chain: zooplankton feeds on algae, which then serves as food for pink flamingos, salmon and shrimp. And they absorb it in such quantities that they owe their color to astaxanthin! However, the benefits of astaxanthin don't end there.
It plays a very important role in strengthening the organism in the species that absorb it the most. The best example here is undoubtedly wild salmon. Salmon are anadromous creatures, which means they are born in fresh river waters and then migrate to the seas where they live until puberty.
Breeding takes place in fresh waters because this is the environment that salmon need. The ability to swim upstream in the fish world is not unique.
For example, yellow sturgeon and European sturgeon. But wild salmon also boast extraordinary strength and immunity. Returning to the place of birth, these fish can swim against the current.
For comparison, imagine that you had to swim against the current for almost 160 km - constantly, against the current and face to face with waves more than nine meters long.
Researchers have hypothesized that wild salmon may owe its extraordinary strength to an over-concentration of astaxanthin in the muscles.
Indeed, this species can selectively accumulate astaxanthin from food, accumulating it in the muscles.
Astaxanthin protects wild salmon oil from oxidation, a form of oxidative stress that can harm it. Thanks to this, the meat of this fish can contain up to 40 mg of astaxanthin per kilogram. That's eight times more than farmed salmon, which, after all, leaks synthetic astaxanthin every day, not to enhance it, but only to give it a delicious pink color that will make it look like wild salmon!
Antioxidant is especially effective against singlet oxygen
Astaxanthin studies have shown that this compound has strong antioxidant properties. More specifically, it follows that by blocking the effects of singlet oxygen, a free radical responsible for the harmful effects of UVA radiation, astaxanthin works:
• 14.3 times stronger than vitamin E,
• 20.9 times more powerful than synthetic astaxanthin,
• 53.7 times stronger than beta-carotene,
• and 64.9 times harder than vitamin C!
Astaxanthin, among others:
• protects your skin from external factors (ultraviolet radiation, pollution ...): prepares the skin for sun exposure, reduces wrinkles and discoloration, including freckles;
• protects your eyes: helps with sensitivity to sunlight, eye fatigue, prevents age-related macular degeneration and cataracts;
• helps maintain brain function: prevents neurodegenerative diseases associated with oxidative stress;
• protects the cardiovascular system: helps to normalize the lipid profile, prevents arterial atherosclerosis;
• prevents cancer: animal tests have shown protective activity against the formation of bladder and oral cancers;
• fights pain caused by inflammation such as arthritis or tendonitis;
• supports the proper functioning of the digestive system: helps in the treatment of infections caused by Helicobacter pylori and inflammation of the digestive system, prevents stomach ulcers;
• improves athletic performance and accelerates recovery after exercise: increases endurance to stress, reduces the amount of lactic acid secreted, accelerates fat burning;
• improves male fertility due to the beneficial effects observed in sperm production.
Therefore, astaxanthin is regarded as a multifunctional antioxidant. Its action is even more effective when combined with other carotenoids such as vitamin E or beta-carotene. However, Astaxanthin's most impressive and striking feature is its protection from the negative effects of sunlight, making it an unrivaled ally for the skin in summer.
Obviously, you shouldn't be in the sun excessively when the radiation is too strong. But adding astaxanthin will allow you to better prepare your skin from the inside out for the oxidative stress associated with sun exposure.
In regions where solar radiation is extremely intense, the use of astaxanthin helps to reduce the risk of sunburn and protect the skin from UVA rays, one of the main factors contributing to skin aging and diseases.
Regarding the beneficial effects of astaxanthin on the eyes, studies have shown its effectiveness in the prevention and treatment of age-related macular degeneration, cataracts and eye fatigue.
Japanese researchers have gone further in their research in this area. They believe that astaxanthin may be effective in fighting eye fatigue by providing better blood supply to the retina.
Astaxanthin is a unique nutrient. But there is a problem ... Is it enough to eat salmon to take advantage of its health benefits?
Astaxanthin is used in aquatic animals to improve coloration. But it is synthetic astaxanthin, made in the petrochemical industry solely for commercial purposes (to give the salmon pink color).
As a result, the concentration of synthetic astaxanthin in the meat of farmed salmon does not exceed 5 mg / kg. The recommended daily intake of astaxanthin in most scientific publications is 4 mg, which equates to an intake of 800 g of farmed salmon. This is a lot, and even too much, considering that the meat of farmed salmon is subject to increasing contamination of chemicals, especially heavy metals.
It would seem wiser to use supplements to reach the recommended daily intake.
Which dietary supplement to choose?
Astaxanthin's special properties have been appreciated by many manufacturers in the food industry, lured by the incredible explosion in demand worldwide. There are millions of astaxanthin-containing products currently sold.
Correct Astaxanthin supplementation must meet three main criteria to be aware of before purchasing:
1. It must be from a natural source! Start by looking for natural astaxanthin, produced by the microalgae Haematococcus pluvialis. This form of astaxanthin is most effective, and human studies have not shown any side effects associated with its use.
2. Good quality astaxanthin must go through complex and costly processes. This is very technical knowledge, but suffice it to remember that the acquired astaxanthin must undergo supercritical CO 2 extraction: this process allows processing at a low temperature, which guarantees the preservation of active ingredients very similar to their prototype. This type of extraction also allows the extraction of 100% natural and biological extract.
3. According to most recommendations, an effective supplement should be 4 to 8 mg of astaxanthin per day.