Astaxanthin has been a hot topic in the health community for a few years now, though its popularity seems to have wained a little bit lately. Supplementation with astaxanthin may have a number of positive health benefits, including protection against sun damage and reduction of inflammation. In this article I will explore a few of the most important health benefits that have been associated with astaxanthin and discuss why I believe you should very much consider daily supplementation.
*Update 2018: If you are looking for a good quality Astaxanthin supplement, check out my Astaxanthin comparison & review article before you buy!
What is Astaxanthin?
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Astaxanthin is a carotenoid that can be found in salmon, crab, lobster, algae and shrimp. A carotenoid is a colored, fat-soluble pigment. These pigments are what make a ripe tomato look red and a salmon’s meat red/pink.
Astaxanthin does not just give color to certain fish’s flesh and shell, but also supports good health of these animals. It is believed that astaxanthin aides in providing salmon with the muscle endurance (the highest concentration of astaxanthin is found in their muscles) that allows them to swim upstream.
Several studies show that astaxanthin acts as a very powerful antioxidant when consumed by humans. Different from most other antioxidants, astaxanthin never turns into a pro-oxidant – it never becomes an exhausted oxidant.
Numerous astaxanthin benefits that have been indicated by research include: pain relief, better eye health, elevated stamina, body cell protection, sun damage reduction and improved skin health.
What are The Benefits of Astaxanthin?
Reduction of Pain and Inflammation
Astaxanthin has been shown to support pain relief and helps reduce inflammation by blocking body chemicals that cause pain. It also helps reduce inflammatory amalgams that play a big role in a number of chronic diseases.
Astaxanthin has a very similar effect on the human body to certain prescription painkillers, but unlike painkillers, Astaxanthin is a completely natural substance and doesn’t carry any of the risks that go along with painkillers such as addiction, heartburn and gastrointestinal bleeding. Astaxanthin works very much like the painkiller Celebrex (blocking COX 2 enzymes), which is a very popular drug that is often prescribed for rheumatoid arthritis, osteoarthritis and monthly dysmenorrhea.
Astaxanthin also represses C Reactive Protein (CRP), nitric oxide, prostaglandin E2, tumor necrosis factor alpha, and interleukin 1B. One study showed that astaxanthin lowers CRP levels by over 20 percent in 8 weeks, which no drug sold today has managed to accomplish. High CRP levels have been shown to be a strong indicator of heart disease.
Astaxanthin Improves Eye Health
Several human trials indicate that astaxanthin has positive effects on eye health, more specifically on eye fatigue, sharpness of sight, macular degeneration and diabetic retinopathy.
Astaxanthin Improves Stamina
Astaxanthin helps with quicker recovery after exercise. Research indicates that astaxanthin provides higher endurance, better muscle recovery, improved strength and higher energy.
Astaxanthin Aides Cell Clean Up
Astaxanthin is one of the most powerful antioxidants because the carotenoid manages to get into just about every cell of the body and protect it completely. One part of the astaxanthin molecule helps protect the fat-soluble part of a body cell, while the other part shields the water-soluble part, thus protecting the entire cell.
One study indicated that astaxanthin is about 6000 times more powerful than vitamin C, 800 times more powerful than CoQ10 and 550 times more powerful than Vitamin E.
Glowing Skin and Sun Protection From Within
Astaxanthin helps keep your skin healthy and looking good. Your skin is the body’s largest organ and its healthiness is very important for your overall health. A number of studies have shown that astaxanthin can help keep your skin more elastic, moist, smooth and reduce small wrinkles, freckles and sun spots.
Astaxanthin helps protect you from the damage that the sun’s rays can cause to the skin. When you get a sunburn, astaxanthin gets into the damaged skin cells and lessens UV damage.
Astaxanthin helps me combat the small discomforts that are inevitable when leading a very active life and spending a lot of time outdoors. It helps reduce small aches, prevents and soothes sunburn and protects my eyes.
Astaxanthin Side Effects
There are very few side effects that have been correlated with consumption of astaxanthin, even at high dosages. However, there is still a lot of research necessary to be able to ascertain all possible side-effects of astaxanthin.
Before starting to supplement with astaxanthin it is advisable to consult with your physician. If you start supplementing and experience any side-effects you should contact your doctor immediately and stop supplementation. Here are a few precautions to consider before taking astaxanthin.
- Don’t take astaxanthin if your are aware of any allergies to astaxanthin or other related carotenoids such as canthaxanthin or to Haematococcus pluvialis, which is often the source of astaxanthin.
- Be careful if you have a bleeding disorder because astaxanthin may affect this.
- It is possible that astaxanthin lowers your blood sugar levels. Be careful if you suffer from diabetes, hypoglycaemia or take drugs or other supplements that impact blood sugar.
- Astaxanthin could induce low blood pressure.
- If you currently take any medications, consult with your doctor before taking astaxanthin.
- If you are pregnant or trying to get pregnant, consult with your physician before supplementing.
- Use cautiously if you take beta-carotene supplements as astaxanthin may alter beta-carotene conversion.
Recommended dosages of astaxanthin vary from 4 up to 18 milligrams daily, depending on the reason why you are taking the supplement. There is however not much clinical evidence of effective dosages of astaxanthin.
Generally, it is advised to not take more than 12 milligrams per day. I suggest to start with 4 milligrams per day and increase to 8 or 12 if you are not experiencing benefits nor side-effects at the lower dosage.
Best Sources of Astaxanthin
It is very difficult to get a significant dose of astaxanthin by just eating foods high in astaxanthin. Wild Pacific salmon has high astaxanthin levels, but to get a dose of 4 mg you would have to eat more than 6 ounces every single day. While I try to avoid supplements as much as possible, in case of astaxanthin it’s really the only way to consume a significant amount and get all the benefits.
Ninja tip: Get the best quality right away…
When buying astaxanthin supplements make sure that you do your research about how the astaxanthin was harvested, purified and encapsulated and check astaxanthin reviews for the product you intend to buy.
You should look for astaxanthin that is derived from haematococcus pluvialis micro algae because this provides the most stable form of astaxanthin. You can buy astaxanthin at many health stores and pharmacies throughout the country as well as online.
This is my preferred choice, because it is a pure and potent supplement naturally sourced from the Haematococcus pluvialis. It also contains Alpha-Linolenic Acid (ALA) (from Perilla Seed Oil). Even the capsules are made from Tilapia Fish Gelatin. And for the taste Rosemary Leaf Extract has been added, which is a great neutralizer.
You do pay a bit more, for this, but you can be sure of the excellent trusted quality of Dr. Mercola’s product. If you buy a cheap supplement, there is no way to know what you’re actually putting in your system.
Mercola’s Astaxanthin is available on Amazon, go check it out here.