Every day is a battle against harmful elements, such as free radicals, that pose a threat to your body. They form in response to environmental toxins from cigarette smoke, chemicals, sunlight, pharmaceutical drugs, and even radiation. Fortunately, antioxidants, which come from food or whole food supplements, can destroy these free radicals.
The most common free radical-killing nutrients include vitamins A and C, beta-carotene, and lycopene. However, according to natural health expert Dr. Joseph Mercola, there’s an incredibly potent antioxidant, which possesses free-radical-eliminating capabilities hundreds of times more powerful than any others. It is called astaxanthin.
What Makes Astaxanthin Special?
Astaxanthin belongs to a family of pigments called carotenoids. These pigments provide vibrant colors to foods, such as fruits and vegetables. Scientists have discovered over 700 naturally occurring carotenoids, but most people are only familiar with about 10, such as beta-carotene.
Compared to other carotenoids, astaxanthin has a unique structure and different oxidation-neutralizing capabilities. In order to combat free radicals, antioxidants transfer their free electrons but these quickly become depleted and may not possess the staying power to destroy harmful radicals.
Astaxanthin, on the other hand, has a massive surplus of electrons, allowing it to remain intact. It is more resistant to chemical reactions that break down other nutrients.
Another significant advantage of astaxanthin over other antioxidants is its unique ability to eliminate multiple free radicals at one time. It can also cross the blood-brain barrier and blood-retinal barrier. Because of this, astaxanthin can help protect your brain and eyes. With its powerful antioxidant and anti-inflammatory activities, astaxanthin has gained a super-nutrient status.
How Astaxanthin Supports Your Health
Dr. Mercola says astaxanthin can benefit in cardiovascular, brain, and eye health because of its anti-inflammatory properties. Specifically, it helps:
- Prevent blindness – Age-related macular degeneration is one of the primary causes of blindness in the United States. Research has shown that astaxanthin can accumulate in your retina and provide protection.
- Protect your brain – This antioxidant can help protect neurons in the brain, helping prevent age-related cognitive decline and decline in psychomotor functions. A study found that people who took astaxanthin had lower levels of phospholipid hydroperoxides, which accumulate in people with dementia or age-related forgetfulness. This suggests that astaxanthin may have a beneficial effect against Alzheimer’s disease.
- Promote cardiovascular health – Your heart’s mitochondria membranes benefit from astaxanthin, which helps improve blood flow, regulate blood pressure, and increase your HDL or “good” cholesterol levels, while reducing triglycerides.
Astaxanthin’s anti-inflammatory effects can also help professional and amateur athletes recover from strenuous workouts by:
- Addressing joint pain – Reports show that astaxanthin helps decrease levels of nuclear factor kappa beta, which triggers an inflammatory response, as well as other pro-inflammatory compounds that contribute to inflammation and pain.
- Reducing lactic acid levels – Astaxanthin’s inflammation-reducing effects can help athletes recover from strenuous exercise by reducing lactic acid, an unwanted byproduct of physical activity. The antioxidant can also help athletes improve their athletic performance.
Astaxanthin can also protect you against intense ultraviolet (UV) radiation. The microalgae Haematococcus pluvialis, from which astaxanthin is derived, uses the antioxidant to protect itself from radiation. Dr. Mercola says that consuming this nutrient also has a similar effect and will provide an “internal sunscreen.”
Additionally, astaxanthin can help prevent and treat skin problems associated with photo-aging, such as UV-induced collagen degradation, wrinkles, sunburn, and phototoxicity.
Experience Astaxanthin: Where to Get This Amazing Antioxidant
There are several astaxanthin brands on the market today. Many of these are synthetic, and the same product as is used at fish farms worldwide. Dr. Mercola advises avoiding these completely because they are made from petrochemicals.
Instead, he recommends getting astaxanthin that is sourced from:
- The sea creatures that consume the algae, including salmon, shellfish, and krill. Wild-caught Alaskan salmon to ensure that you are getting fish free of synthetic astaxanthin and other harmful chemicals. They are also 400 times higher in this antioxidant than factory-farmed salmon.
- The microalgae H. pluvialis, which produce the nutrient. If you’re going to take a supplement, make sure that it contains astaxanthin obtained from this microalgae.
Some krill oil supplements also contain astaxanthin. Krill is an effective natural source of beneficial omega-3s. Just check the label to see if the supplement contains a high amount of astaxanthin.
If you are going to try astaxanthin, Dr. Mercola recommends starting with 2 milligrams per day. Athletes can increase the dosage to 8 to 10 milligrams. You can maximize the benefits of astaxanthin by taking it together with a variety of fresh, organic whole foods.
To learn more about this super-nutrient, check out Dr. Mercola’s article “Astaxanthin—Nature’s Most Powerful Antioxidant.”