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Astaxanthin is pronounced – ass . tah . zann . thin. It is a highly potent antioxidant that is a powerful free radical scavenger – put in English it is a nutritional substance that can protect the body from daily toxins both outside the body and from within the body.
Astaxanthin has been around for thousands if not millions of years. It is produced by the algae Haematococcus pluvialis (H. pluvialis) and can be found in the sea and floating on ponds. Ultraviolet light which can damage the algae causes it to produce astaxanthin which protects the algae from sun damage and turns it a red colour. The red colour is the astaxanthin. Crayfish, crabs, krill, lobsters, salmon, shrimp and trout all owe their colour to astaxanthin. It is a carotenoid which means it is in the same group as vitamin A and beta-carotene.
The highest quality astaxanthin is sourced from H.pluvialis as opposed to synthetic astaxanthin which does not have as wider an application as the naturally sourced version.
It is both a potent antioxidant and anti-inflammatory agent when ingested by humans.
Antioxidant is a term that has been in the popular health vocabulary for many years now. But what is an antioxidant? Where are they found in the body and what do they do? Why are they so important?
The word literally means “against oxidation.” Antioxidants are substances both generated by the body and ingested via the diet that can help prevent the damaging effects of oxidation. They are found in every cell of the body and in some cases floating in the fluid between cells. Oxidation occurs when a substance takes a part of the structure from another substance to make it stable. It is sort of like robbing Peter to pay Paul.
The most well-known example of this is when a copper statue turns green over time. Here oxygen is interacting with the copper. Oxygen removes part of copper’s structure, in this case an electron, so that over time it loses its coppery colour. The Statue of Liberty was originally a bronze colour but over the years has turned green due to oxidation.
Oxidation in the body operates along a very similar principle except that the electron that is stolen normally comes from much needed body tissues. Specifically they rob your cells of parts of their protective walls. This can happen during your body’s natural metabolic processes, with strenuous exercise, with excess drinking, smoking, eating, drug taking, with injury, with stress, and believe it or not even with strenuous over thinking.
The body’s own metabolic processes of converting food into energy, breathing and cellular respiration, maintenance and repair can also produce a number of substances known as “free radicals” that can produce oxidation damage as well.
Short term damage as in sunburn or pulling a muscle can normally be handled by the body, but when oxidation damage occurs over a long period of time such as stress, bad diet, drinking, chronic injury, sun damage etc – then it can lead to tissue damage which can lead to disease.
Oxidants left unchecked can even damage the DNA inside your cell.
So an antioxidant is either a substance made by your body or ingested via food that can help the cells in your body withstand the ravages of life. Essentially it allows some of itself to be sacrificed to the oxidation rather than your body tissues.
Without them it has been conjectured that humans will age faster than they have to.
Enter Astaxanthin – one of the most powerful antioxidants currently known. It has over a thousand peer reviewed studies on it and can now be found in over-the-counter supplements.
It has one of the highest ORAC ratings of all the antioxidants. ORAC stands for Oxygen Radical Absorbance Capacity
It measures how much an antioxidant could prevent oxidation.
Have a look at the diagram below:
The diagram clearly shows how much more potent an antioxidant natural astaxanthin is
What makes astaxanthin so special is that it seems to shoot to the top of the class? Research shows it has a special property that not many other antioxidants have.
Its molecular structure means that it lies across the entire cross-section of the cell wall of all your body tissues. No other antioxidant does this. They either sit in the middle or on the edges, which means that they can only ever protect a portion of the cell wall rather than the whole structure. Astaxanthin protects the whole structure of the cell wall.
Every cell in your body is like a little house unto itself, and just like the house you live in if the walls get damage, worn, broken then unwanted elements and creatures can get in. If the walls get too badly damaged in your house then it will cease to be liveable, likewise the cell with a damaged cell wall will cease to function as cell or function below its optimum.
Astaxanthin can repair cell walls and ingested daily can act to prevent cell wall damage.
Astaxanthin has a reputation for decreasing the recovery time when it comes to strenuous exercise. The mode of action is unknown but it seems that strenuous exercise damages muscle fibres which of course damages muscle cell walls.
And here is another aspect to astaxanthin – it helps increase the speed to repairing damage. While not clear how it works it appears to reduce “oxidative stress.” This occurs when body tissues are placed under great stress.
Inflammation creates a big biochemical mess which needs a lot of energy and attention from the body to clean it up. Astaxanthin can help by taking over some of the role and of course act as an antioxidant. With inflammation comes a lot of oxidation.
Research also shows that it lowers CRP (C-reactive protein), a biological marker of inflammation. The lower the CRP the less inflammation is in the body. An eight week double-blind clinical trial was conducted on rheumatoid arthritis subjects. The different groups received astaxanthin, vitamin A, vitamin E and a placebo. The astaxanthin group scored significantly better than the placebo group.
Oxidation may damage the walls of the large and small blood vessels servicing the heart. This damage can lead to inflammation which in turn can affect the supply of blood to the heart. Astaxanthin has been shown to reduce a number of biochemical markers associated with heart disease and could have a positive impact on cholesterol levels.
Oxidative stress in overweight and obese people is increased. A lot of this is due to the joints and tissues bearing more weight than the body was designed to cope with. The oxidative stress in these individuals can also set up chronic diseases later in life, mostly through low level inflammation. Astaxanthin will help reduce the incidence of this.
While not conclusive astaxanthin seems to have an ability to help relieve eye strain and eye tiredness, especially for those working at computers. Japanese researchers found that an intake of 6mg of astaxanthin taken consistently improved visual sharpness – even in healthy subjects.
If you have any of the above, then yes you do. If you don’t then you still need to take it. Why?
Check out the diagram above. Study it for a few seconds and ask yourself if any of these apply to you?
Even if you only have one of these in your life, there is a great chance that you need a powerful antioxidant like astaxanthin to help protect your body.
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