Whole Body Benefits of Astaxanthin
By: Courtney Sperlazza, MPH
September 10, 2017
Astaxanthin is one of the most powerful antioxidants on the planet. A bright red compound that comes from algae, it’s what gives wild salmon flesh it’s bright red-orange color.
What can an algae molecule do for you, and how can you get it without resorting to a diet of plankton? Read on to learn about the benefits of astaxanthin, from head to toe.
Astaxanthin can improve eyesight
Not everyone is bound for bifocals. With the right nutrition and protection, you can avoid glasses well into your middle and old age. Astaxanthin is a great place to start.
Astaxanthin, along with powerhouse antioxidants lutein and zeaxanthin, slow and reverse age-related eye degeneration. They also improve vision by reducing glare and blur, which balances contrast.
Astaxanthin defends against another big assault to your eyes: blue light. Between the fluorescent lights from the office to the grocery store and the blue light emanating from your many screened devices, there’s junk light in your face all day. Astaxanthin deposits in the eyes to absorb blue light, which protects your eye cells from oxidative stress.
It keeps skin tight and reduces wrinkles
Astaxanthin helps you see like a young person and look like a young person. In human cell samples, astaxanthin put the brakes on a cascade of reactions caused by UVA rays, which suggests it keeps skin tight and reduces wrinkles. You can take it internally or you can get topical astaxanthin and put it exactly where you want it.
After just 8 weeks of supplementation, astaxanthin:
- Decreased the appearance of wrinkles
- Decreased the size of age spots
- Improved moisture retention
- Improved skin’s elasticity
Salmon turn pink because they get a ton of astaxanthin from plankton. When you consume astaxanthin, you become more resistant to turning pink – from the sun. It’s like an inside-out sunscreen, especially if you’re prone to sunburns. Astaxanthin accumulates in every layer of the skin to protect your skin from burns and sun damage.
It protects your brain and nervous system
Research on the human brain has its limitations. Sampling brain tissue is way too risky in living subjects for obvious reasons, and it’s difficult to isolate causes and effects in the brain after death because there are so many factors that can contribute to the condition of the cells. Even cells removed from living tissue can behave differently than living cells in the body.
Animal studies help us understand what brain cells do in highly controlled conditions, and researchers were able to isolate the effects of astaxanthin in a number of situations.
Animal research on astaxanthin shows astaxanthin’s potential to:
- Slow cognitive decline from brain aging
- Increase BDNF, a growth factor that grows new brain cells and helps the existing ones survive
- Prevent brain swelling after head injury
- Protect brain cells from damage from toxins
- Prevent oxidative damage from drops in blood supply and oxygen to the brain
- Improve mental performance after stroke
- Improve brain blood flow and memory in dementia patients 
It supports your cardiovascular system
Your heart and lungs love antioxidants. Oxidative stress and inflammation contribute to plaque buildup in the arteries, and astaxanthin supplements decrease both of these problems.
For maintenance, astaxanthin:
- Improves blood flow
- Decreases blood pressure
- Protects against blood clotting 
- Improves LDL cholesterol
- Improves lipid counts
- Decreases oxidative stress
- In animal studies, an astaxanthin-derived compound protected the heart from damage from heart attacks
Think of mitochondria as microscopic power plants in each of your cells. They produce energy as ATP, the form that cells use to power every process your body carries out.
Anything that helps your mitochondria will boost your overall energy at a cellular level. Astaxanthin enhances overall mitochondrial energy production, which improves every function in your body.
Not only does astaxanthin help your mitochondria work better, it also protects them. Astaxanthin strengthens cell membranes, locking out harmful free radicals. If reactive oxygen species do cross the membrane, astaxanthin continues to protect mitochondria by reducing oxidative stress.
How to get astaxanthin into your diet
Eat your salmon
Because wild salmon eat a lot of plankton, they get loads of astaxanthin from their natural diets. Sockeye salmon contains the most astaxanthin because they eat a diet that consists of almost all astaxanthin-rich plankton. Stay away from farmed salmon. Amontg other issues, they eat a pellet diet that contains synthetic astaxanthin derived from petrochemicals.
Astaxanthin supplements come in several forms, and not all have the same potent properties.
Here’s what to know before you pick up a supplement:
- Krill oil. Krill oil is marketed as an omega-3 source, but astaxanthin is an even better reason to take it. Get two for one with a high-quality krill oil supplement
- Astaxanthin tablets. Read the label to find out if these are krill-derived or if they come from the astaxanthin-rich algae.
- Carotenoid complexes. Astaxanthin is often bundled with other carotenoids for a powerful antioxidant punch. Again, check the source of astaxanthin to make sure it’s not lab-created.
- Synthetic astaxanthin. Don’t take fake astaxanthin. It’s made with petrochemicals and doesn’t have the same properties as natural astaxanthin.
Since you probably won’t be eating salmon every day, finding a quality astaxanthin supplement like krill oil or a carotenoid complex with astaxanthin will give you a steady dose of amazing benefits.
Worried about safety? Don’t be. Study after study shows the safety of taking astaxanthin regularly. It’s one of the easiest ways to strengthen your eyes, skin, brain, and to energize every cell in your body.
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