Astaxanthin — pronounced “as-ta-ZAN-thin” — is a natural compound known as a “carotenoid” that is commonly derived from algae.
It is a uniquely potent antioxidant that provides powerful immune support and a wide range of anti-aging benefits.
Astaxanthin can be consumed orally and also “fed” to skin in topical forms.
Antioxidants, Free-Radicals, and Oxidative Stress
Before diving into astaxanthin and its powerful benefits, it’s important to understand the relationship between free radicals and antioxidants — and how carotenoids in particular can help your body stay healthy.
Free radicals are single-oxygen molecules with an uneven number of electrons. Because of this, they can react with other molecules, damage them, and cause a chain reaction. This process is called “oxidation.”
Antioxidants prevent free-radicals from damaging other molecules by neutralizing the single-oxygen atoms before they can damage other molecules by giving them an extra electron.
Both antioxidants and free radicals exist in the body, and oxidation is a natural process that’s supposed to happen… but in moderation.
However, when you have too many free radicals and not enough antioxidants, free radicals can start damaging fatty tissue, proteins, and DNA.
The oxidative stress caused by too many free radicals leads to a variety of health risks, including heart disease and cancer, as well as accelerating the aging process.
This is where carotenoids come into play.
Carotenoids are plant-based chemicals that are activated by photosynthesis. In plants, they help convert light into energy and have powerful antioxidant properties that help fight free radicals. There are over 600 different types of carotenoids, including beta carotene, lycopene, and of course, astaxanthin.
Carotenoids can’t be produced by the human body on its own, though.
To unlock the powerful antioxidant and immunity benefits of carotenoids — such as the powerful astaxanthin — you need to either consume them orally or “feed” them to your skin.
What is Astaxanthin?
Astaxanthin is a reddish pigment found in algae that many consider the “king of the carotenoids.”
Compared to other carotenoids, astaxanthin is 550 times more effective antioxidant than vitamin E and is nearly 6,000 times stronger than vitamin C when it comes to boosting the immune system.
Studies show that when compared to other carotenoids like beta carotene, lycopene, and lutein, astaxanthin has higher antioxidant power and is one of the best sources for protecting your cells by reducing oxidative stress.
Where Does Astaxanthin Come From?
Astaxanthin occurs naturally in the algae, haematococcus pluvialis.
It is also present in some sea animals, such as salmon, trout, lobster, and shrimp. In fact, astaxanthis is what gives these creatures their pink or red coloring.
(Interestingly, a diet high in the algae containing astaxanthin is also what gives flamingos their color.)
Pluvialis algae have the highest amount of astaxanthin available. In fact, 3 percent of their total mass is purely astaxanthin. This is the only source that has been approved by the FDA as a safe source of dietary astaxanthin.
A popular red yeast, known as phaffia rhodozyma, is also a viable source, but the astaxanthin content is much lower.
Synthetic astaxanthin is also available but is primarily used to produce food coloring and for fish feed. NOTE that the synthetic version is also known to be 20 times less effective in eliminating free radicals.
How to Take Astaxanthin
If you’re looking to add the fantastic antioxidant benefits of this king of carotenoids, you have a few several options:
Hard to Get from Foods
If you’re looking to supplement your diet with foods rich in astaxanthin, you may be disappointed.
Wild sockeye salmon has the most astaxanthin versus any other common food with approximately 26–38 mg/kg flesh. This is compared to farmed Atlantic salmon, which has almost 6–8 mg/kg flesh.
However, you’d better love salmon. You’d need to eat 165 grams of salmon every day to get just 3.6mg of astaxanthin.
Choose Organic in a Dietary Supplement
Because it’s challenging to get a sufficient amount of astaxanthin from foods to reap the benefits, many people take astaxanthin supplements.
Always be sure to choose a dietary supplement providing organic astaxanthin because of the potential toxin concerns with non-organic versions. In addition, synthetic astaxanthin provides significantly less benefits. In fact, synthetic astaxanthin is 20 times less potent than natural, organic astaxanthin, making it less effective in eliminating free radicals.
Exceptional for Topical Application to the Skin
Because of its powerful anti-aging capabilities, astaxanthin is an increasingly popular ingredient in finer skincare products.
Because your skin literally “eats” the astaxanthin (and other ingredients whose molecules are small enough to penetrate the skin), here, too, it is important to choose skincare products that are USDA Certified Organic.
This means they won’t feed your skin any unhealthy chemicals, such as parabens or “fragrance” (which can contain any of 3000 different chemicals in the US).
In skincare products, look for organic astaxanthin extract that is sourced from red algae.
Top 9 Health Benefits of Astaxanthin
1. Fights Osteoarthritis
Our joints rely on the balance between building new cartilage cells when the current ones begin to deteriorate. As we age, this balance shifts to where we aren’t able to keep up with rebuilding new cells when the old ones die off.
Osteoarthritis occurs when there aren’t enough new cells to replace the ones that are being degraded, and so our joints become stiff, painful, and inflamed.
Studies have shown that astaxanthin can not only help maintain the balance between new and deteriorating cartilage cells, but it may also reduce inflammation in joints plagued by arthritis and in some cases, stop cartilage cells from deteriorating at all.
Astaxanthin may slow osteoarthritis progression and address symptoms, giving you a better quality of life as you age.
2. Combats UV-Induced Skin Aging
One of the main benefits that astaxanthin has is its ability to protect cells from sun radiation, UV-light, and oxidation. It’s the exact reason why algae produce astaxanthin.
UV-rays cause skin deterioration and for accelerating the aging process. Consuming astaxanthin — orally or via skin application — may stall the aging process and protect against UV-induced skin aging.
A 2018 study looked at moisture retention after UV exposure in subjects who were given 4mgs of astaxanthin versus those who were given a placebo. Results indicated that there was a significant difference between the two groups and that those who took astaxanthin showed marked moisture retention and less damage to their skin after the equivalent of 1.5 hours in the sun.
In short, astaxanthin is one of nature’s “superstars” for helping you look younger longer.
3. May Help Retain Cognitive Function in Early-Stage Dementia & Alzheimer’s
Astaxanthin supplementation may help folks dealing with the mild cognitive impairments characteristic of early-stage dementia and Alsheimer’s.
Research has shown that oxidative stress may play a part in the progression of cognitive impairments, and supplementing with antioxidants may help since our oxidative capacities change as we age.
In a 2018 study, researchers performed a clinical trial looking at the effects of astaxanthin on subjects with mild-cognitive function early-stage dementia. Results concluded that there were significant improvements in cognitive functions related to the ability to understand and complete complex tasks quickly and accurately.
4. Combats Mental Fatigue
Brain exhaustion… feeling drained… having a foggy brain…
Mental fatigue goes by many names, and it can put a serious damper on productivity, relationships, and overall quality of life.
A recent study showed that astaxanthin may help people recover more quickly from mental fatigue.
5. Reverses the Appearance of Wrinkles & Crow’s Feet
Not only can astaxanthin help you prevent damage from UV rays, it may also reverse signs of aging such as wrinkles, crow’s feet, and age spots.
Several studies showed that both oral consumption and topical application of astaxanthin resulted in significant improvements in the appearance of wrinkles and crow’s feet in men and women over 8 weeks.
Improvements in terms of reducing the appearance of age spots and helping the skin retain more moisture were also observed.
6. Helps Manage Diabetes
Astaxanthin may help people with type-2 diabetes lower blood pressure and improve the metabolism of sugar. In a 2018 study, researchers found that patients increased their HDL cholesterol (that’s the good one!), reduced blood pressure, and actually improved the metabolism of sugars.
7. Combats Menopause Symptoms
Menopause comes with a range of symptoms that can include hot flashes, depression, anxiety, panic attacks, mood swings, incontinence, bloating, and joint pain.
A 2010 study took a group of menopausal women and treated them with a combination of vitamins and supplements that included astaxanthin. They found that the women reported a significant reduction in 34 menopausal symptoms, including hot flashes, mood swings, bladder problems, and joint pain.
Many of these symptoms, such as hot flashes, are often associated with high levels of cortisol and oxidative stress. By adding the “king of carotenoids,” astaxanthin, to your supplemental routine, you can address the amount of oxidative stress that your body is dealing with, helping to mitigate the symptoms frequently connected with menopause.
8. May Reduce Risk of Heart Disease
Heart disease is the number one cause of death in the United States. Excessive LDL cholesterol, high blood pressure, and oxidative stress can all lead to a heart disease diagnosis.
In 2006, a study revealed that astaxanthin may improve the thickness and elasticity of the walls of the arteries. This can help regulate blood pressure and, by strengthening the arterial walls, prevent hypertension-induced heart failure.
In another study back in 2000, researchers found that after two weeks of supplementing with astaxanthin, subjects showed reduced blood oxidation and improved clotting time.
9. May Activate the Longevity Gene FOXO3
FOXO3 is among the few genes associated with human longevity that have been consistently replicated.
In other words, when activated in the body, FOXO3 may help you live longer. By some estimates, though, only one in three humans actually have this gene activated in their bodies.
So, here is perhaps the most exciting news of all…
Astaxanthin has shown its ability to activate FOXO3 in mice, and while research for further confirmation in human clinical trials is still ongoing, the potential is very promising.
“All of us have the FOXO3 gene, which protects against aging in humans,” said Dr. Bradley Willcox, MD, Professor and Director of Research at the Department of Geriatric Medicine, JABSOM, and Principal Investigator of the National Institutes of Health-funded Kuakini Hawaii Lifespan and Healthspan Studies. “But about one in three persons carry a version of the FOXO3 gene that is associated with longevity. By activating the FOXO3 gene common in all humans, we can make it act like the “longevity” version. Through this research, we have shown that Astaxanthin “activates” the FOXO3 gene,” said Willcox.
“We found a nearly 90% increase in the activation of the FOXO3 “Longevity Gene” in the mice fed the higher dose of the Astaxanthin compound CDX-085,” added Dr. Richard Allsopp, PhD, Associate Professor, and researcher with the JABSOM Institute of Biogenesis Research.
Very promising indeed!
The “Age-Defying Dream Cream” with Astaxanthin
If you want to quickly erase your skin’s visible signs of aging — such as fine lines, wrinkles,”turkey neck,” age spots, and “crepe-papery looking skin” — consider the USDA Certified Organic Age-Defying Dream Cream from Purity Woods.
The Age-Defying Dream Cream provides you astaxanthin sourced from organic red algae…
…Along with over 25 of nature’s other premier ingredients for your smoothest, most vibrant, youngest-looking skin.