Vitamin A’s “Secret” Super Cousin
Imagine discovering a substance that helps your body fight DNA damage and supports a stronger immune system. Plus, it helps protect nerve cells, supports heart health and promotes healthy skin and eyes. Now add that it helps keep your arteries clear and can even promote greater male sexual potency.
That would be quite a substance, wouldn’t it?
Well, believe it or not, that amazing substance exists. But there’s a pretty good chance you’ve never heard of it. Most people haven’t.
Today, we’ll discover this remarkable substance – and some of the many ways it can boost your overall health.
More Than Just a Food Coloring
Astaxanthin is best known as a coloring agent. In fact, it’s classified as a food coloring in Europe. But it’s much more.
It’s a carotinoid – a plant pigment closely related to beta-carotene. Like beta-carotene, it’s a powerful antioxidant. But, unlike beta-carotene, your body doesn’t convert it to vitamin A. (Too much vitamin a can be toxic.)
Unlike most other antioxidants, astaxanthin can cross the blood-brain barrier. That makes it available to defend your brain cells. In fact, early studies indicate it may be a powerful antioxidant for brain cells.1
Other studies reveal even more health benefits of astaxanthin:
- At Washington State university, researchers found that women who took astaxanthin showed fewer signs of DNA damage. They also had lower levels of C-reactive protein – an important sign of heart health risk. And they showed higher levels of certain immune defenses, too.2
- In lab studies, astaxanthin has shown 50% more antioxidant activity than vitamin E. Plus, it showed more than 6 times the antioxidant power of beta carotene!3
- Japanese researchers found that astaxanthin promotes clearer arteries and less LDL cholesterol damage.4
- Turkish scientists discovered it supports better eye health in laboratory animals. Retinal cells in animals given astaxanthin survived better under stress.5
- In a Belgian study, men taking astaxanthin experienced a big boost in potency. And not just some of the men. All the men given astaxanthin experienced a boost.6
“So,” your next question may be, “how easy is it to get this wonder nutrient in my diet?”
The Best Sources of Astaxanthin
One reason many people haven’t heard of astaxanthin is that it’s not common in our diets. Other than salmon, there isn’t much astaxanthin in the foods we usually eat.
And salmon contains only very small amounts.
Krill – the source of krill oil – contains about 24 times more astaxanthin than salmon. And arctic shrimp contain about 10 times more than krill.
But the very best source of astaxanthin is a microalgae called Haematococcus pluvialis. H. pluvialis contains about 33 times more astaxanthin than arctic shrimp… or about 8,000 times more astaxanthin than salmon!
The good news is that this microalgae grows easily and poses no known health threats. So we can get plenty of astaxanthin from H. pluvialis. And it’s available as a supplement.
If you decide to give this nutrient a try, be aware… most commercial astaxanthin is synthetic. It’s made from petrochemicals. In other words, oil. So read labels carefully.
Astaxanthin is one of those “up-and-coming” nutrients I’m keeping an eye on. We already know it boosts health in important ways. But we’ve just begun to uncover the health benefits it may offer.
Dr. Kenneth Woliner, M.D.
Best Life Herbals
1 Liu X and Osawa T. Astaxanthin Protects Neuronal Cells against Oxidative Damage and Is a Potent Candidate for Brain Food. Food Factors for Health Promotion. Forum Nutr. Basel, Karger, 2009, vol 61, pp 129–135 (DOI: 10.1159/000212745)
2 Park JS, et al. Astaxanthin decreased oxidative stress and inflammation and enhanced immune response in humans. Nutr Metab (Lond). 2010 Mar 5;7:18.
3 Y. M. A. Naguib . Antioxidant Activities of Astaxanthin and Related Carotenoids. J. Agric. Food Chem., 2000, 48 (4), pp 1150–1154.
4 Iwamoto T, et al. Inhibition of low-density lipoprotein oxidation by astaxanthin. J Atheroscler Thromb. 2000;7(4):216-22.
5 Cort A, et al. Suppressive effect of astaxanthin on retinal injury induced by elevated intraocular pressure. Regul Toxicol Pharmacol. 2010 May 8. [Epub ahead of print]
6 Comhaire FH, et al. Combined conventional/antioxidant “Astaxanthin” treatment for male infertility: a double blind, randomized trial. Asian J Androl. 2005 Sep;7(3):257-62.