As we’ve discussed in other articles, antioxidants are vitally important to your overall wellness as well as specific areas of concern such as cell protection and fighting free radicals. These compounds are so well known and ubiquitous in the world of prevention and health support that their true nature is often taken for granted—leading to misconceptions about the sources of the strongest antioxidant punch.
Article At A Glance:
Astaxanthin: A Robust Dose of Antioxidants
Performance & Energy
- Astaxanthin strengthens mitochondrial walls
- Astaxanthin increases muscle strength and endurance
- Oxidation causes skin damage
- Astaxanthin works to reduce oxidation and inflammation
- The Heart requires mitochondrial energy to properly function
- Astaxanthin is found in krill oil, which includes its own set of cardiovascular benefits.
- Astaxanthin is able to break through the blood-brain barrier to deliver cognitive support
- Astaxanthin can ward off age-related cognitive decline
A certain orange juice company even took to labeling its product as possessing an “antioxidant advantage”—a claim that suggests the sugary beverage is a supreme source of the free radical-scavenging compound. And while orange juice is indeed an excellent source of vitamin C, itself a prime source of antioxidants, there are more potent options to increase your antioxidant intake.
The key to antioxidants is their ability to quench singlet oxygen activity. Singlet oxygen is a highly reactive molecule that produces free radicals that cause oxidative stress, which can lead to many physiological ailments. As for which nutrient performs the best in this regard? It’s not vitamin C—it’s astaxanthin.
Astaxanthin is the vibrant, red compound naturally present in algae, shellfish, and salmon, and it is what gives krill oil its signature hue. This amazing compound is a carotenoid, a fat-soluble pigment found in flora and fauna that give them a red, yellow, or orange hue. And astaxanthin is an antioxidant powerhouse, delivering benefits across the entire human body, including your skin, cardiovascular system and brain, while also providing much needed energy support. Much of its strength derives from the fact that its ability to fight free radicals is 6,000-times higher than vitamin C.
So, what can the human body do with all of the antioxidant power contained in astaxanthin? Let’s take a look…
Astaxanthin Enables Energy, Performance & Recovery
Go ahead and drink cup after cup of strong coffee, and yet eventually, you’ll still find yourself exhausted and probably with a bellyache. Energy is about more than dragging yourself through the morning or forcing your eyes to remain open during those last few hours of work. Instead, energy encompasses your performance during a regular day or during exercise, along with how well you recover, so you can do it all over again tomorrow.
Your mighty mitochondria are the microscopic power plants inside of your body, generating energy at every turn. Astaxanthin lends an assist and protects your mitochondria by strengthening cell membranes and keeping out free radicals. And should any free radicals breach the mitochondrial wall, astaxanthin works to reduce oxidative stress.
What does this mean for energy? Supporting energy production on a molecular level supports your body’s overall performance.
In fact, a 2013 study suggests that astaxanthin increases muscular strength and endurance by delivering antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties that offset the inflammation, lipid peroxidation, and muscle damage induced by strenuous exercise.
Astaxanthin Is A Skin Care Antioxidant
When we leave fruit out on the kitchen table, it’s a sure bet that it will eventually turn brown, saggy, and unappealing. The main reason this happens is because oxygen—that element that breathes life into us—has a tendency to break down molecules and cause serious damage. Much of the same happens with your skin, but you don’t have to be left out on the kitchen table for it to happen—you just have to age normally.
Since our bodies don’t naturally produce astaxanthin, we have to get it from a variety of marine animals and plants. And that effort is well worth it, as studies show astaxanthin goes deep in terms of antioxidant benefits for our skin. As stated before, astaxanthin boasts potent oxygen-quenching capabilities—as demonstrated in a 2007 study in Carotenoid Science.
In supporting skin care, astaxanthin reduces oxidative stress and inflammation, improves lipid profiles and blood flow, and has been shown to support healthy aging when used as a topical solution. And in one extensive study by the Alternative Medicine Review, the carotenoid is called “clinically diverse,” while boasting real anti-aging benefits.
Astaxanthin Cardiovascular Benefits
Like other muscles in the body, the heart’s well-being has a lot to do with mitochondrial energy delivery, which helps it contract with more power and efficiency. With astaxanthin's efforts in your mitochondria, it’s the perfect pairing.
One of nature’s best sources of astaxanthin is krill oil, which is derived from tiny shrimp found in the Antarctic Ocean. Krill oil is chock full of the same omega-3 fatty acids as the ever-popular fish oil, but with the added boost of astaxanthin. Coupled with krill oil’s higher rate of bioavailability, it’s easy to see why its popularity is on the rise.
When it comes to supporting heart health, the majority of EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) and DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) in krill oil is bound to phospholipids, rather than fat-forming triglycerides. Phospholipids make those fatty acids more absorbable in your body, penetrating your cells easier so that they can get to work. Due to its ability to fight free radicals with antioxidative and anti-inflammatory properties, astaxanthin can play an important role in support of cardiovascular health. The damage caused by oxidative stress has emerged as a key factor in cardiovascular disease, in particular, in situations where plaque builds inside blood vessels.
Then there’s the connection between your heart and your brain. According to research, people who suffer negative cardiovascular events are at risk for cognitive decline caused by a decrease in blood flow to the brain. Animal research in this situation shows a reduction in the rate of such complications, as well as a boost in overall cognitive performance following cardio incidents.
According to research, people who suffer negative cardiovascular events are at risk for cognitive decline caused by a decrease in blood flow to the brain.
Brain & Cognitive Applications of Astaxanthin
When it comes to brain health specifically, astaxanthin exerts a multitude of benefits with its oxidative stress-fighting prowess. The brain is a tricky and complicated organ, mainly because of something called the blood-brain barrier. While this cellular barrier keeps certain agents from breaking into the brain and disturbing neural activity, it can also keep out potentially beneficial nutrients. Part of what makes astaxanthin so special, is that it can break through the blood-brain barrier and go to work as a natural brain food.
This ability to enter the brain enables astaxanthin to slow brain aging and ward off age-related cognitive decline, with astaxanthin defending against the oxidative stress that can lead to neurological conditions associated with aging. One study showed that supplementation with astaxanthin decreased the accumulation of amino acids have been observed in the brains of individuals experiencing cognitive decline.
Astaxanthin: The Power Of Antioxidants
With nearly every imaginable corner of your body netting positive results from antioxidants, making sure you get sufficient amounts every day is key to general health. And as the research shows, astaxanthin has more than earned its nickname as the “King of Carotenoids.”