This antioxidant can be helpful in macular degeneration and boosting immune function. It is not made by the body so has to be taken in.
What is astaxanthin?
It is similar to beta-carotene but a slight difference in the structure, and causes a radical difference in biological activity. It is ten times stronger than beta-carotene and up to 500 times stronger than vitamin E as an antioxidant. Unique aspects of the astaxanthin structure allow it to pass the "blood brain barrier", meaning it can deliver antioxidant activity benefits directly to the brain, eyes and nervous system.
This fat-soluble carotenoid is found in the red yeast Phaffia rhodozyma, used in Asian cooking. It is also produced by the algae Haematococcus and accumulates in the muscles of salmon, shrimp, trout and other pink seafood when they eat this algae, which is what gives them their pink hue.
How it works
Astaxanthin kills free radicals in your body, staving off age related diseases like macular degeneration, by preventing these unstable molecules from damaging your cells according to Timothy Maher Ph.D. It also boosts the functioning of your immune system by increasing the number and activity of T cells and macrophages, two kinds of protective cells that fight infection and cancer. Unlike other antioxidants, astaxanthin is available both within and without the cell wall which allows it to fight free radicals both inside and outside the cell wall.
Certain carotenoids have been shown to help protect the retina of the eye from oxidative damage. The lens of the eye focuses incoming light onto the photosensitive retina, which then transmits visual signals to the brain. In the central area of the retina lies the macula, which has the highest density of photoreceptors that provides visual acuity. Oxidation, as from sunlight exposure, degrades the retinal membranes and likely leads to damage or destruction of photoreceptor cells.
A recent study indicates that astaxanthin is able to cross the blood retinal barrier and exert antioxidant effects to stop retinal destruction by staving off light induced oxidation and protect photoreceptors from degeneration.
How to take it
Take in pill form from 2-5mg per day for a therapeutic dose. Eat pink seafood like salmon which are food sources. No adverse effects have been reported by people consuming astaxanthin, whether in pill, in yeast or seafood.
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