Saturday, July 18, 2009
As Americans swelter in the summer sun it is helpful to know about astaxanthin, the carotenoid that blocks ultra violet damage to the skin. Astaxanthin has been referred to as nature's sunscreen, while it does the most to foster health when ingested, making it a valuable nutritional supplement. It helps clear fine lines and wrinkles, promotes skin elasticity and moisture content, and reduces inflammation and cell damage that can lead to premature aging. Recent research has documented the ability of astaxanthin to increase cellular energy, protect against and treat cancer, protect against damage to the brain and nervous system, and halt the progression of complications from diabetes. Astaxanthin is one of many powerful micronutrients found in algaes and seaweeds that offer amazing health benefits.
People who study health and nutrition have been impressed by the properties of the blue green pigment in marine microalgae, and have recognized spirulina blue-green algae and chlorella as superfoods. These algaes contain immune boosting selenium and other cancer-busting compounds. Their high chlorophyll content makes them great cleansing and alkalizing additions to one's diet. Another microalgae, with the scientific name Haematococcus pluvialis, contains primarily dark red pigment. This pigment is the richest known source of the carotenoid astaxanthin. Only phytoplankton, algae, plants, and certain bacteria and fungi are able to synthesize carotenoids such as astaxanthin. Animals, including humans, must consume carotenoids as part of their diet. Astaxanthin is found in many types of seafood and it gives the reddish-orange color to salmon, shrimp, red fish, and lobster.
Scientists in Rome, Italy compared the abilities of various carotenoids to modulate UVA (ultraviolet light) related injury. Fibroblasts from skin were exposed to moderate doses of UVA, which stimulated cell death, increased levels of free radicals and other reactive substances, decreased antioxidant enzymes activities, and promoted membrane disturbance and enzyme denaturing of hemoglobin. The fibroblasts were treated with carotenoids including astaxanthin 24 hours before exposure to UVA. Of the carotenoids tested, only astaxanthin exhibited a pronounced photoprotective effect and countered all of the UVA induced alterations to a significant extent. (Experimental Dermatology, March)
Mitochondria are the cellular power centers where food is turned into energy in the form of ATP. During this process, oxygen is released, producing several oxygen-derived free radicals that play an important role in various diseases. Oxidative stress is a critical factor for many diseases. Scientists in Japan recently found that astaxanthin decreased oxidative stress and protected cultured cells from free radicals. They found that astaxanthin improved the ability of the mitochondria to remain in a reduced state and maintain its functional integrity under oxidative challenge. Astaxanthin is capable of crossing the blood-brain barrier in mammals, a unique and important property for an antioxidant. This characteristic allows astaxanthin to extend its superior antioxidant activity to the central nervous system, which is highly susceptible to damage by free radicals. In a recent study researchers decided that carotenoids such as astaxanthin should be referred to as "antiradicals" rather than as free radical scavengers, since they offer dual forms of protection against free radicals by either donating or accepting electrons. These researchers determined the antiradical capacity of various carotenoids and found that vitamin E is the most effective antiradical in terms of its electron donor capacity, while the most effective antiradical in terms of its electron acceptor capacity is astaxanthin. (Journal of Physical Chemistry, September 25, 2008)
Jed Shlackman, LMHC, C.Ht. is a holistic counselor, hypnotherapist, and energy healer in Miami, FL.
Jed's website is http://www.phinsights.com