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Astaxanthin: Power Antioxidant

male chef holding up a piece of salmon
January 30, 2015 (Updated: August 16, 2018)
Lily Moran

Astaxanthin (asta-ZAN-thin) is the compound responsible for the pink or red pigment in shrimp, lobster, crab, and salmon—and the yellow and orange coloration of many plants, where its light absorption characteristics play a role in photosynthesis (and help our eyes—more on that later).

Astaxanthin is one of the 600-some compounds known as carotenoids.  Many of them have proven health benefits—and astaxanthin is considered the king of them all. It is believed to play a role in the amazing strength shown by wild salmon during their long swim upstream—up to 1,000 miles—to make more salmon.

What makes astaxanthin such a super antioxidant?  Well, a 2007 study of today’s more common antioxidants found astaxanthin to be:

  • 6,000 times stronger than vitamin C
  • 800 times stronger than CoQ10
  • 550 times stronger than green tea catechins
  • 75 times stronger than alpha lipoic acid

That alone gives astaxanthin its regal title as “king of the carotenoids.”  But there’s much more.

This King Has Many Powers

Unlike other antioxidants, including beta carotene, selenium and vitamins E, C and D, astaxanthin never becomes unstable, or “pro-oxidant” when its powers as an antioxidant are exhausted.

But in addition to its antioxidant powers, astaxanthin is…

A powerful anti-inflammatory and pain reliever, neutralizing various pain-causing chemicals in your body and reducing the inflammatory compounds that drive many chronic diseases. It’s as powerful as some prescription pain relievers, but 100 percent natural—no concerns about intestinal bleeding or other undesirable or dangerous side effects.

An effective fatigue reducer, helping our muscles recover after exercise, while improving endurance, boosting strength and increasing energy (remember the salmon?)

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A multi-tasking eye-saver, helping to slow diabetic retinopathy and macular degeneration, reducing eye strain and eye fatigue and improving our ability to see fine detail.  (The light absorption characteristics I mentioned in plant photosynthesis play a role here.  Amazing, isn’t it?)

A cell cleanser with the unique ability to become part of every cell in our bodies, protecting the entire cell against damaging, age-accelerating free radicals.

A skin beautifier and sun-screener that—remarkably—does from the inside what expensive topical skin treatments do (or claim to) from the outside. Helping to balance our skin’s moisture levels, increase skin smoothness, firmness, and elasticity, while reducing fine wrinkles, spots or freckles.  And it not only protects your skin from harmful UV rays, it eases the inflammation caused by those rays if you do happen to burn—again, from the inside.

A possible breakthrough Alzheimer’s/dementia/Parkinson’s treatment. A study in the British Journal of Nutrition found that just 6 mg or 12 mg of astaxanthin daily, for just 12 weeks, reduced the levels of a harmful brain-signaling compound by a remarkable 40 percent and 50 percent, respectively. Many of us in the medical community now see astaxanthin as a possible cure or even a preventive for dementia, Alzheimer’s, and Parkinson’s. Let’s hope.

Where you can find Astaxanthin

Our role model, the super-strong wild Pacific salmon, has the highest concentration of astaxanthin of all natural sources. The bright red krill algae, on which they feed, are not far behind.

If you’re fortunate enough to have access to, and then want to eat, around 12 ounces of wild-caught Pacific salmon every day, you’d be just over 6 mg of astaxanthin per day—the minimum dosage offering the greatest beneficial effects.

But if you’re not planning to eat that much salmon every day (and I don’t blame you), look for astaxanthin supplements. They’re on the market.

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