Astaxanthin improves exercise performance, helps brain function and protects the skin*

Astaxanthin improves exercise performance in endurance athletes

During short-term exercise, the body first burns carbs for fuel, but during long-term exercise, the body depletes carb stores and starts to burn body fat. Doctors said that astaxanthin, the bright red carotenoid in salmon and shrimp, increases muscle enzymes that help convert fat to energy. To test this theory, 14 competitive cyclists took 4 mg of astaxanthin per day or a placebo. After 28 days, the bikers fasted and rode for two hours to deplete stored carbs, and then took a 12-mile time trial. The astaxanthin group completed the trial much faster than the placebo group. 


Fatty acids help brain function

Omega-3 and omega-6 polyunsaturated fatty acids and the antioxidant asthaxanthin helped improve memory and attention and delay mental decline (cognitive impairment) in two new studies. Japanese researchers gave 21 patients with mild cognitive impairment (average age 68; 9 females and 12 males) a 240 mg combination of omega-3 (docosahexaenoic acid or DHA) and omega-6 (arachidonic acid or ARA) fatty acids plus 0.96 mg of astaxanthin in six 40.16 mg capsules per day or a placebo for 90 days.

Ten of the subjects had prior brain injury—lesions due to hemorrhage or trauma—and eight had been diagnosed with early Alzheimer’s disease (AD). The scientists measured mental function at the start and end of the study and found that brain injury patients who had taken the supplements had significantly improved immediate and delayed memory and significantly increased attention, while AD patients who had taken supplements, and those in the placebo group, had not improved significantly. Doctors said the results suggest that omega-3, omega-6 and asthaxanthin can improve cognitive function in the aged and in those with brain lesions. 

In October 2006, Swedish researchers reporting in the Archives of Neurology randomly gave 174 AD patients with very mild, or mild or moderate cognitive impairment 1,700 mg of DHA plus 600 mg of eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) per day or a placebo for six months. When researchers measured results for the entire group, there were no significant differences between treatment and placebo. However, in a subset of 32 AD patients with very mild cognitive impairment, those who had taken omega-3s had significantly less mental decline compared to those who had taken the placebo. After six months, the entire placebo group switched to the omega-3 treatment and all participants continued for a second six month period. Doctors found that those with very mild cognitive impairment who had switched to omega-3 from placebo had significantly less mental decline in the second six month period compared to the first six months.


Astaxanthin may protect against dementia

In those with dementia, free radicals cause a harmful chemical build-up in red blood cells. Doctors in one study said that astaxanthin, a powerful red-yellow carotenoid antioxidant, helps prevent this build-up. Thirty healthy adults, aged 50 to 69, took 6 mg or 12 mg of astaxanthin per day or a placebo. After 12 weeks, compared to placebo, both astaxanthin groups had less harmful chemical build-up and higher levels of astaxanthin in red blood cells.


Astaxanthin aids healthy fats

Astaxanthin, the carotenoid antioxidant responsible for the color in most fish, kept healthy fats from deteriorating in the blood in a new study. Doctors from the Research Institute of Public Health at the University of Kuopio in Finland recruited 40 healthy non-smoking Finnish men with an average age of 24.4 and normal weight (average body mass index 23.8), who took 8 mg of astaxanthin in two 4 mg doses per day for three months. Scientists measured two types of toxic fatty acids that form in the blood when good polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs) break down and oxidize. The bad oxidized fats, plasma 12- and 15-hydroxyl fatty acids, were significantly lower in the astaxanthin group compared to the placebo group after three months. Blood levels of astaxanthin also increased in men who had taken astaxanthin compared with those in the placebo group, and men who took astaxanthin reported no stomach upset, intestinal discomfort or any other side effects.

The researchers believe that PUFAs oxidize easily and that astaxanthin appears to protect these beneficial fats in the blood. Oxidized fats can degrade low-density lipoprotein (LDL, the “bad” cholesterol) allowing LDL to attach more easily to, and accumulate on, the linings of the arteries, damaging cells and leading to blood vessel and heart disease. Unlike other carotenoids, astaxanthin does not convert to vitamin A in the body and does not appear to be toxic at higher levels, as is vitamin A. The doctors concluded that astaxanthin may decrease toxic fats in the blood of healthy men.


Astaxanthin improves blood-fat profiles

Astaxanthin raised good cholesterol levels, lowered triglyceride fats, and helped regulate metabolism and belly fat in those with normal to high blood-fat levels, a new study reveals. Doctors in a blood-fat study said that astaxanthin, the natural pink pigment in salmon and other foods, is a much more powerful antioxidant than other carotenoids. Over three months, 61 people with normal to high triglyceride levels took astaxanthin in doses of 6 mg, 12 mg, 18 mg per day, or a placebo. At the end of the study, compared to placebo, those who took 6 mg and 12 mg of astaxanthin had much higher levels of HDL, the “good” cholesterol, and those in the 12 mg and 18 mg groups had much lower triglyceride levels. Blood levels of adiponectin, a hormone that discourages belly fat and helps regulate metabolism, also rose in the 12 mg and 18 mg astaxanthin groups, doctors said.


Astaxanthin helps protect and defend the skin 

In a lab study, researchers exposed skin cells to moderate UVA light after treating half the cells with the antioxidant astaxanthin 24 hours prior. The astaxanthin-treated cells had healthier membranes, more antioxidant activity and survived in greater numbers than untreated cells. Astaxanthin is a carotenoid, a colorful pigment found in fish such as salmon and shrimp. 

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