What makes the carotenoids from astaxanthin different from, say, carrots? Unlike the beta-carotene in carrots, astaxanthin offers two additional groups of oxygen molecules, giving it the ability to not only trap free radicals, but to stop the damaging free radical chain reactions that lead to disease. Because of this distinctive chemical structure, astaxanthin is elevated to the status of a unique class of carotenoids known as xanthophylls, which offer superior antioxidant capabilities.
Astaxanthin is so potent that studies show it's 10 times more effective than beta-carotene and up to 500 times more effective than vitamin E! In fact, one recent experiment found that astaxanthin showed considerably more antioxidant activity than vitamin E, alpha-carotene, lutein, beta-carotene or lycopene. What's more, not only does astaxanthin "quench" or neutralize free radicals, it works synergistically with other antioxidants such as vitamin C and E, boosting their effectiveness.
Until recently, the only way to get astaxanthin was by consuming foods such as salmon, lobster and shrimp. Unfortunately, since we don't eat these foods every day, our level of this potent antioxidant is often too low to benefit our health. But unpublished research presented at the International Carotenoid Symposium in Cairnes, Australia, showed that adding a concentrated astaxanthin supplement to our diet gives us a steady stream of antioxidant power via lipoproteins - little cellular vehicles which effectively transport the astaxanthin throughout the body.
Because astaxanthin offers such potent antioxidant capabilities, many researchers are excited about its potential to boost the immune system and prevent or even reverse a variety of diseases, including carpel tunnel syndrome, ulcers, macular degeneration, Parkinson's and Alzheimer's disease, and even cancer.
What is Astaxanthin?
Astaxanthin is a red-colored carotenoid (orange-red antioxidant plant pigment) that is derived naturally from Haematococcus algae grown in a protected environment in Hawaii. This amazing xanthophyll compound is naturally occurring in phytoplankton, algae, plants and a few fungi and bacteria. Although Astaxanthin is not as well known as other carotenoids, it is not a newcomer on the antioxidant scene. It was first discovered and extracted from lobsters in 1938.
Among carotenoids, Astaxanthin is one of the most powerful fat-soluble anti-oxidant compounds. It protects plants, animals, and humans from cellular damage caused by oxygen and free radical damage. In rat studies, it was shown to reduce photoreceptor (eye) cell damage caused by light exposure.
What is the difference between Astaxanthin and Beta-carotene?
Astaxanthin belongs to the same family of fat-soluble carotenoid molecules as the yellow/orange colored Beta-carotene. It differs from Beta-carotene in that its' molecular structure contains two additional oxygen groups in each ring structure. This gives it a deep red color and classifies it as a xanthophyll, with up to 10 times stronger free radical scavenging activity. Another difference is that, unlike Beta-carotene, Astaxanthin cannot be converted to Vitamin A in the human body.
How do I get Astaxanthin in my diet?
Astaxanthin and Beta-carotene must both be obtained from the diet, since our bodies do not produce them. Unless you're a regular algae eater, the best dietary source of this carotenoid are seafoods such as lobster, shrimp, crab and salmon. The characteristic pink or red color of salmon and trout is reflective of the presence of Astaxanthin that they ingest from their diet. Wild Sockeye salmon may contain up to 40 mgs of this rich antioxidant per kilo of flesh.
This fat-soluble carotenoid is stored in the muscle tissue of fish. It is used to protect the fatty acids and cellular membranes from oxidative stress caused by the highly aerobic activities inherent in their migratory habits. Salmon eggs are naturally loaded with Astaxanthin by design, in order to protect the developing life inside from UV light and oxidation caused by the environment of the waters they hatch in.
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