December 2008 Ageless herbal newsletter
It belongs to the family of carotenoids and is known to all of us - as the pink color of salmon. Astaxanthin is related to the carotenoid family such as lutein, zeaxanthin, beta-carotene, and lycopene, but that is where the similarity ends.
Its chemical structure allows it to uniquely span and protect cell membranes and other similar structures against lipid attack by quickly neutralizing reactive oxygen species (a.k.a free radicals).
Salmon accumulates a very high level of Astaxanthin from their diet, which help protect them from the
free radical damaged caused by the environment and the
physical stress caused by swimming upstream for spawning.
When using a pure extract, and at least 4 mg per day, can be of great benefit to fight wrinkles and improve skin elasticity, assisting gastric health, reducing hypertension (high blood pressure), and enhancing muscle endurance and muscle recovery time. It furthermore helps with Type 2 (II) diabetes as well as eye fatigue. Apart from these points there are also other various patents held on the effectiveness of Astaxanthin.
While aging is natural and cannot be avoided, there are factors such as solar radiation and physical and mechanical damage that accelerate the propensity of visible aging. Today, the humans face has increasing exposure to chemical pollution, ultraviolet radiation and ozone levels, all of which can damage the skin’s dermal layer causing wrinkles and enhancing the risk of malignant skin cancer.
These negative effects are compounded with increasingly poor diets and lifestyle habits, which are not conducive to maintaining the skin’s natural repair process and antioxidant network. Clearly, there is opportunity for natural ingredients to help improve long-term skin health management through topical application and nutritional supplementation.
In the past, Beta-carotene (provitamin A) and Vitamin E have been extensively studied. Recent focus, however, has switched to other carotenoids such as astaxanthin, (derived from the micro algae Haematococcus pluvialis), which is shown to have potent quenching and anti-lipid-peroxidation properties; a weakness of Beta-carotene and Vitamin E (Miki, 1991).
In human trials, astaxanthin has been shown to reduce visible signs of UV-aging through both topical and dietary supplementation within 4 to 6 weeks of use. This data is supported by a number of in-vitro and animal studies. Research suggests potential skin benefits from the use of astaxanthin to maintain a youthful appearance, reverse premature signs of aging.
Dyspepsia is the general term given to a variety of digestive problems localized in the upper abdominal region. Typical symptoms for example include stomach pain, gas, acid-reflux or bloating. Dyspepsia is like the stomach version of the irritable bowel syndrome and its symptoms may appear at any age or to any gender. The medical approach to dyspepsia involves looking for treatable causes and addressing them if identified. Failing that, doctors suggest treatments by trial-and-error. The problem associated with this non-standardized approach involves drugs that may not work, may cause side effects and exacerbate the patient’s condition brought on by stressful attempts to cure symptoms.
To understand the benefits of astaxanthin in dyspepsia, it is necessary to categorize specific types; most common forms are either non-ulcer dyspepsia or gastric dyspepsia. Non-ulcer dyspepsia problems usually do not have an identifiable cause, but fortunately, for most cases it is non-disease related and therefore temporary. On the other hand, gastric type dyspepsia is more severe and linked to identifiable causes.
For example, the bacterial infection of Helicobacter pylori is a commonly known cause. Pathological symptoms of H. pylori infection include high levels of oxidative stress and inflammation in the stomach lining and symptoms like gastric pain and acid reflux., H. pylori can contribute to mild and severe kinds of symptoms, but on the other hand, people who are H. pylori positive can remain asymptomatic whereas others may develop into clinical problems. It is still unclear what triggers the severe form of infection and how the bacteria is passed on, but scientists suggested using strong antioxidants like astaxanthin for therapy and better long term protection.
Epidemiological and clinical data suggest that dietary carotenoids such as astaxanthin may protect against cardiovascular disease (CVD), which includes hypertension. This condition is associated with blood vessel dysfunction, altered contractility and tone; mediated by relaxant (nitric oxide NO; prostacyclin) and constrictor factors (thromboxane; endothelin) in the blood. Furthermore, blood flow properties serve an important role in the pathological complications seen in atherosclerosis and coronary heart disease. Research presented here suggests that astaxanthin may be useful as part of an antioxidant therapy to alleviate hypertension.
An early study involving a composition of carotenoids have been used against hypertension or high blood pressure (BP), but Hussein et al., (2005a) published the first study involving astaxanthin with spontaneously hypertensive rats (SHR) and stroke prone (SHR-SP).
This study investigated the effects of astaxanthin on the aortic vessel blood pressure (BP) in relation to endothelium and nitric oxide (NO) to elucidate mechanism and response. The arterial BP in hypertensive rats (N=5-6, p<0.05) fell by almost 10% when they were treated with 50 mg astaxanthin/kg/day for two weeks. Long-term supplementation in SHR-SP rats revealed that 5 mg/kg/day also had the same effect as 50 mg/kg/day (8-9% BP reduction, N=5, p<0.001). At the same time, the control group BP increased by 8% at week 5. Two further studies (N=5-8) by Hussein et al., (2005b and 2006) confirmed this observation by reducing BP almost 16% (p<0.001) at 7 weeks in SHR (Figure 2). Furthermore, astaxanthin had no effect on the normal blood pressure in healthy rats.
When we do any exercises – or for that matter move any muscles, our body generates Reactive Oxygen Species (ROS) – and although this is a totally normal reaction – an over accumulation of ROS (which are free radicals) can cause our body to age faster in the long term, and can also cause degenerative diseases. These ROS can also influence your athletic and general performance, as excessive free radicals will also lead to your muscles taking a longer time to recuperate.
Work, sport, leisure – in fact all physical activity will generate reactive oxygen species (ROS); the more intense the activity the greater number of free radicals. ROS are shown to have damaging effects on muscle performance and recovery. Published and on-going research, focused on improving endurance and reducing recovery time, are showing dramatic benefits linked to the potent carotenoid - astaxanthin. These findings are bringing astaxanthin to the forefront as a dietary supplement for professional athletes and physically active people.
Important to physical activity are our mitochondrial cells, often referred to as the “power stations of the cell”, which provide as much as 95% of our body’s pure energy (primarily by the burning of muscle glycogen and fatty acids). Unfortunately, a portion of this energy produces highly reactive and damaging ROS. ROS damage cells by triggering peroxidation of the cell membrane components, and oxidation of DNA and proteins. Furthermore, ROS continue to affect muscles even after the strenuous exercise has ceased. Free radicals activate the inflammation response whereby monocytes migrate into the muscle tissue causing additional cell damage.
Often we will notice the onset of muscle damage during recovery in the form of tiredness and soreness. In addition to improving muscle performance through devised exercise regime, the sports research community is looking at other methods, such as nutrition to fuel and protect the body under extreme physical conditions. In the past, Vitamins E and C helped make the use of antioxidants a popular tool against oxidative damage during intense physical activity. Today, Astaxanthin demonstrated two important physical benefits in clinical trials and supporting studies. Astaxanthin increased endurance and reduced muscle damage in animal models.
Astaxanthin displayed positive effects in a type 2 diabetic mouse model in that it reduced the disease progression by retarding glucose toxicity and kidney damage. This has profound implications for people who belong to high-risk groups, display pre-diabetic conditions (impaired fasting glucose or impaired glucose tolerance) or want to manage advanced diabetic kidney problems (nephropathy).
Studies suggested that reactive oxygen species (ROS) induced by hyperglycemia contributes to the onset of diabetic mellitus and its complications. Non-enzymatic glycosylation of proteins and mitochondria, prevalent in diabetic conditions, is a major source of ROS. For example, pancreatic ß-cells kept in high glucose concentrations show presence of advanced glycosylation products, a source of ROS, which cause the following: i) reduction of insulin expression and ii) induction of cell death (apoptosis).
ß–cells are especially vulnerable to ROS because these cells are inherently low in antioxidant status and therefore, require long-term protection. A recent study demonstrated that antioxidants (N-acetyl-L-cysteine, vitamins C and E) exerted beneficial effects in diabetic conditions such as preservation of ß-cell function, so it is likely that a more potent antioxidant such as astaxanthin can do the same or better.
Asthenopia otherwise called eye fatigue occurs on a daily cycle, in that the visual performance generally decreases naturally from morning until night. This problem exacerbates with a daily VDT load that lasts between 4 to 7 hours by affecting the accommodation performance of the ciliary body, which controls lens refraction. A couple of randomized double blind placebo controlled pilot studies demonstrated the positive effects of astaxanthin supplementation on visual function.
For example, a study by Nagaki et al., (2002), demonstrated that subjects (n=13) who received 5 mg astaxanthin per day for one month showed a 54% reduction of eye fatigue complaints (Figure 2). In a sports vision study led by Sawaki et al., they demonstrated that depth perception and critical flicker fusion had improved by 46% and 5% respectively on a daily dose of 6 mg (n=9). The effect of astaxanthin on visual performance prompted a number of other clinical studies to evaluate the optimum dose and identify the mechanism of action.
There is no symptoms of deficiency of astaxanthin, as it is not an essential nutrient required for living, yet it does help fight the signs and symptoms of aging.
There is no RDA for this ingredient as it is not an essential nutrient required to prevent death - yet - research has shown that the optimal dosage of astaxanthin is 4 mg per day - which relates to 200 mg of a 2% extract.
It is of prime importance that when evaluating any Astaxanthin supplement that you ensure that you ingest 4 mg PER DAY - which would require 200 mg of a 2% extract.