Is Algae A Nutritional Powerhouse?
By Kevin DiDonato MS, CSCS, CES
Lobsters eat it. So do crabs and salmon. If you find yourself consuming these types of food, then chances are you are also eating a special nutrient which can help you stay healthy for a long time.
What is this mysterious nutrient? Well it is not really a mystery anymore! Astaxanthin is one of the newest ingredients around which has some very promising health benefits in humans.
You might have heard of it; you might not have. Here is a brief overview of this wonderful nutrient. Astaxanthin is a naturally occurring algae found deep in the ocean. Krill, which is rapidly becoming the best source of Omega-3 fatty acids, feeds on Astaxanthin as do crabs, lobster, salmon, and other marine life. This algae is a very potent antioxidant. You may be asking why? Let me explain.
Astaxanthin is an ingredient in EFA Icon and other Krill oil-based products. You can also find Astaxanthin as a nutritional supplement on its own. Like I mentioned above, it is a very powerful antioxidant and is found in the same carotenoid family as lycopene and zeaxanthin, which are also powerful antioxidants. You may have heard of lycopene, which can help in heart health.
Astaxanthin is unique in structure, allowing it to cross the blood brain barrier. This is important since the blood brain barrier is the defense system of the brain, preventing almost everything from invading the brain. One other benefit of Astaxanthin crossing the blood brain barrier - it slows the neurological aging process, essentially making your brain younger and more alert.
Now let’s shift our focus a little and talk about free radicals - again!
Free radicals are the enemy in the body. So our body sends out a response from its defense system to stop the damage caused by free radicals. The problem: sometimes there are more free radicals than the body can handle. Here comes Astaxanthin to the rescue! Since Astaxanthin is a powerful antioxidant, it is able to help the body’s defense system, adding a second layer of defense. However, it does it in a way in which you might not think.
The chemical makeup of Astaxanthin allows it to stretch over the surface of the cell allowing it to sit near the border where damage normally occurs. Now if you do not know much about free radicals, let me tell you something. They are dastardly little things! So what does Astaxanthin do? It sucks those free radicals into its own body. This allows Astaxanthin to take the free radicals to the surface to be destroyed by another antioxidant like Vitamin C.
If you are still reeling about the huge benefits of Astaxanthin, you are going to be shocked by this next bit of information.
After careful research on inflammation, we now know inflammation plays a huge role in the disease processes. Certain blood tests a doctor uses determine how much inflammation is in the body, and what needs to be done to slow the process. More inflammation leads to damage to the lining of the arteries, veins, and cells.
One of the main reasons why inflammation occurs in the body is due to reactive oxygen species (ROS). These are molecules in the body which contain oxygen. Large amounts of ROS in the body leads to cell damage and increased inflammation.
Astaxanthin can inhibit the production of ROS, therefore reducing inflammation in the body.
How amazing is this powerful antioxidant? Astaxanthin has been shown to be 10 times more capable of destroying free radicals than any other carotenoids. The ability of Astaxanthin to take in free radicals and allow another antioxidant to destroy it, allows the body to conserve its own defense system for other problems. EFA Icon contains Astaxanthin and other wonderful nutrients which help heart health, and slow the inflammation process. Astaxanthin can help in different ways in the body preventing damage from oxidative stress and reducing inflammation in the body.
Ohgami, K. Shiratori, K. Kotake, S. Nishida, T. Mizuki, N. Yazawa, K. Ohno S. Effects of Astaxanthin on Lipopolysaccharide-Induced Inflammation In Vitro and In Vivo. Invest. Ophthalmol. Vis. Sci. 2003. Vol. 44(9);pp. 2694-2701.
Kurashige, M. Okimasu, E. Utsumi, K. Inhibition of oxidative injury of biological membranes by astaxanthin. Physiol. Chem. Phys. Med. NMR. 1990. Vol. 22(1); pp. 27-38.
Murillo, E. Hypercholesterolemic effect of canthaxanthin and astaxanthin in rats. Arch. Latinoam. Nutr. 1992. Vol. 42(4); pp. 409-413.
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