What is astaxanthin?
Brian Balster/ShutterstockYou've probably heard about the superpowers antioxidants like vitamins A, C and E possess. They help the body detox, slow signs of aging, promote longevity, and reduce risk of cancer among other things. But one powerful natural antioxidant and carotenoid (in the same family as beta carotene, lycopene and lutein), that's been gaining tons of attention lately is astaxanthin. It's the stuff that turns salmon and most crustaceans (even flamingos!) a pink or reddish hue; countless studies suggest it offers incredible benefits.
Boost mental and physical energy
PK.Inspiration 06/ShutterstockThis is something we all could use some help with, as feelings of mental and physical exhaustion plague most of the U.S. population. "Astaxanthin fights fatigue both from a muscle perspective, as well as mental fatigue," explains Mark Miller, PhD, biomedical researcher specializing in nutritional supplement and functional food formulation. In fact, research published in the Journal of Nutrition and Metabolism, found that it has the power to reduce oxidative stress (aka the imbalance in the body's levels of free radicals and its ability to detoxify their harmful effects), inflammation, as well boost the immune system.
Gain anti-aging and skincare benefits
Photographee.eu/ShutterstockNext time you're shopping for skin-care products, check the label for astaxanthin, which has the potential to slow the aging process of your skin cells and give you glowing, clear skin, according to a study by Washington State University. In addition, a Japanese study found that it improves skin texture, elasticity and reduces signs of aging, such as age spots and wrinkles. "You can take supplements, but this is one antioxidant that can also be applied topically to skin," says Dr. Miller. "It's a great ingredient for nourishing, protecting and supporting skin health."
Improve liver function
George Rudy/ShutterstockYour liver's main job is to detoxify your body, as well as handle, store and redistribute nutrients as they enter from the gut. Astaxanthin has protective capabilities that result in a decreased risk for fatty liver disease, the prelude to cirrhosis, or chronic liver damage that leads to scarring and, inevitably, liver failure. "In part, it is able to do this by limiting inflammation as well as assisting in metabolic decision-making," says Dr. MIller. "Metabolically speaking, it restores balance to how fuel is handled." Worried about your liver? Look for these warning signs.
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lzf/ShutterstockExercise, in general, creates free radicals—this happens when muscles contract and the body burns fuel. "With sustained efforts, these radicals compromise function and performance and cause damage leading, to inflammation and soreness," says Dr. Miller. "Astaxanthin is simply superb at negating this, as evidenced by the clinical trials showing improved performance and accelerated recovery." In fact, research published in the Journal of Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise found that those who took 4mg of the stuff a day, for a span of 28 days, scored better cycling times and greater output than those who did not take it. Find out what building endurance can do for your health.
Healthy food sources
margouillat photo/ShutterstockThe best source is sockeye salmon, following by shrimp, crab, and lobster. You can also order a supplement, but speak with your doctor beforehand to make sure you're selecting the right brand and dosage.