Life Extension Magazine July 2011
Beyond Eye Health
How Astaxanthin Combats Degenerative Disease
By Gail Richardson
The clinical importance of astaxanthin’s multi-targeted immune-modulating effects is clearly evident in the ways that astaxanthin fights off the bacterium called Helicobacter pylori (H. pylori). About half the world’s population is infected with this pathogen, which produces a spectrum of stomach disorders ranging from chronic gastritis and ulcers to gastric cancer.70
Astaxanthin mitigates the inflammation associated with H. pylori infection of the stomach.70 Animal studies indicate that astaxanthin inhibits the growth of H. pylori in the stomach.70,71 Astaxanthin has proven its efficacy in reducing symptoms of gastroesophageal reflux (heartburn, or GERD), especially in people with H. pylori infections.72
Astaxanthin and Ocular Disease Prevention
Loss of vision is a terrifying reality for millions of aging Americans. Three major age-associated causes of blindness are cataracts, age-related macular degeneration, and glaucoma. All of these are associated with chronic oxidative damage, and most involve some degree of inflammation.73 That makes powerful antioxidants such as astaxanthin of natural interest to prevention-oriented physicians.74
Astaxanthin decreases UV light-induced fat oxidation in cells of the human lens, which can help prevent cataract formation.71 That antioxidant effect helps prevent retinal damage.75 Astaxanthin also inhibits the pro-inflammatory nuclear factor-kappaB (NF-kB) signaling pathway in the eye.76,77 Early, preventive treatment with a combination of antioxidants including astaxanthin, lutein, zeaxanthin, vitamin C, vitamin E, zinc, and copper in humans at risk for age-related macular degeneration demonstrated improvement in vision near the important central part of the retina.78 Astaxanthin also helped reduce markers of inflammation and cell death in an animal model of glaucoma.79
Another promising application of astaxanthin is the prevention of eye fatigue or asthenopia, particularly in people who work long hours viewing a computer screen. In a study of 26 individuals who work at computer terminals, those who were randomly selected to receive astaxanthin each day for one month had a 54% reduction in complaints of eye fatigue, along with improvements in accommodation (your eyes’ ability to change optical power to focus on objects at different distances).80 A similar study showed that one month of astaxanthin reduced eye fatigue and increased accommodation power in healthy subjects.81 Researchers believe that astaxanthin may help fight eye fatigue in part by increasing blood flow to the retina.82
Natural UV Protection
A lifetime of exposure to ultraviolet (UV) light can trigger wrinkles and skin sagging, and it also dramatically increases the risk of skin cancer. Preliminary laboratory findings suggest that astaxanthin may represent a potential sun-protective agent that can be taken internally to block the damaging effects of UV radiation.83
Human skin cells in culture rapidly accumulate astaxanthin following treatment, and their vulnerability to UV light-induced oxidative damage is sharply reduced.84 That effect is accompanied by increased activity of cellular antioxidant systems and reduced cell membrane damage, while production of wrinkle- and sag-inducing skin enzymes is markedly reduced.11,83 It is little wonder that astaxanthin has been praised as promoting “beauty from within” in recent press releases.1
Astaxanthin has long been shown to protect aging eyes from cataracts, age-related macular degeneration, and glaucoma. More recent scientific findings indicate astaxanthin as a multimodal intervention for numerous forms of degenerative disease. These include cardiovascular disease, cancer, metabolic syndrome, cognitive decline, age-related immune dysfunction, stomach and eye conditions, and skin damage. Astaxanthin is safe in a wide range of doses. As little as 4-6 mg per day has been shown to effectively support eye health. Between 6 and 18 mg are indicated for management of metabolic syndrome. As much as 40 mg per day mitigates H. pylori-induced gastritis, with no side effects reported at any of these doses.18,33,78,85
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