Astaxanthin – Healthy Skin from the Inside Out and More
Over the last several weeks my articles have focused on looking at the potential downside of using commercial skin and hair care products. This week, I’d like to do something a little different… share with you the benefits of Astaxanthin, as well as the research links. I personally take Astaxanthin for its other health benefits, which I will outline at the end of this piece. It wasn’t until an article crossed my desk about the skin benefits of this supplement, that I began additional research. So once again, I’d love to bring this information to you, “knowledge is power” and it’s important to me to give everyone choices for their own health and skin care.
Here’s a summary:
Aging skin is more than a cosmetic issue.
It’s a warning sign of loss to the skin’s integrity and functionality that can impact our overall health.
Studies published last year show that astaxanthin – a carotenoid that give the vibrant red color to salmon, krill, and shrimp (1-3) – also helps maintain skin function and structural integrity. (4,5)
Researchers have identified the ability of astaxanthin to address two different skin concerns:
1) Wrinkles and loss of moisture from aging skin, (4) and
2) UV-induced skin damage, one of the most potent skin-aging accelerators known.(5)
Because of the skin’s multiple functions, astaxanthin can play an important supporting role in a nutritional strategy to boost skin health.
New research findings show significant benefit of oral astaxanthin in maintaining healthier skin from within.
The Important Function of Skin
The skin is the body’s largest organ, and it has a multitude of important functions.
Our skin acts as an important barrier against infection, it helps maintain the body’s hydration and temperature, and it serves as the frontline of immune protection against environmental toxins and microbes.
So, while the development of wrinkles and dry, damaged skin may seem to be a cosmetic indication of advance age, it’s really a warning sign that this important organ isn’t functioning as well as it should be.
When the skin’s structure starts to deteriorate, it can compromise our ability to stay properly hydrated as well as the skin’s essential barrier function against the external environment.
Astaxanthin has multiple properties that make it a promising candidate for protecting the appearance – and function – of the skin.
Astaxanthin Slows Skin Deterioration
A recent study conducted by a research group in Japan showed that astaxanthin can help combat some of the negative effects of two of the main underlying causes of skin aging: UV exposure and air pollution.
Researchers found that treating skin cells in culture with astaxanthin had two skin-protecting actions:
First, it suppressed the production of inflammatory cytokines (signaling molecules) that follows exposure to UV light.(4)
Second, it reduced the secretion of an enzyme (MMP-1)(4) that increases when the skin is exposed to air pollution.(6) This enzyme breaks down the very structure of skin and contributes to wrinkle formation. (4,6-9) By reducing MMP-1, astaxanthin may be able to fight wrinkles from multiple causes.(6)
Clinical Trial of Astaxanthin
Based on encouraging lab results, researchers decided to test astaxanthin’s capabilities in a real-world setting. To do so, they gave 65 healthy women either astaxanthin (6 mg or 12 mg) or a placebo every day for 16 weeks.(4) The results were published in 2017.
During the short time, the placebo group experience worsening wrinkles, reduced moisture content, and increases in markers of inflammation in the skin.
In contrast, no significant deterioration occurred in the skin of the women taking astaxanthin, and they didn’t have any increases in inflammatory.
What is also noteworthy, is that this study was done between August and December. These months are when skin deterioration is at its highest in Japan because of shifting factors such as UV light and low humidity.
A Track Record of Success
Previous studies support astaxanthin’s anti-aging skin benefits. These studies show that astaxanthin:
Improves skin wrinkles, skin elasticity, and texture, and boosts skin moisture content while reducing skin water losses. (10,11)
Inhibits the underlying processes that produce wrinkles, age spots, and other unsightly pigmented skin areas associated with aging. (10-13)
Enhances collagen production in skin cells, an action that helps to maintain or restore skin’s youthful plumpness and firmness. (14)
Additional evidence shows how astaxanthin fights against the damage caused by UV radiation, the most powerful driving force behind aging skin.(5)
I encourage you to read some of these studies yourself to determine the validity of the incredible skin benefits of astaxanthin.
Additional Health Benefits of Astaxanthin
Boosting Immune Function
Your immune system protects you from infections and routinely patrols your body for emerging cancer cells, but when it is over-activated, it can trigger allergic responses such as asthma and autoimmune diseases. Studies demonstrate that astaxanthin helps balance the immune system by stimulating its infection- and cancer-fighting components—while also helping suppress the overactive immune responses that create needless inflammation.(16-23)
Preventing Cancer at Every Stage
Epidemiological studies reveal that dietary intake of astaxanthin along with other carotenoids is associated with the reduced risk of many different types of cancer. Increased intake of carotenoids such as astaxanthin typically lowers cancer risk.(24)
Unlike many pharmaceuticals, astaxanthin shows beneficial effects against cancer at each stage of its development.
It prevents cancer initiation by protecting DNA from ultraviolet and oxidant damage.
It promotes early detection and destruction of cells that have undergone malignant transformation by boosting immune surveillance.
It prevents cancerous growth in cells that evade immune detection by reducing inflammatory changes such as those that appear in aging.
It blocks the rapid cell replication of tumors in their growth phase by stopping the cancer cell reproductive cycle and restoring cancer cells’ ability to die off by apoptosis.
It prevents tumors from spreading by reducing tumor production of tissue-melting proteins. (References 24-34)
Reducing Diabesity and Its Consequences
Diabetes and obesity are so closely intertwined that scientists now speak of them together as one entity, diabesity. Diabesity is a major component of metabolic syndrome.
Astaxanthin holds multiple benefits in managing diabesity, with its resulting oxidant stress, high levels of chronic inflammation, and extensive tissue damage from protein and lipid glycation. In addition, astaxanthin preserved the ability of the pancreas to secrete insulin.(35)
Astaxanthin supplements have been found to reduce liver fats and triglyceride levels. In overweight and obese humans, astaxanthin suppresses dangerous lipid peroxidation and stimulates healthy natural antioxidant defenses in the body.(36-38)
In addition to preventing the main elements of diabesity, astaxanthin helps alleviate the long-term consequences faced by diabetics. Studies show that astaxanthin supplementation slows the development of diabetic nephropathy (kidney disease), reduces cataract formation and diabetic retinopathy (both preventable forms of blindness in diabetics), and reduces the many cardiovascular complications of diabesity.(39-42)
Protecting Cardiovascular Health
Astaxanthin has powerful antioxidant effects that fight cardiovascular diseases at multiple levels. In hypertensive rats, astaxanthin lowers blood pressure, improves endothelial function, and delays hyper-tension-induced strokes. In humans and animals, astaxanthin helps normalize lipid profiles, reducing triglyceride and cholesterol levels while boosting beneficial HDL-cholesterol. These effects reduce the risk of a clot forming within a major vessel.(45-47)
Astaxanthin also reduces inflammation and reduces the production of certain enzymes that destabilize plaques and make them vulnerable to rupture and that block blood flow.(48)
In the heart muscle itself, astaxanthin boosts mitochondrial energy delivery, which helps the heart muscle contract more powerfully and efficiently.(49) This is especially valuable in the event of a heart attack because it helps surviving muscle to rapidly take over from damaged areas.
People with cardiovascular disease are at risk for vascular dementia, a form of cognitive decline caused by decreased brain blood flow and damage to cerebral vessels. Astaxanthin supplements in such animals reduce the rate of complications such as strokes, and improve cognitive performance, allowing the animals to live more vigorous and active lives.(45)
Slowing Brain Aging
Astaxanthin exerts multiple beneficial effects in the brain.(50) Unlike many other antioxidant molecules, astaxanthin crosses the blood-brain barrier, allowing it to saturate and protect brain tissue.(51) These features have led experts to label astaxanthin a “natural brain food.”(51)
12 mg/day astaxanthin improved cognitive health scores and learning scores in a study of healthy middle-aged and elderly subjects with age-related forgetfulness.(52)
Important Promoter of Eye Health
Age- and diabetes-related eye diseases contribute to visual impairments and blindness in millions of Americans. Astaxanthin has been found to prevent or slow three of the most common eye diseases: age-related macular degeneration, cataracts, and glaucoma. (53-57)
It is my hope that this information was interesting and helpful – an internal supplement that can protect you from skin deterioration as well as the additional benefits for your health. I always welcome your thoughts, questions, and comments. What interests you and how can I help utilizing research?
Until next week, remember, “Your Skin Deserves Love Too!”
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