In the study, published in the journal Mutation Research in 2010, researchers used cyclophosphamide to induce oxidative stress in the livers of rats. This stress has been shown to lead to DNA damage and, eventually, to the development of liver cancer. The researchers then treated the livers with 25 mg/kg astaxanthin. They found that oxidative stress, DNA damage and precancerous symptoms were all reduced.
"The present study confirms that astaxanthin is a potent antioxidant and attenuates oxidative stress, DNA damage, cell death as well as induction of early hepatocarcinogenesis," the researchers wrote.
A unique antioxidant
Astaxanthin is a yellow-orange pigment in the family known as xanthophylls, which in turn are a subclass of the carotenoids. It is found in abundance in algae and plankton and is one of the ultimate sources of the red-pink color found in krill, salmon, shellfish and even flamingos.
Although all antioxidants are able to remove cell- and DNA-damaging free radicals from the body, astaxanthin possesses several properties that make it more potent than the typical antioxidant.
Most of these properties are related to its remarkable mobility: unlike most antioxidants, astaxanthin is able to cross cell barriers (thus removing free radicals inside cells), the retinal barrier (thus helping to protect the eyes) and the blood-brain barrier (thus helping to protect the brain).
In addition, astaxanthin does not oxidize after removing free radicals, enabling it to continue working. It is also able to remove a wide variety of different free radicals simultaneously, rather than being able to remove only one at a time or being specifically attuned to a certain class of free radicals the way most antioxidants are.
Like many antioxidants, astaxanthin is also a potent anti-inflammatory. This appears to underlie many of its health benefits, since chronic inflammation has been linked to a wide variety of chronic diseases including many cancers, heart disease, Alzheimer's disease and diabetes.
Yet once again, astaxanthin seems to be remarkably effective at reducing chronic inflammation. It is now commonly used as a remedy for joint pain from arthritis, carpal tunnel syndrome and exercise-related conditions. According to a survey by Nutrex-Hawaii, 80 percent of people who took astaxanthin for back pain or arthritis (osteoarthritis or rheumatoid arthritis) reported significant improvement in their symptoms.
Good for every organ of the body
On top of all this, astaxanthin has also been shown to boost the immune system, regulate blood pressure, improve reproductive health and help prevent chronic diseases including Alzheimer's, Parkinson's, heart disease and diabetes. It also relieves prostate problems and improves skin health, sometimes even reversing the damage that leads to skin aging. Athletes regularly take it to boost endurance and energy, reporting that it gives them more strength and stamina, prevents joint and muscle soreness and decreases the time needed to recover after exercise.
Finally, astaxanthin is believed to be one of the best antioxidants for improving eye health. It helps prevent everything from cataracts to macular degeneration, cystoid macular edema, diabetic retinopathy and even glaucoma.
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