Maintaining optimal health levels in the 21st century can be challenging due to a high-paced and stressful lifestyle. Whether working, studying, or simply enjoying your free time, you are constantly exposed to screens and sunlight, which can cause oxidative damage to your body. Oxidative stress significantly contributes to many health problems, including inflammation, ageing, and chronic diseases. Fortunately, natural carotenoids can protect your cells and body functions from oxidative damage. Astaxanthin, in particular, is highly effective in protecting against oxidative stress and promoting optimal health. In this article (part 1 of 2), we will explore the benefits of Astaxanthin and how it can help maintain your health in the face of modern lifestyle challenges.
Oxidation is a process naturally occurring in your body every day due to the action of free radicals. These unstable molecules are ready to remove electrons from healthy molecules, damaging them enough to lose their normal functions. This effect is especially concerning when it involves DNA, proteins or lipids, as malfunctioning in these molecules can unleash a chain effect which affects other molecules and, thus, other functions in your system.
This occurs in your body as ROS (Reactive Oxygen Species, the most reactive kind of free radicals) are produced as a metabolism by-product in the process of obtaining energy via mitochondrial activity, but also from exposure to different factors so common in our fast-paced daily routines: UV light exposure, smoking, air pollution, pesticides, chemical ingestion, bad dietary habits, the immune response to pathogens, and a sedentary lifestyle. Think of a system full of ROS like a rusty nail. It’s noticeably damaged, and you can’t assure how long it will work correctly.
Don’t panic! Since these ROS are looking around to gather electrons from healthy molecules, there is a solution: antioxidants. Antioxidants are molecules which have electrons to spare. They will lose their function as they degrade, but since they don’t fulfil specific tasks in your body, they will give up their electrons and spare the ones ROS would otherwise take away from DNA, proteins and fat. All you need to do is maintain enough antioxidants to keep ROS in line and away from your essential molecules.
But… there is a catch. You have probably heard of antioxidants in many foods and beverages, like some wild berries, tea and wine. Although true, not all antioxidants are the same because of how the antioxidant molecule is built and where it can fulfil its antioxidant capacity.
The best antioxidant known to humankind so far is Astaxanthin. A red pigment (a carotenoid) that is present in the food chain of many animals like shrimps, crabs, salmons, trouts and flamingos. All natural Astaxanthin comes from one exact origin: microalgae. A species called Haematococcus pluvialis is responsible for synthesizing this extraordinary molecule. This green microalga thrives in freshwater ponds with mild temperatures and low salinity levels. But as soon as too much sunlight is present, indicating the possibility of the pond drying, the microalga transforms into a hard cyst and begins producing oils rich in Astaxanthin and other synergistic carotenoids such as Lutein, Zeaxanthin and Beta Carotene. The fats make energy available; the Astaxanthin and supporting carotenoids protect the microalga organelles and DNA from oxidation. This process can allow the microalga to resist up to 40 years without water and resume its normal functions when water is available again! This is certainly the molecule you want in your corner fighting the ROS derived from your intense lifestyle.
Haematococcus pluvialis under the microscope.
In the next entry, we will dive into how oxidative stress can affect various organs and why Astaxanthin is the best antioxidant to battle these oxidation processes that can carry inflammation with them. The organs for which Astaxanthin’s antioxidant effect that are most thoroughly studied are the skin, the heart, the eyes, the joints and the muscles.
Stay tuned to learn how full-power Astaxanthin from the Atacama Desert can tackle the harmful effects of oxidative damage across your body in our next entry!