Understanding astaxanthin and its benefits

Astaxanthin is a carotenoid pigment that belongs to a class
of chemical compounds called terpenes. Astaxanthin is available in its
harvestable and usable form in several marine animals. Most notable marine
organisms that carry the carotenoid include the pacific salmon, shrimp, crabs,
etc. The presence of astaxanthin in these animals is evidenced from the
pinkish-red colour of their meat. These animals imbibe the substance from other
marine organisms such as algae, krill, plankton, etc. Marine algae is one of
the richest sources of astaxanthin known to man.

Astaxanthin is
available in land-based animals and plants as well, but in much small
quantities as compared to their aquatic counterparts. Astaxanthin plays the primary
function of protecting cells from damage due to environmental factors. The
density of astaxanthin in an organism usually increases as it travels up the
food chain. Correspondingly, the colour of compounds that have astaxanthin also
change as it goes up the food chain, beginning with a yellowish-green and
ending with a pinkish-red colour.

Astaxanthin is routinely used as a compound in animal feed
and aquafeed, though it is used mainly to impart colour and not to boost the
nutritional value or mass of cultured seafood or meat. However, its use in animal
feed and aquafeed has led to a slew of research being conducted into
astaxanthin. While initially the research focussed on the potential harmful
effects of astaxanthin entering the food chain dominated by humans, it has
subsequently revealed certain benefits as well. Consequently, astaxanthin is
being explored as a dietary
supplement
as well, though its widespread use in this regard is still
in a relatively nascent stage. However, some research has shown the following
benefits of astaxanthin:

  1. Astaxanthin
    is rich in antioxidants

Antioxidants are basically substances that prevent oxidation
of cells in the human body. Oxidation in cells is dangerous since it can lead
to conditions that lead to uncontrollable growth of cells and tissues that can
develop into tumours, which may also be cancerous. Thus, a healthy diet of
foods rich in astaxanthin and astaxanthin as a dietary supplement can help
reduce the risk of cancer in the long-term. Furthermore, certain studies are
also being conducted into whether astaxanthin can help in treatment of cancers.
Besides cancer, cell oxidation also has harmful effects on the skin as it
encourages formation of wrinkles and accelerates skin ageing. Thus, astaxanthin
can potentially help maintain a youthful looking skin.

  • Astaxanthin
    accelerates the body’s use of fatty acids

Fatty acids are the primary cause of people being overweight
and astaxanthin has proven that it accelerates burning of fatty acids during
work outs. Thus, astaxanthin is a potential food supplement for a weight loss
programme. Besides this, fatty acids are also responsible for poor heart health
and cardiovascular illnesses. Thus, a diet rich in astaxanthin can potentially
reduce the chances of heart strokes other and cardiovascular conditions.

  • Astaxanthin
    can boost fertility

Astaxanthin has been shown to increase sperm mobility and
sperm count in adult males. However, this research is still in the nascent
stage, but has the potential to address the problem of male infertility.

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  • Astaxanthin
    has anti-inflammatory properties

Astaxanthin can potentially reduce swelling and joint pains.
This may lead to its use in dealing with joint conditions and joint aches among
the elderly in the future. However, this research too is in a relatively recent
stage.

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