A carotenoid found in algae has been shown to prevent dementia — including Alzheimer’s, a disease that conventional medicine has yet to conquer?
The incidence of dementia or Alzheimer’s disease increases rapidly with age. One out of five people over age 65 — and 50% of people over age 85 are afflicted with Alzheimer’s. At least 5.2 million Americans over the age of 65 suffer from the disease, and 200,000 under the age of 65 are living with younger-onset Alzheimer’s.
The good news is that recent research conducted by Japanese scientists shows that an antioxidant called astaxanthin prevents the build-up of dangerous compoundslinked to neurodegenerative diseases, including Alzheimer’s.
The dangerous compounds — phospholipid hydroperoxides (PLOOH) — accumulate in the red blood cells of individuals with dementia. The Japanese study indicates that daily supplementation with astaxanthin reduces PLOOH levels, which significantly cuts the risk of dementia.
What is Astaxanthin?
Astaxanthin is an organically occurring pigment (or carotenoid) responsible for such natural wonders as the pink color of flamingo feathers and the rosy hue and famed endurance of wild salmon.
Recently, it has been discovered by the medical community as a promising “super nutrient” with a wealth of health benefits such as…impressive free-radical scavenging…protection against oxidative damage to cells, organs, and tissues…and now, a unique ability to cleanse the blood of dangerous PLOOH molecules.
Its status as a “super nutrient” derives from some remarkable properties rarely found in antioxidants. Many have heard of the amazing effect antioxidants can have on health and well-being. However, not all antioxidants are created equal.
Researchers who study neurodegenerative diseases have searched for years, mostly in vain, for an antioxidant capable of fighting free radicals and oxidative damage in the brain.
Their search was fueled by the growing awareness that free radical damage leads to cognitive decline – and antioxidants prevent such damage. As early as 2001, scientists noted increased levels of oxidative damage to DNA, lipids, and proteins in the brains of those with Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease, and other neurodegenerative conditions.
Scientists believe that at least some of these changes occur early in disease progression. Therefore, if antioxidants could stop the damage early, cognitive decline might be prevented. The challenge for scientists was that most natural antioxidants, like vitamin E, are unable to penetrate the blood-brain barrier.
Astaxanthin Benefits: Crossing the Blood-Brain Barrier
Scientists have tried to address the problem of getting antioxidants to the brain by seeking to develop synthetic antioxidants with the capacity to do so. It’s been a difficult process because the blood-brain barrier does an effective job of…
• Protecting the brain from potentially harmful foreign substances
• Preventing hormones and neurotransmitters from the rest of the body from crossing into the brain
• Maintaining a consistent, safe environment for the brain
Unfortunately, the barrier not only protects the brain from harmful agents, but it also keeps out the beneficial ones, as well — except for a rare few, including the super nutrient astaxanthin. Unlike other antioxidants, astaxanthin has the ability to pass through the blood-brain barrier.
How Astaxanthin Protects the Brain from the Inside Out
Astaxanthin benefits include protecting cells by preventing the damaging effect of free radicals and reactive oxygen species (ROS). ROS molecules cause many of the unpleasant health declines that can accompany aging, including various forms of dementia.
According to a study from Nagoya University in Japan, astaxanthin benefits not only include correcting ROS imbalances, but also prevents them from occurring in the first place.
The researchers from Nagoya also said, “it is strongly suggested that treatment with [astaxanthin] may be effective for oxidative stress-induced neurodegeneration and a potential candidate for natural brain food.” In other words, astaxanthin might fight off mental decline by nourishing the brain from the inside out.
The World’s Strongest Antioxidant?
Not only does astaxanthin have the unusual gift of crossing the blood-brain barrier, it far outperforms other antioxidants on other fronts, too. For example, astaxanthin is capable of a remarkable action called “singlet oxygen quenching,” a way of warding off oxidation from unstable oxygen molecules.
Astaxanthin’s singlet oxygen quenching abilities have been shown to be…
- 11 times more powerfully than beta-carotene
- 550 times more powerfully than vitamin E
- 550 times more powerfully than the catechins in green tea
- 800 times more powerfully than CoQ10.
How to Take Astaxanthin
There are only two prime dietary sources of astaxanthin: microalgae and sea creatures that consume the algae (such as salmon, shellfish, and krill). It’s nearly impossible for humans to get a therapeutic dose of astaxanthin through diet alone.
Wild salmon does contain viable astaxanthin, but you would need to eat several ounces daily to get enough (a pretty expensive option). Additionally, there are concerns about contamination. The astaxanthin in the more affordable farmed salmon is derived from processed petrochemicals, and has no nutritional value whatsoever.
Overall, the best way to boost your astaxanthin consumption is to take a high-quality supplement. Health practitioners usually recommend about 4 milligrams per day as optimal dosage, saying consumers should take care to allow for differences in concentration.
Here’s an example of how to determine how concentration works: 200 milligrams of a 2% extract translates to four milligrams of astaxanthin.
Since astaxanthin is fat-soluble, it is best taken with a meal that contains fat. Another alternative is to look for a supplement formula that contains natural or fatty acids that will help maximize your absorption of astaxanthin.
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