Originally published May 6 2008
Astaxanthin: The Little-Known Miracle Nutrient for Inflammation, Anti-Aging, Athletic Endurance and More
by Mike Adams, the Health Ranger, NaturalNews Editor
(NaturalNews) Every once in a very great while, I discover a natural supplement so astonishing that I feel compelled to share it with you. Mother Nature created this natural supplement eons ago, and it's been present in trace amounts in aquatic ecosystems for over a billion years. In this article, I'm going to reveal the name of this natural medicine and what health benefits it provides to us. But first, before revealing the name, I want to share some of the numerous health benefits with you so you get the full picture of just how significant this substance can be in enhancing your health.
Did you ever notice how the drug companies get excited when they find a drug that just slightly alters the risk of a single disease? I remember hearing all the hype about a particular cancer drug made by Big Pharma. It was called a "miracle" drug that needed to be fast-tracked so it could start saving lives. When I looked at the research, however, it only turned out to prevent cancer in one woman out of two hundred (a 0.5% reduction in the risk of breast cancer). Gee, that's not much get excited about. And yet they called it a "miracle" drug!
Well imagine if there were a natural substance that operated at many different biochemical levels at once, providing all the following health benefits (yes, from a single source!):
• Reduces proliferation of breast cancer tumor cells by 40%
• Protects the brain from dementia and Alzheimer's
• Greatly reduces inflammation and joint pain
• Reduces oxidative damage to your DNA by 40% (even at low doses)
• Greatly increases endurance, muscle recovery and workout performance
• Reduces the risk of cancer
• Reduces blood sugar level in diabetics and prediabetics
• Improves fertility while decreasing the rate of stillborn births
• Promotes cardiovascular health, reduces C-Reactive Proteins (CRP)
• Reduces or eliminates carpal tunnel syndrome
• Boosts immune function and helps the body resist infections
• Protects the stomach from ulcers and invasive bacteria
• Protects the kidneys from damage due to high blood sugar
• Causes cancer cells to commit suicide (apoptosis)
• Greatly improves sperm quality, motility, and sperm count
• Prevents asthma by normalizing histamine levels
• Protects the body from highly oxidative foods like fried foods
In addition, I've found that this natural medicine supplement:
• Greatly protects eye health, reduces cataracts and prevents UV damage to the eyes
• Makes skin look younger and functions as a natural internal sunscreen that prevents DNA damage and sunburn
• Protects the body from the dangerous oxidizing effects of Vioxx and COX-2 inhibitors, meaning that is can actually reduce the harmful side effects and deaths caused by other anti-inflammatory pharmaceuticals
Now, if all that is really true -- and I'll show you in a minute that it is true -- that would make this one of the most miraculous medicines ever discovered by modern science, wouldn't it? For any one substance to prevent and treat so many different diseases -- and to protect the human body in so many different ways -- is nothing short of truly miraculous. So why isn't this nutrient front-page news?
The answer, of course, is because it can't be patented. This natural substance (which I will reveal below) is created by microalgae, so it's not something that was invented by a drug company scientist for patenting purposes. And the sad fact of the matter is that drug companies aren't interested in medicines that can't be patented, no matter how helpful or miraculous they may really be.
And yes, all the health benefits I've described for this supplement are, indeed, quite true. And they're backed by clinical trials and research papers that are fascinating in what they contain, and yet have never been picked up by the mainstream media. In other words, this nutrient may be the most powerful natural medicine you've never heard about!
Maybe you have heard about it already, but here's something else...It's possible, of course, that you have heard about it. Especially if you've been reading NaturalNews for some time (I've mentioned it on this website many times before). But until recently, I never fully understood the health benefits of taking larger doses of the nutrient.
Previously, I was only taking 2mg - 4mg per day. But for a while now, I've been taking 16mg per day (400% more than before), and I've discovered something truly astounding: The health benefits of this natural medicine keep increasing as the dose increases (to a limit, of course). I've found that 16mg a day is the ideal dosage for me to experience maximum benefits from this supplement... benefits that include outstanding athletic performance, a significant reduction in muscle soreness and joint pain, radical improvements in resistance to UV sun exposure, stabilized blood sugar and many more.
So what is this mystery nutrient? It's astaxanthin, a deep red-colored phytonutrient synthesized by microalgae called Haematococcus. It's grown in fresh water using sophisticated techniques that encourage the algae to grow its own powerful medicines that protect it from oxidation, UV radiation and other environmental stresses. When harvested from the algae and concentrated into a liquid, astaxanthin becomes the most powerful antioxidant known in the natural world, demonstrating 550 times the antioxidant power of Vitamin E, for example.
Now why is antioxidant power important? Think about it: Much of what goes on during the aging of the human body is due to oxidation. Every time you breathe, you're inhaling some oxygen, right? That oxygen reacts with your cells to create energy, but the byproduct of that energy is the creation of free radicals. These free radicals cause DNA damage, nerve cell damage, accelerated aging of internal organs and more.
The way to stop those free radicals is with antioxidants, which bind to them, neutralizing their damaging effects. Astaxanthin, it turns out, is so good at halting free radicals that it seems to confer miracle-class health benefits to the human body... benefits that might be described as "anti-aging" or "reversing disease."
Right to the muscles and tissues that need themIt gets even better: Unlike most antioxidants, astaxanthin is fat-soluble, meaning it gets carried by fat molecules directly to tissues and organs in your body where it can do the most good, like your retina, your brain, your breast tissue, prostate tissue, and skeletal muscles. You know what makes the flesh of salmon pink? Astaxanthin. And guess what gives salmon the seemingly superhuman ability to achieve marathon swimming feats, leaping up waterfalls against the current? Astaxanthin, of course. Without astaxanthin, salmon are mere average performers, and their survival rate drops to less than one in five. But with astaxanthin, they become superstars of the aquatic world, performing feats of physical strength and endurance that, in proportion, dwarf the greatest achievements of the world's top human athletes. (And their survival rate on salmon farms leaps from 17% to an astonishing 98%!)
You see, when astaxanthin is present in muscles and other tissues, it prevents oxidation right where it's needed: Right at the site of stress or potential oxidation. Ever notice how you breathe more air when you're exercising? That's more oxygen you're pumping through your tissues, and more oxygen means more oxidation. So the more you exercise, the more you need powerful antioxidants like astaxanthin. This helps explain why some athletes who work out hard but don't supplement with superfoods and antioxidants seem to age faster than everyone else. Exercising without antioxidants is like putting yourself on an aging acceleration program!
The fact that astaxanthin goes right to the muscles gives it the ability to protect muscles from all sorts of degenerative conditions. A horse suffering from a severe muscle conditions called rhabdomyolysis, for example (which can also be caused by statin drugs), was given 30mg of astaxanthin a day. In merely a few weeks, he was 100% symptom free and running again! (The owners were no doubt astonished.)
In fact, astaxanthin has been used in all kinds of ways to enhance the health of animals. In animal tests, it has been shown to:
• Greatly increase the longevity and survival rate of salmon and chickens
• Increase egg production by a whopping 300% in salmon
• Significantly lower salmonella infections in chickens
• Reduced infections by increasing immune resistance in every animal it's been tested with
• Accelerated the growth of farmed salmon by 600%! (Seems impossible, but it's true...)
The animals who have been fed a small amount of astaxanthin in their diet, it seems, experience phenomenal health benefits. Every type of animal given astaxanthin lives longer, grows faster, exhibits greater fertility and shows much stronger immune system function. Do these sound like benefits you'd like to experience, too?
Supercritical extraction means no toxic solvents!Speaking of high quality ingredients, I think it's important to know how nutrients are extracted from their natural sources. Sadly, some companies use toxic, explosive chemicals to extract their nutrients. A famous provider of DHA oils, for example, uses highly toxic hexane to extract the oils. That's just plain awful.
Supercritical CO2 extraction, on the other hand, is safe and far more "natural." It uses compressed CO2 to pull out key nutrients, after which the CO2 evaporates harmlessly into the ambient air (from which the CO2 was gathered in the first place). Thus, it introduces no new chemicals into the environment, and it leaves nothing in the resulting product that might be harmful to you. This process -- called "supercritical CO2 extraction" -- is the best extraction process in the business, and it's used on premium-quality supplements like neem oil. It also happens to be the process used by Cyanotech to extract their astaxanthin from the Haematococcus algae.
That means this astaxanthin contains no toxic solvent chemicals whatsoever! That's one of the many reasons why we gave it our Editor's Choice award: Because it's an honest product, with zero chemical contaminants (or as close to zero as you can get on the planet today), that offers astounding health benefits. Cyanotech's astaxanthin deserves every bit of publicity we can bring it. I truly consider it to be one of the most important nutrients ever discovered for human health.
My top 4 nutrients for human healthSpeaking of top nutrients for human health, would you like to know what I think are the top 4 most important nutrients for human health? They are:
#1: Vitamin D
#2: Omega-3 fatty acids
Vitamin D is crucial, of course, due to its miracle-class ability to halt cancer (77% of ALL cancers are prevented by vitamin D alone!), to ease depression, boost bone health, enhance heart health and much, much more. It's the single most impressive nutrient I've ever found. Nothing beats vitamin D in terms of the number of important health benefits derived from a single substance.
Next comes omega-3 fatty acids, which have proven to be miraculous, too, in terms of preventing cardiovascular disease, cancer, diabetes, arthritis, depression and much more. Plus, you can get these from plant sources (like chia seeds or flax seeds) or animal source (fish oil, krill oil, etc.).
And now, astaxathin joins my list as the third most important nutrient for human health. It is the "King of the carotenoids," as they say, and it has the ability to ease systemic inflammation, protect the eyes and brain from oxidative damage, prevent cancer, protect the body from dangerous foods, enhance skin health and even protect the skin from excessive UV sun exposure. It's truly miraculous.
I've heard some ignorant conventional medical doctors (and FDA bureaucrats) say there are no miracles in the world of supplements, herbs and natural medicine. The only miracles in the world, they claim, are found in pharmaceuticals. I think that's nonsense: Nature is full of miracles! Growing a baby in the womb is a miracle. Automatic skin repair following a scratch or scrape is a miracle. The nanotechnology in your immune system is a miracle. The building of a highly complex organism from microscopic DNA is a miracle, too. Nature abounds with miracles! And astaxanthin is simply one miracle among many that have been provided for us by Mother Nature.
How to take astaxanthin for maximum effectSince astaxanthin is a fat-soluble carotenoid, the best way to maximize its circulation in your body (and thereby make sure it gets to all your cells, tissues and organs) is to take it with some healthy fats. What kind of healthy fats? Plant-based fats, of course: Coconut oil, olive oil, avocados, chia seeds, flaxseed oil or even fish oil if you want to go that route. Taking astaxanthin with fat causes it to be efficiently transported all around your body and delivered to the places where you body needs healthy fat.
And where does your body need healthy fat? Almost everywhere! Every cell in your body, for example, contains fat molecules in its membrane. And did you know that your brain is made of a whopping 60 percent fat? It's true: Your brain is mostly fat and water. So does it make sense to protect your brain with natural antioxidants that can cross the blood/brain barrier and protect your brain cells from oxidative damage? You bet it does, and that's why astaxanthin produces such astounding health benefits for your brain. That's why it has been shown to prevent the deterioration of the brain cells that lead to dementia and Alzheimer's disease.
Are you taking enough astaxanthin? I took astaxanthin on and off for a couple of years at a very low dosage: 2mg or 4mg. And I never really noticed much of an effect. The reality of astaxanthin's health benefits didn't kick in for me until I started taking significantly higher doses like 16mg per day. At that level (which is just four tiny gelcaps per day, they're the size of BBs), all kinds of benefits started to kick in. I was able to run farther, exercise with greater intensity, and yet wake up the next morning with surprisingly little soreness. It was like my body was suddenly functioning at a fitness level way beyond what I was used to.
I can still remember running along the path through the open desert here in Arizona, passing by the Chaparral bushes (which can cure many cancers, by the way), smelling the rich, fragrant flowers of the local mesquite bushes (which are the sweetest smell in the whole world, as far as I'm concerned), and suddenly realizing that I wasn't even breathing hard. I was running at a healthy pace, just gliding along the desert pathway, kicking up sand, leaping across small rocks, under the blazing desert sun, and I didn't even feel tired. It was like I had an oxygen infusion keeping me energized and alert. It was like my heart could pump a never-ending supply of energy to all my muscles. The feeling was truly amazing.
Sure, I take a lot of natural supplements. I drink aloe vera every day (my recommended source for premium-quality dried aloe gel is www.GoodCauseWellness.com by the way), and aloe helps your blood carry more oxygen. And yes, I don't eat oxidizing fried foods, or trans fatty acids, or sugar, and I don't take pharmaceuticals of any kind, and yes, my blood flows like water because I gobble a lot of fish oils, and I get all kinds of vitamin D from the sun. So sure, I have a lot of factors going into healthy blood (astaxanthin certainly isn't the only one) that creates this athletic effect, but the point is I'm only human, just like you, and if I can make my cardiovascular system pump along effortlessly, filling my cells with seemingly unlimited oxygen during exercise, then you can experience similar benefits. We're 99.98% genetically identical, after all. My heart is pretty much the same as your heart. The only difference is what we choose to feed it!
Now don't get me wrong, in no way am I saying that after you pop a couple of astaxanthin pills, you will turn into Superman and you can start tearing up the hills of your local hiking path. The benefits of astaxanthin are very real, and I have no need to exaggerate them, so here are some things you need to know about astaxanthin to make sure you understand what it can and can't do for you:
• It doesn't work overnight. I took it for 30 days before I really started to see significant results. You probably won't feel any difference for a few days after you start taking astaxanthin. It takes time for the carotenoids to find their way to your tissues. Once you begin to feel some benefits, those benefits will typically increase for several weeks, so you'll feel better as you continue taking the astaxanthin. At some point, the benefits will level off and as long as you keep taking the astaxanthin, you'll stay there, experiencing those ongoing benefits.
• Astaxanthin won't counteract unhealthy habits like smoking cigarettes, eating fried foods or drinking a fat-laden Starbucks "coffee" that's really more like a 600-calorie milkshake. Don't take astaxanthin as an excuse to pursue unhealthy foods or lifestyle choices (like smoking).
• Don't go overboard with your exercise in an unsafe way. Always work with a qualified health practitioner concerning ANY changes in your exercise or diet. Ease into your exercise slowly and carefully. It's better to slowly ramp up to more exercise over time than to injure yourself because you got overly excited and went too far...
• Astaxanthin needs to be taken throughout the day for maximum effect. I take 4mg every 4 hours. That way, I'm getting a healthy dose of astaxanthin at every hour of the day.
• Always take astaxanthin with healthy fats. Since it's fat-soluble, it needs fat to hitch a ride to your body's cells.
• Remember that if you eat fried foods (including so-called "healthy" snack chips fried at high temperatures), you will "use up" a lot of the antioxidant power in astaxanthin, leaving less to help the rest of your body. Unhealthy foods are often highly oxidizing, so even though I don't recommend eating fried foods, if you do, you may want to consider taking an extra astaxanthin capsule at the same time to protect your body from the fried foods.
• Not to make this too scatalogical, but at 16mg per day, astaxanthin will turn your poo slightly red, just like when you drink beet juice. Drink some chlorophyll too (which turns your poo green) next December, and you can poo in vibrant holiday colors! (Only recommended for the easily amused...)
• There's virtually no way to overdose on astaxanthin. Remember, this isn't a drug. It's something that's been in the natural food supply for millions of years. The studies that have been done show virtually no toxicity even at ridiculously high doses. However, based on what I've read it seems that the benefits of astaxanthin reach a point of diminishing returns after about 20mg per day for a human being, so that's why I take 16mg a day: It's enough to generate wonderful benefits, but I'm not going overboard with it. In one study, they gave 30mg per day to a horse! So probably, it's a fair guess to say you would need less than a horse. The lighter you are, the less you need, of course. I weigh 190 and take 16mg. If you only weigh 110 pounds, you might only want to take 8mg or 12mg per day. Even 4mg per day produces some benefits, by the way.
You can also just buy astaxanthin at your local health food store, of course. Or you might have other online retailers if you're living in the U.K., Australia, Canada or another country. Frankly, it doesn't matter to me where you get your astaxanthin, just make sure of one thing, which is VERY important: Always by "natural" astaxanthin, not "synthetic astaxanthin."
You see, there's a lot of synthetic astaxanthin on the market, too, and it's made from -- if you can believe this -- petroleum! It doesn't provide any health benefits, by the way, just like synthetic vitamin E or synthetic B vitamins. They're all garbage, if you ask me. Only the natural stuff really works to protect and enhance your health. So wherever you buy astaxanthin, make sure you're buying only natural astaxanthin.
Which sources of astaxanthin I really trustAnother note: As a journalist, I've toured the Cyanotech facility on the Big Island in Hawaii, and I've seen their quality first-hand. I've met the people, photographed the processing facility machines and watched how they clean, dry and pack both astaxanthin and spirulina. So I've seen it all first hand at Cyanotech, and I know they do a really great job. I have NOT seen any other facilities making astaxanthin, so I can't say whether or not any other companies are doing as good a job as Cyanotech. Therefore, I personally only buy Cyanotech's astaxanthin because I know I can trust it. I also know they batch test their products to make sure they don't contain heavy metals or other freaky contaminants.
The brand name for Cyanotech is "Nutrex." That's the brand of astaxanthin I recommend.
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