Astaxanthin, cell membrane nutrient with diverse clinical benefits and anti-aging potential.
Altern Med Rev. 2011 Dec ;16(4):355-64. PMID: 22214255
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Astaxanthin, a xanthophyll carotenoid, is a nutrient with unique cell membrane actions and diverse clinical benefits. This molecule neutralizes free radicals or other oxidants by either accepting or donating electrons, and without being destroyed or becoming a pro-oxidant in the process. Its linear, polar-nonpolar-polar molecular layout equips it to precisely insert into the membrane and span its entire width. In this position, astaxanthin can intercept reactive molecular species within the membrane's hydrophobic interior and along its hydrophilic boundaries. Clinically, astaxanthin has shown diverse benefits, with excellent safety and tolerability. In double-blind, randomized controlled trials (RCTs), astaxanthin lowered oxidative stress in overweight and obese subjects and in smokers. It blocked oxidative DNA damage, lowered C-reactive protein (CRP) and other inflammation biomarkers, and boosted immunity in the tuberculin skin test. Astaxanthin lowered triglycerides and raised HDL-cholesterol in another trial and improved blood flow in an experimental microcirculation model. It improved cognition in a small clinical trial and boosted proliferation and differentiation of cultured nerve stem cells. In several Japanese RCTs, astaxanthin improved visual acuity and eye accommodation. It improved reproductive performance in men and reflux symptoms in H. pylori patients. In preliminary trials it showed promise for sports performance (soccer). In cultured cells, astaxanthin protected the mitochondria against endogenous oxygen radicals, conserved their redox (antioxidant) capacity, and enhanced their energy production efficiency. The concentrations used in these cells would be attainable in humans by modest dietary intakes. Astaxanthin's clinical success extends beyond protection against oxidative stress and inflammation, to demonstrable promise for slowing age-related functional decline.