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Daily supplementation using a natural pigment called astaxanthin – the same coloring that gives flamingos their pink appearance – can reduce the accumulation of phospholipid hydroperoxides.
These compounds accumulate in the red blood cells of people who suffer from dementia, and scientists now believe that astaxanthin could help prevent dementia, including Alzheimer’s.
About 5.4 million Americans suffer from Alzheimer’s disease, and that number is only expected to go up in coming years.
According to a study in the British Journal of Nutrition:
“After 12 weeks of treatment, erythrocyte astaxanthin concentrations were higher in both the 6 and 12 mg astaxanthin groups than in the placebo group. In contrast, erythrocyte [phospholipid hydroperoxide] concentrations were lower in the astaxanthin groups than in the placebo group …
These results suggest that astaxanthin supplementation results in improved erythrocyte antioxidant status and decreased [phospholipid hydroperoxide] levels, which may contribute to the prevention of dementia.”
Dr. Mercola’s Comments:
Flamingoes are born with grey, not pink, feathers. It’s only after eating their natural diet of algae and crustaceans, which are loaded with naturally occurring pigments called carotenoids, that they turn the pink color they’re known for.
What does this have to do with you and your future health?
One of these very same pigments that give flamingoes their color is making a name for itself in the research arena as one of the most powerful “supernutrients” out there. That carotenoid is astaxanthin, and it’s one I suggest you become familiar with sooner rather than later …
A Natural Way to Prevent Dementia?
Astaxanthin exhibits exceptionally potent free-radical scavenging activity, and protects your cells, organs and body tissues from oxidative damage. In this way it impacts many aspects of health, but one of the most exciting could be its impact on your brain. In fact it is hundreds of times more effective than vitamin E in squelching singlet oxygen free radicals.
People with dementia tend to accumulate abnormal levels of phospholipid hydroperoxides (PLOOH) in their red blood cells. But new research published in the British Journal of Nutrition found that taking 6 mg or 12 mg of astaxanthin daily for 12 weeks lowered blood levels of PLOOH by 40 and 50 percent, respectively.
Researchers concluded that the improved antioxidant status and decreased PLOOH levels in the red blood cells may contribute to the prevention of dementia.
Astaxanthin is a fat soluble nutrient and readily crosses your blood-brain barrier, and a past study found it may help prevent neurodegeneration associated with oxidative stress as well as make a potent natural brain food.
Astaxanthin’s Antioxidant Powers Blow Away Vitamins C and E
You’re probably aware of the value of antioxidants for health protection, but you may not realize that an antioxidant is only as valuable as its concentration allows. In some cases, you may need to consume massive amounts of an antioxidant to get the real health benefits, and this may not be practical or even possible.
In the case of astaxanthin, it is by far the most powerful and concentrated carotenoid antioxidant when it comes to free radical scavenging. It is:
- 65 times more powerful than vitamin C
- 54 times more powerful than beta-carotene
- 14 times more powerful than vitamin E
Astaxanthin is also far more effective than other carotenoids at “singlet oxygen quenching,” which is a particular type of oxidation. The damaging effects of sunlight and various organic materials are caused by this less-stable form of oxygen. Astaxanthin is 550 times more powerful than vitamin E, 800 times stronger than CoQ10, 550 times more powerful than green tea catechins, and 11 times more powerful than beta-carotene at neutralizing singlet oxygen.
Total Body Health Benefits
As you might suspect, an antioxidant with this kind of power can have an extraordinary impact on health; more studies are being published all the time about this incredible nutrient. Here are just some of the ways astaxanthin can positively impact your health, according to the latest research:
Boosting your immune function Improving endurance, workout performance and recovery Improving cardiovascular health by reducing C-Reactive Proteins (CRP), reducing triglycerides, and increasing beneficial HDL Helping to stabilize blood sugar, thereby protecting your kidneys GREATLY protecting your eyes from cataracts, macular degeneration, and blindness Relieving indigestion and reflux Protecting your brain from dementia and Alzheimer’s Improving fertility by increasing sperm strength and sperm count Reducing your risk for many types of cancer (including cancers of the breast, colon, bladder and mouth) by stimulating apoptosis (cancer cell death) and inhibiting lipid peroxidation Actually helping to prevent sunburn, and protecting you from the damaging effects of radiation (i.e., flying in airplanes, x-rays, CT scans, etc.) Improving recovery from spinal cord and other central nervous system injuries Reducing oxidative damage to your DNA Reducing inflammation from all causes, including arthritis and asthma Reducing symptoms from pancreatitis, multiple sclerosis, carpal tunnel syndrome, rheumatoid arthritis, Parkinson’s disease, and Lou Gehrig’s disease, and neurodegenerative diseases
It May be Impossible to Obtain Enough Astaxanthin from Diet Alone
Unless you are a flamingo or some other marine animal,, it is virtually impossible to obtain enough astaxanthin from your diet alone because there are only two prime sources: microalgae and sea creatures that consume the algae (such as salmon, shellfish, and krill).
I have mentioned astaxanthin in reference to krill oil, which has been my favorite source of animal-based omega-3 fats for many years now, because krill oil naturally contains astaxanthin. And our krill oil has the highest concentration of astaxanthin of any krill oil supplement on the market today.
So you can get some astaxanthin in your diet by taking krill oil. You can also get some naturally by eating wild salmon, which gets its pink color from astaxanthin. (Do not confuse this with the pink color of farmed salmon, which comes from synthetic astaxanthin made from highly processed petrochemicals).
However, you’d have to eat several ounces of wild salmon every single day to get a high enough dose of astaxanthin, and this is not only expensive but also puts you at risk of mercury and other toxins that may have accumulated in the fish.
For this reason, one of the best ways to get natural astaxanthin is through supplementation with a high-quality source.
Keep in mind when you take your supplement that astaxanthin is fat-soluble, and is therefore best taken with a meal that contains fat. You can also look for a supplement formula that contains some sort of natural oil or fatty acid that will help maximize your absorption. Without this additional ingredient, your absorption could be poor and not optimal.
Rounding Out Your Dementia-Fighting Arsenal
As powerful as astaxanthin appears to be, I do not recommend relying on it solely to ward off dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. There are a number of other strategies that are also promising and, when used in conjunction with a healthy lifestyle and also high-quality supplements like astaxanthin, may give your brain the best level of protection.
Dementia has been linked to insulin resistance. Some are even referring to Alzheimer’s as the third form of diabetes, so one of the most important efforts you can take is to keepi your insulin levels under control with proper diet and exercise. There is no question that insulin resistance is one of the most pervasive influences on brain damage, as it contributes massively to inflammation, which will prematurely degenerate your brain.
There is also research showing that coconut oil and vitamin B12 may be important for warding off Alzheimer’s as well, which is why I stress that a multi-faceted approach will work best to prevent this disease.