Article by Lisa Tsakos, RHN
At the beach this summer, I was surprised to see my friend’s fair-skinned red-headed daughter romp around in a regular swimsuit. Last summer, and every summer before, Audrey couldn’t leave the house without a hat, long sleeves and a thick layer of sunblock without risking a sunburn. This year, however, along with sunscreen, she was getting added sun protection from the inside out with astaxanthin supplements.
One of the most potent antioxidants found in nature, astaxanthin (pronounced as-ta-ZAN-thin) is sometimes called “sunscreen in a pill”. The carotenoid protects skin cells by neutralizing free radicals produced from sun exposure. Free radicals cause DNA damage and the inflammation (redness, pain and warmth—or burning) known as sunburn. In animal studies, astaxanthin derived from diet or supplements reached both the dermis and the epidermis, accumulating in the skin and preventing the effects of ultraviolet (UV) radiation exposure.
As an antioxidant, astaxanthin has been shown to be more potent than other antioxidant in neutralizing free radicals and protecting cell membranes, including vitamin C, vitamin E, coenzyme Q10, lipoic acid and other carotenoids.
Its antioxidant properties, combined with its anti-inflammatory effects, play an important role in boosting overall skin health, even offering protection against skin cancer. In the skin care industry, astaxanthin’s popularity is gaining momentum as an anti-aging treatment as it can slow the aging process by combatting dryness, skin irritation, and reducing wrinkle formation by improving skin elasticity within a matter of a few weeks.
Astaxanthin shows promise in other areas of health as well, including age-related macular degeneration, which can cause vision loss, heart health, joint health, and other conditions associated with inflammation or oxidative stress.
Astaxanthin is found naturally in salmon (sockeye salmon has more than Atlantic farmed salmon) trout, shrimp, krill, crab, lobster and flamingos. In fact, marine animals get their pink hue from eating a microalgae rich in the reddish carotenoid. While including these foods in your diet will offer some protection, for astaxanthin’s sun-protective and anti-inflammatory effects, a dietary supplement of 1 mg taken twice daily will provide the defense you need. Because astaxanthin accumulates in skin, for sun protection, take it consistently for at least 2 weeks to build up protection. As with all nutritional supplements, it’s best to start with a low dose and gradually increase the amount to assess your tolerance.
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Lisa Tsakos, R.H.N. is a nationally recognized holistic nutritionist, educator and author specializing in weight management and corporate nutrition programs. Lisa is a co-author of the Natural Nutrition Coach® program.