Astaxanthin is an exciting natural and very powerful antioxidant. It is a carotenoid, a pigment that is responsible for the red coloration in salmon, trout, lobsters, shrimp, flamingoes and red ocean plants. Commercially it is extracted from microalgae. It has a lot of uses as an antioxidant from boosting immune system function, protecting against heart disease, eye and degenerative brain damage, and as a natural health remedy to promote tanning and prevent sunburn.
How can it do all this?
Much of the damage that occurs in the body is from free radical activity. Free radicals are unstable molecules that occur as a result of normal processes in the body such as metabolism but can also occur as a result of pollution, sunlight, strenuous exercise, X-rays, smoking and alcohol. They cause damage to cells, proteins and DNA, the bodies genetic blueprint. The damage caused to skin cells can result in skin cancers.
The body has its own antioxidant system to help counteract the activity of free radicals but it relies on having enough of the right nutrients in the body to function. The system is not perfect and the amount of free radicals generated can often exceed the capacity of the body’s own antioxidant system so cell damage occurs. Increasing antioxidants in the body by taking them as supplements is one way of trying to prevent free radical damage.
The antioxidant power of Astaxanthin
Many studies have shown that natural Astaxanthin, pronounced Asta-zan-thin, is probably the most powerful antioxidant ever studied. It is much more powerful than Vitamin C, E and betacarotene, a combination that is often used in antioxidant supplements.
Astazanthin was originally used in fish farming to give salmon a deeper pink color that shoppers looked for and the fish farmers noticed that the fish had healthier immune systems and lived longer.
So what has this got to do with sunburn prevention?
Sunburn is caused when the body cannot make enough melanin, a skin pigment, to protect the skin from the sun’s ultraviolet (UV) light. Melanin is an amazingly powerful antioxidant that absorbs the ultraviolet light. The inability to make enough melanin in the skin to protect it from sunburn is down to lack of nutrients. Many nutrients are probably involved but it is known that the amino acid L-tyrosine with copper and Vitamins E & D improve the body’s ability to produce melanin.
Small amounts of UV light are beneficial as it enables the body to make Vitamin D. If you use sunscreen and avoid the sun then you may be deficient in Vitamin D which is essential to prevent certain cancers. Many health conscious individuals want to avoid the chemicals in the majority of sunscreen preparations that cause additional free radical damage, disrupt hormones, and are toxic to the human body.
Because of its extraordinary antioxidant power Astaxanthin acts as a fantastic internal sunscreen to prevent your skin from burning even when exposure is excessive although that is not recommended. It can also protect your eyes from the damaging rays of the sun. It does however, take time to build up the antioxidant protection in your skin. It may take 2 – 4 weeks to build up adequate sun protection.
Antioxidants from your diet provide additional protection
Antioxidants and other substances in fresh fruit and vegetables can help protect you from sunburn too. Lutein in green leafy vegetables and lycopene from tomatoes were found to be protective in studies. Betacarotene found in orange and red vegetables and fruit can help repair skin damaged skin and prevent DNA damage that leads to skin cancers.
Onions and garlic provide selenium, an important mineral involved in the bodies own antioxidant system. Green tea contains substances that have anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidant effects that prevent skin aging and skin cancers.
Other research suggests that supplementing with omega-3 fatty acids reduces skin inflammation caused by UV rays and helps protect the skin cells.
So if you usually suffer from sunburn and want to avoid damaging sunscreens a combination of the right foods in your diet and the power of Astazanthin can provide you with excellent natural antioxidant protection from sunburn.