Astaxanthin and Mitochondria
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In a recent newsletter on the subject of red light and eye health, I discussed how problems that occur in aging eyes are often due to a degeneration of the mitochondria in the eye.
As always, oxidative stress, also known as free radical damage, is a major cause of aging and diseases. Our mitochondria, being the “center of cellular metabolism” and a “major regulator of redox balance”, plays a critical role in preventing the development and progression of diseases, and premature aging. (Redox balance is the process of donating electrons to damaged cells in order to prevent, or reduce, free radical damage.)
When oxidative stress is excessive (via toxins, radiation, UV light, etc), the mitochondria can be damaged, and the ensuing “mitochondrial dysfunction generates excesses of mitochondrial reactive oxygen species that cause cellular damage. Mitochondrial dysfunction also activates the mitochondrial apoptotic pathway, resulting in cellular death”.
While antioxidants are the primary answer to dealing with oxidative stress, one source of antioxidants stands out when we are looking at protecting our cells: astaxanthin.
Astaxanthin is a pigment in the carotenoid family, found naturally occurring in sea creatures, especially in red trout, lobster, shrimp, and sockeye salmon. Astaxanthin is what gives the flesh of these creatures its pinkish color. And, this red pigment is also found in a freshwater microalgae (Haematococcus pluvialis), which is the source of astaxanthin supplements. (Astaxanthin is also found in krill, which are basically tiny shrimp, so a product like our NutriKrill will also be a supplemental source of this antioxidant.)
As “astaxanthin exerts an anti-oxidative and anti-inflammatory effect on various cell lines”, it “maintains mitochondrial integrity under various pathological conditions”.
So, a review of existing studies on astaxanthin sought to determine “the inhibitory effects of astaxanthin on oxidative stress-induced mitochondrial dysfunction”.
And of course (or we wouldn’t be discussing it), it was discovered that “astaxanthin can effectively mitigate oxidative stress generated under various pathological conditions and prevent oxidative stress-induced mitochondrial dysfunction”.
This review also pointed out that many disease states associated with mitochondrial dysfunction can benefit from treatment with astaxanthin. “Such conditions include cardiovascular diseases, liver diseases (including non-alcoholic fatty liver disease), neurodegenerative diseases (MS, ALS, Parkinson’s disease, etc),” and “metabolic syndromes including diabetes, diabetic complications such as neuropathy, retinopathy, and nephropathy, and inflammation in the pancreas, liver, endothelium and kidney. Finally, consumption of astaxanthin-rich foods might prevent metabolic complications related to the aging process.” (Study)
As well, it is currently believed that both fibromyalgia, and chronic fatigue syndrome, are related to malfunctioning mitochondria. And, to return to the opening thesis, astaxanthin will also serve to protect the eyes from photoreceptor damage that occurs with aging, due to its protective effect on the mitochondria found in the eyes.
In fact, according to fxmedicine.com: “An extensive range of clinical trials and in vitro research have investigated the effects of astaxanthin in the prevention and treatment of eye diseases, as well as maintaining healthy eye function. The benefits of astaxanthin range from reducing eye strain to having a potential role in the treatment of age-related macular degeneration. Its ability to cross the blood-retinal brain barrier and accumulate in the retina adds to astaxanthin’s benefits in the treatment of eye diseases.” (Source)
Many other nutrients are also required for proper functioning mitochondria, including vitamins B1, B2, B3, and B5. (Our NutriPods contain adequate amounts of all the B vitamins necessary to support mitochondria in healthy people. However, those with mitochondrial ailments may need higher amounts of these B vitamins.) For an overview of most of the clinical studies on nutrients that have a beneficial effect on mitochondria follow this link.