Antioxidant Astaxanthin Protects the Eyes from Disease and Damage

Nigiri Sushi AstaxanthinAstaxanthin is an extremely powerful antioxidant that is sometimes overlooked. It protects the body from free radical damage. Ten times more powerful than beta-carotene, astaxanthin is a carotenoid that can cross the blood-brain barrier1. This means it can reach the retina and macula of the eye.

Seniors need to be especially protective of their eye health. In Age-Related Macular Degeneration, the yellowish-colored macular responsible for central vision begins to break down. This makes driving, reading, cooking and recognizing faces difficult or impossible. Cataracts cause haziness and blurring as the lens becomes obscured. And glaucoma gradually steals peripheral vision due to damage to the optic nerve. A large body of research points to oxidization as a culprit in all these eye diseases.

Decreases Oxidation & Cell Death

One study found that astaxanthin decreased fat oxidation in human lens cells – potentially preventing cataracts from forming.2 This also reduced damage to the retina.3 An animal study of glaucoma found this antioxidant reduced inflammation and the death of cells.4

Reverses Injury and Protects Photoreceptors

An animal study5 found that astaxanthin reversed injury to the retina and protected photoreceptors from degeneration.

Helpful for Diabetes & High Cholesterol

This compound also helps reduce metabolic syndrome by lowering blood sugar, reducing insulin resistance6, helping the pancreas to produce more insulin.7 and helping control cholesterol8. Metabolic syndrome can lead to arteriosclerosis or hardening of the arteries, which in turn can cause retinal artery occlusion and retinal vein occlusion.

Food Sources

Astaxanthin occurs naturally in salmon, shrimp, trout and pink seafood because these animals eat the algae Haematococcus. It is also found a red yeast named Phaffia rhodozyma, an ingredient in Asian cooking. It is difficult to get enough of this carotenoid from the typical Western diet, so astaxanthin supplementation of 2 mg to 5 mg per day may be needed.

  1. Tso and Lam 1996
  2. Wang X, Willen R, Wadstrom T. Astaxanthin-rich algal meal and vitamin C inhibit Helicobacter pylori infection in BALB/cA mice. Antimicrob Agents Chemother. 2000 Sep;44(9):2452-7.
  3. Nakajima Y, Inokuchi Y, Shimazawa M, Otsubo K, Ishibashi T, Hara H. Astaxanthin, a dietary carotenoid, protects retinal cells against oxidative stress in-vitro and in mice in-vivo. J Pharm Pharmacol. 2008 Oct;60(10):1365-74.
  4. Cort A, Ozturk N, Akpinar D, et al. Suppressive effect of astaxanthin on retinal injury induced by elevated intraocular pressure. Regul Toxicol Pharmacol. 2010 Oct;58(1):121-30.
  5. Tso and Lam 1996
  6. Hussein G, Nakagawa T, Goto H, et al. Astaxanthin ameliorates features of metabolic syndrome in SHR/NDmcr-cp. Life Sci. 2007 Jan 16;80(6):522-9
  7. Uchiyama K, Naito Y, Hasegawa G, Nakamura N, Takahashi J, Yoshikawa T. Astaxanthin protects beta-cells against glucose toxicity in diabetic db/db mice. Redox Rep. 2002;7(5):290-3.
  8. Yoshida H, Yanai H, Ito K, et al. Administration of natural astaxanthin increases serum HDL-cholesterol and adiponectin in subjects with mild hyperlipidemia. Atherosclerosis. 2010 Apr;209(2):520-3.