Jamie Schneider •
If you're familiar with astaxanthin—you know, that powerful antioxidant that gives salmon their pink color—perhaps you file it under skin health; after all, ingesting antioxidants can help manage oxidative stress in your body, which contributes to a host of skincare woes (think wrinkles, loss of collagen, and decreased moisture). And because the free-radical-fighting effect of astaxanthin is up to 1,000 times higher than that of many of its fellow antioxidants, no wonder it's been crowned "King of the Carotenoids" by many health experts.*
But there's another reason astaxanthin tops our list of antioxidants: A new study on astaxanthin supplementation found that the antioxidant does suppress oxidative stress, yes, but that suppression also benefits cardiovascular health and exercise performance. How? Allow us to explain.
What they found.
It makes total sense that oxidative stress is associated with poor cardiovascular health. As functional medicine practitioner Christine Maren, D.O., previously explains, "Simply put, oxidative stress is like rust in our body formed by oxidation, and it accelerates aging and disease."
But an abundance of free radicals can affect more than just skin aging—that chronic inflammation can damage your body's proteins and DNA, which in turn can affect a number of diseases over time, including—you guessed it—heart conditions. One 2018 study even identifies oxidative stress as an important factor in the development and progression of heart failure.
And since we know that antioxidants can help stabilize those free radicals, scientists were eager to figure out how astaxanthin could help manage heart health.
During this pilot study, 16 patients diagnosed with heart failure supplemented with 12 milligrams of astaxanthin over the span of three months. After those few months, researchers measured oxidative stress markers in their blood, as well as how far they could walk for six minutes. The result? Their oxidative stress markers had been significantly managed, associated with supported cardiac performance.* What's more, researchers found enhanced exercise tolerance as well (meaning, they were able to walk farther in those six measly minutes).*
What does this all mean?
We know that antioxidants are MVPs for fighting free radicals, but this study shows just how beneficial they can be for specific health concerns. Specifically, astaxanthin can have some pretty promising effects on the cardiovascular system. And for those looking to up your athletic performance, perhaps add astaxanthin to your pre-workout routine; if this study has anything to show for it, the supplement can enhance your endurance.
But the heart (pun intended) of this study is that supplementing with astaxanthin was able to reduce levels of oxidative stress, something we can all benefit from, whether you suffer from cardiovascular disease or not. After all, oxidative stress affects a number of processes in our body—aging, brain health, and skin barrier function, to highlight a few. Consider this another reason to add the "King of Carotenoids" to your repertoire.