Algae does a Body Good

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Published May 31, 2008

QUESTIONS: “I just heard about a natural supplement called astaxanthin and how it could help with heart disease. I’m anxious to try this. But in this house, my wife says we don’t take anything until “Suzy says so.”  So what does Suzy say?”
–D.L., Nashville, Tennessee

ANSWER: I say so! In fact, I bet every one of you has eaten astaxanthin already, pronounced “astuh-zanthin.” It’s a natural dye created by marine algae. Ocean critters like lobster, shrimp and crabs munch on the algae, and they turn red. When we eat shellfish or salmon, we consume it too. Astaxanthin puts the pink in flamingos!

The nerd in me looked up the chemical structure and, lo and behold, it looks just like beta carotene and lutein. You know those two powerful antioxidants found in plants that improve vision in humans. I’m certain that astaxanthin can improve cataracts and age-related macular degeneration because it’s a carotenoid too.

It’s fascinating that the nutrient slips through the doorway of ALL your cells, even your brain cells. It gets in there by sliding past your “blood-brain barrier,” the delicate layer of cells which wraps around your brain. Once inside, it sweeps away debris and harmful toxins which contribute to Lou Gehrig’s (ALS), Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, Guillain-Barre Syndrome, multiple sclerosis, lupus and dementia. Astaxanthin is incredibly slick and neutralizes dangerous free radicals in other tough-to-penetrate organs like your kidneys, liver and lungs. It doesn’t stop there, look what else:

It could repair beta cells in the pancreas, great if you have pancreatitis, or diabetes.

It appears to remove crud from your arteries, thus reducing the risk of atherosclerosis, heart disease, blood clots and stroke. It lowers LDL cholesterol too.

If you’ve had radiation, it could offset the damage done by that procedure.

I believe it will ease allergies and reduce the frequency of infections by revving up the immune system.

It may protect you from cancer because it’s a powerful antioxidant, about 100 times stronger than vitamin E (alpha tocopherol).

It could help people with “amyloid” diseases often caused by tuberculosis, rheumatoid arthritis or other auto-immune disorders.

It is a strong anti-inflammatory and should relieve joint pain, back pain or carpal tunnel syndrome.

The nutrient is sold online and in some health food stores. I suggest you get natural astaxanthin, not synthetic versions. It will say “natural” right on the label.  I can’t find any studies that show dangerous side effects, however, I am always cautious so follow label directions — the dose is usually 4mg daily with food (for optimal absorption). I prefer vegetarian capsules or soft gels over tablets. I realize that most of you take medications and, yes, I think it’s fine to take an antioxidant like this too. However, your body (metabolism) may become more efficient, making you more sensitive to your meds. Consequently, you may need a dosage reduction so work closely with your doctor if you take blood thinners, insulin, diabetic or blood pressure drugs.

Did You Know?
A new study found that older women who take prescribed estrogen tablets are twice as likely to develop a deadly blood clot as women who don’t.