If you were on a desert island and could have only one antioxidant to support your health, the choice would be easy.  Astaxanthin, which is often referred to as “nature’s ultimate antioxidant powerhouse” is emerging as one of the most important components for disease prevention and health maintenance.  Astaxanthin is actually a pigment that occurs naturally in a type of microalgae called Haematococcus pluvialis which is rich in carotenoids. When the algae are consumed by fish, crustaceans and other types of marine life, they take on a pinkish color.

Researchers believe that astaxanthin plays a pivotal role in the prevention of many serious health problems including autoimmune disorders, cardiovascular problems and inflammatory diseases. Studies have also linked astaxanthin to a reduced risk of neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s.  Astaxanthin boosts the body’s immune system by maximizing the production of antibodies and it is a key player in the fight against free radicals. It is the only compound that is able to cross the blood-brain barrier.

Because astaxanthin is a much stronger antioxidant than beta carotene, it is often recommended by holistic practitioners for people who seek to improve their vision. Recent studies have shown that it can be helpful in relieving eye strain and sensitivity to glare and scientists believe it may also have a role to play in the prevention and treatment of serious eye conditions such as cataracts and macular degeneration.

In recent years astaxanthin has been hailed as an “internal sunscreen” because it enhances the body’s tolerance for sun exposure by providing protection against UV irradiation.  Skin care experts have embraced this antioxidant for its ability to enhance lipid-rich cell membranes and tissues.  Studies have shown that it can hydrate skin, reduce puffiness in the eye area, improve skin texture and calm inflammation.  It has also been associated with healthy hair growth.

The human body is not able to naturally synthesize astaxanthin so it has to be obtained through the diet or from nutritional supplements. Foods that contain astaxanthin include shrimp, lobster, crawfish and other pinkish crustaceans. Rainbow trout, red bream and salmon are also good sources.

Because most people aren’t likely to get optimal amounts through diet alone, many people use astaxanthin supplements. The supplements are available in pill or capsule form at natural health stores. Astaxanthin is also becoming increasingly popular as an ingredient in topical lotions, creams, gels and other skin care products.

Vibrant health starts from the inside out. Because astaxanthin provides benefits ranging from disease prevention to glowing skin, it is a must-have for those who want to look and feel their very best.