What if someone told you there was a supplement you could take to nurture the brain, and protect it from the aging process - stave off cognitive decline and help you to remember where you put your keys? Well, good news, science says there is - and it’s astaxanthin.
The brain is part of the nervous system and it’s in a constant, two-way conversation with the body - receiving information and giving instructions. It regulates everything from thinking and learning to sleep and even our heartbeat. The brain not only facilitates internal communication but it allows us to interpret the outside world and act accordingly. The brain, with its all its responsibilities, is highly susceptible to damage, simply through the aging process. Cognitive function decreases as we age. Early signs can show up as brain fog, inability to retain information, memory loss, forgetfulness and a lack of focus (1).
Structurally, it is made of trillions of cells (neurons). These neurons, like the brain and the body, are in constant communication. The health of the brain is determined by the number of neurons that exist and how effectively they can talk to each other. Age related-cognitive decline happens when free radical damage builds up and the inflammatory response is activated, which in turn, causes neurons to die off and become damaged. Read on to discover how astaxanthin fights free radicals, reduces inflammation and keeps the brain sharp!
Preservation of brain tissue throughout the lifespan is critical to a healthy trajectory of aging and is entirely possible thanks to compounds like astaxanthin. Astaxanthin’s hallmark feature is its strength as a potent antioxidant (1). Astaxanthin is able to pass through the protective barrier of the brain. Although this feature is common in other brain loving antioxidants, such as CoQ10 and alpha-lipoic acid, astaxanthin is unique in the fact that it stays in the brain for a much longer time. It’s been shown to be 80 times more effective than CoQ10, and 75 times stronger than alpha-lipoic acid in its antioxidant capability.
This becomes important because antioxidants are needed to fight free radicals - especially in the brain. Free radicals are by-products of many processes that occur in the body every second, they are also found in our food and the environment. The body does produce its own antioxidants in response to these free radicals. As we age, the internal production of antioxidants decreases (2). When there are more free radicals than antioxidants, the body becomes overwhelmed and cell damage occurs. Astaxanthin has not only been shown to act as an antioxidant in the body but it also increases the body's own antioxidant production (2). This keeps the balance between free radicals and antioxidants in check - protecting the valuable brain tissue!
Did you know the brain has its own immune system (3)?
This little-known fact has huge implications for cognitive health. Usually, immune cells are only active when there’s a threat in the brain such as toxins or pathogens. Research is now showing that as we age they become activated essentially randomly (3). This means that as we age the immune cells in our brain randomly shoot out toxic chemicals meant for pathogens. Without any pathogens present these chemicals target healthy brain cells - causing damage.
Think of it like this, rain is needed for healthy crops and abundant gardens, but too much rain causes floods and ruined crops. It’s the same with the brain's immune cells - they are completely necessary but when there’s too much activation we see adverse effects on the system.
This hyper-immune response results in inflammation. Inflammation is the underlying cause of many health conditions, and the brain is no exception. When the inflammatory response is activated in the brain it can lead to brain fog, lack of focus, memory impairment and it’s been correlated with the onset of cognitive decline and neural pathologies. Astaxanthin has the ability to calm down the brain immune system when it is in overdrive, and therefore reduce the inflammatory response (3,4)!
A healthy brain allows us to participate more actively in life and have experiences that cultivate joy. However, the aging process can compromise the integrity of the brain. When addressing cognitive health from a preventative standpoint the goal is to minimize free radical damage and reduce inflammation. Thankfully, astaxanthin has been shown to do both - keeping brain cells healthy, alive and cognition sharp!
K. M. Damodara Gowda, N. Suchetha Kumari & Harshini Ullal (2018) Role of astaxanthin in the modulation of brain-derived neurotrophic factor and spatial learning behavior in perinatally undernourished Wistar rats, Nutritional Neuroscience, DOI: 10.1080/1028415X.2018.1515301
Disclaimer: The article is for informational purposes only and does not constitute medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Should you have any health concerns, you should see your doctor.