Our body is under constant attack from the so-called "oxidative stress" we continue hearing about in the media and from health specialists. The "free radicals" that are generated open up to conditions more favourable to the onset of diseases: cancer, atherosclerosis, Alzheimer's disease, Parkinson's disease and many other pathological states can be encouraged, like those related to inflammatory states. Furthermore, the connection between free radicals and aging – defined as a "gradual accumulation of damage caused by free radicals" – has been well recognised, and this is a major fundamental point to be addressed in "anti-aging" medicine. Unfortunately the substances that generate free radicals can be found in the food we eat, in the drugs we take, in the air we breathe and in the water we drink, given that these factors we constantly come into contact with include products that are contaminated by various chemicals, tobacco smoke, pesticides and air pollutants or alcohol consumption. Let us not forget, however, that free radicals are also natural by-products of the body's chemical processes, such as the metabolism itself. The body's ability to transform air and food into chemical energy depends on a chain reaction of free radicals. Free radicals are also produced during the processes of defence activated by our immune system to eliminate invading microorganisms. Oxidative stress occurs when there are too many free radicals and too much cellular damage in the body. According to a study published in the journal Pharmacognosy Review, oxidative stress is also associated with the damage of proteins, lipids and nucleic acids. In recent decades, numerous studies have shown that oxidative stress plays a role in the development of many conditions including macular degeneration, cardiovascular diseases, some types of cancer, emphysema, alcoholism, Alzheimer's disease, Parkinson's disease, ulcers and all inflammatory diseases, such as lupus and arthritis. Free radicals that increase in the body are also associated with aging, encouraged by the accumulation of free radicals over time.
For this reason, scientific evidence on the importance of the protection offered by antioxidants – which are molecules present inside the cells that block free radicals, that is, prevent free radicals from take electrons and causing their damage – is increasingly evident. Antioxidants are completely natural substances (the best known are beta-carotene and other carotenoids, lutein, resveratrol, the famous vitamins C and E, lycopene and other phytonutrients contained in Maqui and Goji "super berries") whose job is to keep the body protected from free radicals, removing them from cells. Our body produces some antioxidants on its own but in insufficient quantities and their importance in the nutraceutical world continues to stand out and prove useful for "preventive" purposes in protecting our health.
Another powerful antioxidant available to us is astaxanthin, a red pigment found in nature in many living organisms. The main extractive source is of plant origin, as it is exclusively synthesised by the unicellular microalgae Haematococcus pluvialis as a substance that is photoprotective for its own cells and spores. It is a carotenoid belonging to the class of xanthophylls, responsible for the characteristic colouring of some fish, including salmon and shellfish. Not being able to produce this pigment, these animals introduce it via their diet through zooplacton which in turn accumulates it, starting with microalgae. Another natural source of production uses fermentation of the xathophyllomyces dendrorhous yeast or extraction of the pigment from by-products of crustaceans such as the increasingly known Antarctic "Krill", but the richest source of astaxanthin which it accumulates in its own lipid vesicles for protection against free radicals generated by UV rays during sun exposure, is the Haematococcus pluvialis microalga.
In salmon, for example, astaxanthin protects the fish, whose fat is rich in easily oxidisable Omega-3, precisely from damage by oxidative stress. Without this protection, the salmon would not be able to withstand the massive oxidative attack that is generated during the rising against the current necessary for reproduction. In this case, it is the same oxidative stress that is generated in those who carry out physical activity.
There are elements in nature which, thanks to their particular molecular structure, have proven to be tens (if not hundreds) of times more powerful than many other more well-known antioxidants, and one of these is astaxanthin, in absolute terms a real antioxidant power of nature.
As verified by numerous scientific studies, astaxanthin is one of the most widely known antioxidants to date. Its benefits on our body expand into many issues. As an antioxidant it is 500 times more effective than vitamin E, 800 times more powerful than coenzyme Q10 and 6000 times compared with the common Vitamin C; it prevents and controls many pathological states on an inflammatory and oxidative basis. It significantly limits some clinical forms of photosensitivity, skin inflammation, urticaria, erythema and burns due to exposure to UV rays. Astaxanthin is one of the best antioxidants for counteracting excess cholesterol and the damage it causes; it acts against the oxidation of lipids, reducing the oxidative damage of LDL or "bad" cholesterol, and thus counteracting the formation of atherosclerotic plaques in the arteries. Astaxanthin is considered a real "cleaner" of free radicals. In addition to its significant benefits in the cardiovascular field, its protective and anti-inflammatory effect extends to the gastroenterological field. For some years, thanks to very interesting studies, antioxidants have been proposed as potential therapeutic weapons against gastritis and ulcers, where it is emerging that astaxanthin is able to both prevent gastric ulcer better than proton pump inhibitors, and have a therapeutic effect on the ulcer already in course, thanks specifically to its local antioxidant capacity. In addition, the literature demonstrates that astaxanthin reduces the symptoms of acid reflux and gastritis, acting as a real anti-inflammatory, especially in situations with Helicobacter pylori infection, considered one of the major factors causing gastric ulcer.
It also has a positive effect on male fertility. Indeed, astaxanthin is able to counteract the presence of free radicals in seminal fluid and improve the values of inhibin B, the hormone that regulates sperm production, with significant benefit also for their motility. It can be a very valuable ally for those practising sport and generates many free radicals, protecting joints and tendons, encouraging recovery processes.
Dozens of other scientific studies have shown that supplementation with astaxanthin can improve many chronic conditions that have a strong inflammatory component closely related to oxidative stress, and therefore to the cell damage that this produces.
It should be noted that synthetic astaxanthin is not as effective as that of natural origin and can also cause some problems. In fact, the natural astaxanthin we have chosen for our product is AstaReal® Natural Astaxanthin (from the AstaReal Group), obtained from algae. Besides not containing iodine, it has no particular contraindications, while that obtained from crustaceans, for example from krill, could cause some reaction in those who are sensitive to shellfish.
AstaReal® Natural Astaxanthin, is the most studied and certified version of astaxanthin in the world, which exploits the best process of culture, extraction and purification of microalgae. AstaReal® is backed up by 50 trials on humans, including 23 double-blind trials, with more than 1,400 participants lasting from 2 weeks to 6 months, the efficacy, safety and excellent tolerability of AstaReal® was declared, without side effects worthy of note.