By now, most of your patients likely not only know about antioxidants are, but are getting them from at least one source.
Foods such as blueberries, pecans, and shrimp are all high in antioxidants, as are vitamins C, A, and E. However, you may also see some patients who may not be able to benefit from some of these antioxidant sources for one reason or another. This can be a very frustrating situation, as your patients want to benefit from taking antioxidants, but may be unable to do so.
Are there other options that can provide them the benefits of standard antioxidants but without the drawbacks? Some research into a chemical compound called astaxanthin appears to show that not only might it be a far more powerful antioxidant than other sources, but it may be able to offset some of the issues with other sources for certain patients, depending upon the form in which it is taken.
Issues with traditional antioxidants
The main issue with traditional antioxidants comes in the form of allergic reactions to one of the food sources. It is not uncommon for patients to be allergic to tree nuts or shellfish, which can rule out both pecans and shrimp as antioxidant food sources. Although less common, some patients can be allergic to vitamins A, E, or ascorbic acid (the active chemical ingredient in vitamin C). If your patient keeps to a vegetarian or vegan diet, this will also limit their options for sources of antioxidants, particularly if they are also allergic to tree nuts or any vitamin sources.
What is Astaxanthin?
Astaxanthin is a chemical compound that is a fat-soluble pigment. It provides a vivid yellow, orange, or red color for a variety of organisms, ranging from yeast, to salmon, to shrimp, to bird feathers.1 However, it is most commonly found in microalgae.2 It can also be produced artificially, so is sometimes used as a food dye.
Advantages of astaxanthin
Astaxanthin contains high amounts of beta-carotene, which is thought to contain strong antioxidant properties. Its biggest overall advantage, as compared to other sources of antioxidants, is that it contains significantly higher antioxidant levels than other vitamin or food sources. One 2007 study found that it contained 6,000 times the antioxidant power of vitamin C.4 Furthermore, although the beta-carotene found in astaxanthin is similar to vitamin A, it does not actually convert into retinol (the active compound in vitamin A) because it is somewhat chemically different.1-3 This may make it safe for your patients who have difficulty taking vitamin A.
Because astaxanthin supplements are available in vegan form, you can also address the conundrum your vegetarian or vegan patients may face if they also are allergic to tree nuts or vitamins that contain antioxidants.
Both you and your patients want to see the full health benefits from taking antioxidants. Unfortunately, this may be difficult if your patients have allergies to common food sources for antioxidants or keep to a vegetarian or vegan diet. However, astaxanthin, particularly in vegan form, may provide the optimal solution to this problem.
- Wikipedia. Accessed 4/5/2016.
- Astaxanthin: A review of the literature. Nature Medicine Journal 2012 Feb, 4(2).
- Examin.com. Accessed 4/5/2016.
- Nishida Y, Yamashita E, Miki W. Quenching activities of common hydrophilic and lipophilic antioxidants against singlet oxygen using chemiluminescence detection system. Carotenoid Science 2007 11:16-20.