Free radical damage and oxidative stress have long been hallmarks of poor health. Study after study has shown that oxidation has been connected to the big diseases of the 21st century, including cancer, heart disease, Alzheimer’s and diabetes, just to name a few.
But what is less well known is the connection between obesity and oxidative stress. Turns out that simply being overweight can increase oxidation within the body.
Based on this, researchers from South Korea wondered if an antioxidant could help reduce oxidative stress in overweight people. Specifically, they wondered about astaxanthin.
What is Astaxanthin?
Astaxanthin belongs to the carotenoid family, and is a fat-soluble pigment found in shrimp, crab, lobster, salmon, trout, krill, crayfish and microalgae, specifically Haematococus pluvialis.
The one defining characteristic all of these critters have in common is not just being water-related (true though that may be). It’s the fact that thy’re are orange. That’s the astaxanthin. And, as you can imagine, the deeper the color, the higher the astaxanthin concentration.
Astaxanthin is also a powerhouse antioxidant. In one study, researchers compared astaxanthin to other carotenoids known to be good sources of antioxidants, namely beta-carotene, lutein, alpha-carotene, alpha-tocopherol and lycopene. They found that astaxanthin had the highest antioxidant activity. So it makes sense that the researchers opted to use astaxanthin for their obesity study.
Simple Test, Big Results
Researchers had 33 participants total. Ten of the participants were of normal weight and were used as the control. The remaining 23 participants were either overweight (with a body mass index between 25 and 29.9) or obese (with a BMI of 30 or greater).
These participants were randomly divided into two groups. The first group took 5 milligrams (mg) of astaxanthin every day for three weeks. The second group took 20 mg of astaxanthin daily for three weeks. Both groups were asked to avoid vitamins, antioxidant supplements and astaxanthin-rich foods during the study period. They were also asked to keep a food journal.
The participants were tested on four different markers:
- Malondialdehyde (MDA) levels
- Isoprostane (ISP) levels
- Superoxide dismutase levels (SOD)
- Total antioxidant capacity
Both MDA and ISP are associated with oxidation of cholesterol. High levels are indicative of oxidative stress. SOD is an antioxidant enzyme and a critical antioxidant defense against oxidative stress. Total antioxidant capacity is exactly as it sounds. It refers to a particular antioxidant’s ability to fend off a variety of oxidative attacks.
Researchers found that both astaxanthin groups enjoyed a reduction in MDA, with the 5 mg group having a 34.6 percent decrease and the 20 mg group logging a 35.2 percent decrease.
Both groups also showed a decrease in ISP, with the 5 mg group dropping 64.9 percent and the 20 mg group falling 64.7 percent.
Additionally, they found that SOD increased in both groups, with the 5 mg group enjoying a 193 percent boost and the 20 mg group a 194 percent increase. Similarly, total antioxidant capacity improved in both groups, with the 5 mg group seeing a 121 percent increase and the 20 mg group gaining 125 percent.
To put this simply, astaxanthin helped reduce both markers of oxidative stress and increased antioxidative capabilities. And there was virtually no difference in terms of dosage. The 5 mg worked as well as the 20 mg.
Researchers concluded, “Astaxanthin supplementation reduces obesity-induced oxidative stress.”
Interesting Side Notes
Apart from the specific findings of the study, there were a couple of intriguing things the researchers noted in their discussion.
First, at baseline, both MDA and ISP levels were higher in overweight and obese individuals than in those with normal weight. Similarly, SOD and total antioxidant capacity were lower in the heavier group than the group with normal body weight. Clearly, oxidation is an issue closely related to weight.
Second, when they reviewed the food journals, researchers found that while the total caloric intake was pretty much the same between the overweight group and the obese group, those in the obese group had significantly greater carbohydrate intake. This was not related to the study in any way, but is interesting to note nonetheless. (See: How to Lose Weight Without Giving Up Carbs.)
Whether you have a few extra pounds to lose or simply want an antioxidant boost, astaxanthin is a great choice.
In terms of dosage, researchers recommended 5 mg a day, and you can get these capsules online or from your local health food store. There are no significant side effects associated with astaxanthin, though some people have noticed a slight orange color to their bowel movements. The discoloration is safe and usually subsides in time. A small price to pay for better health!
If you’re looking for a high-quality astaxanthin supplement, you can simply click here.
 Keaney, J.F. et al. Obesity and systemic oxidative stress: clinical correlates of oxidative stress in the Framingham study. Arterioscler Thromb Vasc Biol. 2003;23:434-9.
 Choi, H.D. et al. Effects of astaxanthin on oxidative stress in overweight and obese adults. Phytother Res. 2011 Apr 8. [Epub ahead of print].
 Naguib, Y.M. Antioxidant activities of astaxanthin and related carotenoids. J Agric Food Chem. 2000 Apr;48(4):1,150-4.