In the process of doing research on supplements that might help improve brain function, you may have run across a complicated name: astaxanthin.
As with many supplements, you might find online health food store websites selling astaxanthin along with rave reviews about how it is the most amazing, powerful anti-oxidant ever found in nature.
After a while, when you have been doing a lot of supplement research, you may start to become a bit jaded. Is every supplement the amazing wonder nutrient that some people claim it is? Do you need to be taking one hundred different types of supplements a day?
Since astaxanthin can be obtained through food sources, you fortunately do not need to run out and by an expensive bottle of the stuff just yet. But let’s learn a bit more about it to see if it is even worth it.
What Exactly Is Astaxanthin and Where Does It Come From?
Astaxanthin is a carotenoid, a chemical pigment that can add color to a food, like the color orange found in carrots. (The carotenoids in carrots are alpha-carotene and beta-carotene.)
This pigment is what makes salmon that bright, orange pink color. It also can be found in shrimp, crayfish, and other crustaceans.
Unlike beta-carotene, which we all know about because of carrots, astaxanthin does not become transformed into vitamin A once it is in the human body. Supposedly, the chance for toxicity with the carotenoid is very low.
Astaxanthin is an anti-oxidant that can reduce the damage done by free radicals in the body. It is also a powerful anti-inflammatory compound.
What Can Astaxanthin Help With?
While this super carotenoid has been claimed as a possible treatment for Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease, fatigue, heart disease, arthritis, carpal tunnel system, and more, not enough studies have been done yet.
Even the holistic Dr. Andrew Weil takes a conservative approach on astaxanthin supplementation. He writes: “I’ve seen no human study showing that astaxanthin as an isolated dietary supplement delivers any of these claimed benefits.”
Can Astaxanthin Help Improve Brain Function?
Generally speaking, any sort of anti-inflammatory or anti-oxidant nutrient can help improve brain function. Since astaxanthin is such a powerful anti-oxidant, it is no surprise that it has been shown to help with cognition, according to several studies.
Astaxanthin helped elderly study participants with improved cognition and psychomotor function over a span of just 12 weeks in one of these research studies.
As for whether this anti-inflammatory substance can actually have a measurable impact on the brain of a healthy person, the jury is out. Usually, researchers are focused on studying how these substances affect people with diseases, not people who are healthy and already have good cognitive function.
So, if you are thinking such supplementation might help you ace your next college test, you can certainly try it, but don’t count on it as your ace in the hole. Studying more would probably be better.
How Can You Add More Astaxanthin to Your Diet?
Of course, many companies in the business of selling supplements will tell you that you should run out today and go buy their special bottle of astaxanthin for its “amazing” properties.
The best way to get this substance naturally is by consuming salmon. The salmon should be wild-caught Pacific salmon.
It can also be found in krill oil supplements. So if you are already taking krill oil, you would not need to add an extra supplement just to get this into your diet.
Dr. Andrew Weil suggests it is to have a lot of brightly colored vegetables in your regular, daily diet to get the benefits of antioxidants, rather than getting yet another supplement to take on a daily basis.
The reason you want brightly colored vegetables is that they have those pigment-producing carotenoids that have all of the anti-oxidant and anti-inflammatory properties you are probably looking for. Add some wild salmon from the Pacific Ocean, and you would have a very brain healthy meal!
Should You Be Taking an Astaxanthin Supplements for More Brain Power?
Without a lot of scientific evidence that astaxanthin promotes improved memory, cognition, or brain power in otherwise healthy people, you probably don’t need to run out and buy some new supplements. You should first adjust your diet, so you are getting a lot of vegetables, especially the red, orange, and yellow vegetables, and then add some wild Pacific salmon to your meals. This would be the best way to get the power of anti-oxidants without having to spend a lot on extra supplements.