Astaxanthin for Eyes: Everything You Need to Know
In today’s society our eye health is compromised by a multitude of factors. From UV ray exposure, to the blue light emitted from our electronic devices, vision impairment continues to rise. According to the Center for Disease Control, over 12 million Americans over the age of 40 struggle with some form of vision impairment. 1 However, around 80% of vision impairment is actually preventable with early treatment and protective measures. 2 With the wide prevalence of vision impairments and the potential for prevention, dietary interventions can provide one approach to minimizing damage to the eyes. Although many are familiar with the importance of vitamins such as A and C for promoting healthy vision, the role of antioxidants such as astaxanthin may be less well known. Several recent students have highlighted the potential benefits of astaxanthin for eye health and protecting against common diseases such as cataracts and age-related macular degeneration (AMD).
Astaxanthin is a unique carotenoid pigment found in many red algae and marine life giving certain animals their distinctive red coloring. The pigment can be found in sea life such as salmon, shrimp, lobster, and microalgae. Astaxanthin extracted directly from the Haematococcus pluvialis algae (included in GEM vitamins) provides humans the most powerful benefits of this pigment. As a carotenoid, Astaxanthin acts as a powerful antioxidant in both aquatic animals and humans. This potent pigment has shown to have multiple health benefits ranging from decreasing inflammation, having anti-cancer and diabetic properties, as well as protecting the heart, and nervous system. 3 Studies have also shown that there are many skin benefits of Astaxanthin as well.These benefits are likely due to Astaxanthin’s ability to neutralize harmful free radicals produced by the body’s oxidative stress. Oxidative stress is a necessary biological process that occurs after activities such as eating or exercising. However, certain environmental factors such as overexposure to UV light, smoke, and air pollution along with mental stress can lead to chronic oxidative stress which can be dangerous. This uncontrolled stress can create disrupting chain reactions in the body leading to widespread cell damage.
Astaxanthin as a Powerful Antioxidant
To interrupt these cascading events, antioxidants like Astaxanthin intervene by donating an electron to the unstable free radicals, effectively preventing further damage. Astaxanthin has been studied to be one of the most powerful antioxidants for humans to consume as it’s unique molecular structure allows it to neutralize both nonpolar and polar free radicals. 3 Although other carotenoids such as lutein, zeaxanthin, and beta-carotene have shown to have beneficial effects on eye health, astaxanthin has a unique chemical structure making it one of the most potent antioxidants available to humans. Other antioxidants like beta-carotene have exhibited pro-oxidative properties in certain scenarios while astaxanthin has only exhibited antioxidant abilities. 4 These findings apply to eye health as Astaxanthin is able to cross the blood-retinal brain barrier and directly target the accumulation of reactive oxygen species (ROS). 4 In some studies, Astaxanthin has proven to be nearly ten times more powerful than either zeaxanthin or lutein. 5 By studying the differences between Astaxanthin vs. Zeaxanthin, scientists have been able to prove Astaxanthin’s benefits of the human body. This antioxidant property becomes very important with regards to eye health as environmental factors such as UV-ray exposure and blue light can increase ROS in the eye.
Astaxanthin for Age-Related Macular Degeneration
The accumulation of these oxidative stress byproducts can become risk factors for future ocular diseases such as age-related macular degeneration (AMD). AMD is the leading cause of blindness for adults in developed countries due to macular degeneration. 3 The macular is a part of the retina where many photoreceptors lie and is the targeted location of damage in AMD. These photoreceptors accept light then send converted electrical signals to the brain where the images we perceive are formed. However, when photoreceptors are exposed to extensive oxidative stress, they must be cleared out by retinal epithelial cells (RPE). With AMD, the retinal epithelial cells are damaged and vision loss ensues. Therefore, supplementation of astaxanthin provides a promising protective effect against this macular degeneration. Recent studies have shown that an astaxanthin supplement may protect against light-induced retinal damage. One study looked at prolonged supplementation of a astaxanthin vitamin alongside lutein and zeaxanthin to combat AMD and found significantly meaningful improvements in visual acuity. 4 Another study in mice expressed astaxanthin’s ability to inhibit light-induced retinal cell death. 6 Further research is needed to study these effects in humans, but at the present moment, there is promise for astaxanthin’s use in combating oxidative stress which can influence AMD.
Astaxanthin for Cataracts
One of the most important astaxanthin health benefits for eyes is the fact that it may be able to prevent cataracts from forming in individuals. A cataract is a form of vision impairment resulting from the breakdown of proteins in your lens which creates a general clouding of the sight.7 Cataracts are normally caused by aging as the eye begins to naturally degrade around 40. However, environmental factors such as UV ray exposure, certain medications, and diabetes can increase an individual’s risk of developing cataracts. Because cataract is one of the leading causes of blindness across the world, preventative measures like astaxanthin supplementation may prove effective in decreasing the incident rates. The antioxidant capabilities of astaxanthin observed in preventing diseases such as AMD also help prevent the biological mechanisms at play in the formation of cataracts. Oxidative stress is thought to be a major contributor to the protein modifications and DNA damage measured in a cataract. Recent animal studies have shown that oxidative damage appears to be the driving force behind cataracts which has led to interest in astaxanthin for eye health. One study followed 35 patients undergoing cataract surgery and administered 6mg of a daily astaxanthin supplement. The study found astaxanthin effectively suppressed the production of damaging hydroperoxides as well as increased superoxide scavenging ability naturally. 8 Not only has astaxanthin been observed to fight free radicals, but it has also been shown to increase other natural defense proteins in the body. All of which, ultimately allows astaxanthin to aid in anti-inflammation and reduce harmful compounds that can lead to ocular diseases such as cataracts.
Astaxanthin for Eye Strain and Fatigue
As our technology use increases and our exposure to taxing environmental factors such as blue light rises, eye fatigue becomes a problem for all of us. Any activity which requires intense eye use can result in eye strain and discomfort. Along with taking regular breaks in between work and preventing overexposure to blue light, taking astaxanthin for eyes has expressed success in reducing strain and fatigue. Blue light has now become a risk factor for developing eye diseases such as AMD due to the accumulation of reactive oxygen species. 9 Certain studies have shown daily astaxanthin nutritional supplement can decrease blurred vision, eye strain, and visual acuity. 4 The benefits of astaxanthin for combatting eye fatigue may actually be due to its ability to relax the certain eye muscles and increase blood flow to the retinal capillaries. This may ultimately relieve tension and improve eye strain and fatigue.
Oxidative stress and its byproducts can have detrimental effects on our eye health promoting the importance of antioxidant interventions. Astaxanthin for eyes has been shown in numerous studies to act as a singlet oxygen and free radical scavenger which distinguishes it from other powerful antioxidants. Naturally derived astaxanthin has been shown to have the most potent effects therefore, supplementing with astaxanthin from algae is a great way to increase your antioxidant intake. Benefits of astaxanthin for eye health include possible protective effects against diseases such as AMD, cataracts, and eye fatigue. If you’re struggling with vision impairment, astaxanthin nutritional supplement and greater intake of antioxidants may prove beneficial.
1 Center for Disease Control. “Fast Facts of Common Eye Disorders”., (June 9, 2020), accessed February 22, 2021, https://www.cdc.gov/visionhealth/basics/ced/fastfacts.htm
2 VisionAware. “World Sight Day: Learn More About “Avoidable Blindness” and Schedule…” (October 3, 2018), accessed February 22, 2021, https://visionaware.org/blog/visionaware-blog/world-sight-day-learn-more-about-avoidable-blindness-and-schedule-a-comprehensive-eye-examination/#:~:text=80%25%20of%20visual%20impairment%20is,effective%20interventions%20in%20health%20care.
3 Giuseppe Giannaccare et al., “Clinical Applications of Astaxanthin in the Treatment of Ocular Diseases: Emerging Insights”, Marine Drugs, (MDPI, 1 May, 2020), https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7281326/#:~:text=Several%20recent%20clinical%20trials%20highlight,macular%20degeneration%2C%20glaucoma%20and%20cataract.
4 Alinda Boyd, “Improving Vision with Astaxanthin”, fxMedicine, accessed February 23, 2021, https://www.fxmedicine.com.au/blog-post/improving-vision-astaxanthin
5 Jyotika Dhankhar, Sumita S. Kadian, & Asha Sharma, “Astaxanthin: A Potential Carotenoid”, Int. J. Pharm. Sci. Res... 3, (19, April, 2012), http://citeseerx.ist.psu.edu/viewdoc/download?doi=10.1.1.300.995&rep=rep1&type=pdf
6/span> Tomohiro Ostuka et al., “The Protective Effects of a Dietary Carotenoid, Astaxanthin, Against Light-Induced Retinal Damage”, Journal of Pharmacological Sciences, (4 April, 2013), https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1347861319302439
7 Kierstan Boyd, “What Are Cataracts?”, American Academy of Ophthalmology, (11 December, 2020), https://www.aao.org/eye-health/diseases/what-are-cataracts
8 Algatech, “ AstaPure EyeQ – Natural astaxanthin for eye health", accessed 12 April 2021, https://www.algatech.com/astapure-eyeq-natural-astaxanthin-for-eye-health/
9 Melanie Marie et al., “Light action spectrum on oxidative stress and mitochondrial damage in A2E-loaded retinal pigment epithelium”, Cell Disease and Death, (19 Feb, 2018), https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5833722/