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Astaxanthin’s free-radical activity protects the immune system


06 MAY 2015

Astaxanthin’s free-radical activity protects the immune system

As winter sets in, we need to bolster our immunity from the common cold and flu viruses that proliferate during this season. This requires a ‘systems approach’; not only do we need to consider warm insulated clothing, but rather a whole checklist of sensible practices to keep us healthy, resilient and strong throughout the winter. Some practical tips may include;

  • Wrap up when working outdoors: especially warm hats, scarfs, thick socks and gloves; don’t forget the sunglasses to protect vision.

  • Vigilant hand washing, especially in public places where bugs are spread by contact.  Furthermore, be mindful of what you touch – not only kids toys, toilet handles, shopping carts etc. but also your own face, eyes, nose and mouth…major portals of entry.  

  • Maintain hydration; just because you’re not sweating it out, does not mean that you are not losing fluids from respiration, heat loss to the environment and bathroom trips.  Also, consider a humidifier at home if you suffer from dry cracked skin, dry nasal passages and itchy dry scalp etc.

  • Consistent restful sleep is a ‘must’ for a robust immune system. Remember that most of the repair work, renewal and replacement within in the body is under the supervision of the immune system and most of this activity occurs during sleep. Therefore, develop a routine of good sleeping habits, especially during these dark winter months.  Restful sleep boosts the immune system, reduces stress and replaces old cells with new energized ones - all in preparation for a busy new day.

  • As always, eat a sensible and balanced diet; be sure to include extra fruits (especially citrus) and veggies, which supply vital nutrients, minerals and vitamins to support daily (cellular) requirements. Selective portions of starches are also acceptable in winter months to generate heat and maintain energy levels; Energy intake should equal energy output…don’t overdo it!

  • Targeted dietary Supplements. When our diet is not perfect or when we feel that an additional boost may be required, dietary supplements are appropriate. In the winter months, my regimen consists of; Astaxanthin, Vitamin C, Vitamin D3, Omega -3s and Probiotics.

Astaxanthin protects immune cells

It is important to remember that the immune system itself requires protection from oxidative stress in order to remain healthy and function optimally. Even as the immune cells perform their vital defense work they too require protection from free radical assaults and oxidative stress – antibodies, macrophages, surveillance cells, communication molecules all require antioxidant protection. When there is a lack of antioxidant protection, the immune system can be attacked by free radicals and become sluggish, distracted and ineffective. This is why I place Astaxanthin as the captain of my winter supplement team.

Astaxanthin more than provides this antioxidant protection, it allows the immune cells to get on with their jobs - protecting the body from invading germs and allowing the immune cells to destroy microbes before they can proliferate.  

A nice study published in 2012 showed that astaxanthin was able to protect neutrophils (immune-white blood cell) from free radicals, thereby preserving and enhancing neutrophil action (Guerra et al Diabetes research clinical practice Oct. 2012)

In summary, Astaxanthin;

  • Captures free radicals before they impact immune cells, this prevents immune diversions, failures and inefficiencies
  • Boosts T-cell and B-cell numbers and enhances Natural killer cell activities
  • Protects lymphocytes from oxidative stress
  • Reduces inflammation and its potential triggering actions
  • Protects DNA from damage

It is clear that Astaxanthin can play an important  role in the function of the immune system and should be part of a good defensive portfolio along with other immune boosters; Vitamin C, Vitamin D, Beta glucans, and probiotics.

Build your defense system now and avoid the winter bugs. Enjoy a healthy and robust season in the best of health.

Robert Corish MD

Guerra BA et al.   Glycolaldehyde impairs neutrophil biochemical parameters by an oxidative and calcium-dependent mechanism--protective role of antioxidants astaxanthin and vitamin C. Diabetes Res Clin Pract. 2012 Oct;98(1):108-18.

Jyonouchi H, et al. Studies of immunomodulating actions of carotenoids. I. Effects of beta-carotene and astaxanthin on murine lymphocyte functions and cell surface marker expression in in vitro culture system. Nutr Cancer 1991;16(2):93-105.

Jyonouchi H, et al. Immunomodulating actions of carotenoids: enhancement of in vivo and in vitro antibody production to T-dependent antigens. Nutr Cancer 1994;21(1):47-58.

Jyonouchi H, et al. Effect of carotenoids on in vitro immunoglobulin production by human peripheral blood mononuclear cells: astaxanthin, a carotenoid without vitamin A activity, enhances in vitro immunoglobulin production in response to a T-dependent stimulant and antigen. Nutr Cancer1995;23(2):171-183.


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