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If you’ve been following recent health trends, you’ve probably noticed the increasing popularity of krill oil as a potent health supplement. Like other fish oils, krill oil has many important health benefits due to the high concentration of Omega-3s such as EPA and DHA, which are thought to help combat inflammatory diseases, prevent cardiovascular disease, and improve brain health and mood, amongst other benefits. [1,2]
Krill oil is even more potent than other types of fish oil due to its uniquely high concentration of both choline-containing phospholipids, which are excellent for brain health, and astaxanthin, a potent antioxidant. Although astaxanthin has some similar healing qualities as its cousins in the carotenoid family (eg: beta-carotene and lutein), it appears that astaxanthin offers much more powerful benefits than its counterparts.
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How does astaxanthin work?
While humans can get other carotenoids from vegetables, astaxanthin is (basically) only available through the consumption of marine-based animals such as salmon, shrimp, algae and crayfish. Krill oil is one of the best natural sources of astaxanthin, in part because it acts as a preservative that protects the other nutrients from oxidation, thereby improving its shelf life.
Astaxanthin is also considered superior to other fish oil supplements because of the way that it interacts with EPA and DHA. Because it is lipophilic, it’s absorbed into the body much more readily when consumed alongside some kind of oil or fat. 
This antioxidant is widespread throughout the human body; every tissue that’s been tested for the presence of astaxanthin has tested positive except for the heart. The chemical structure of the nutrient allows it to protect the body at a cellular level, both internally and externally. 
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Safety and Dosage
Astaxanthin can be taken safely in small to moderate doses. Current research has not found a conclusive link between astaxanthin and any sort of damage---even at high doses.  Because it is such a potent antioxidant, large doses aren’t required to experience the benefits. People have reported having consistent results with doses as little as 2mg, and these benefits seem to increase at a dose-dependent rate increasing to 8mg. 
There’s plenty of research pointing to the potential for astaxanthin to be beneficial not only as a nutritional supplement for our day-to-day health, but also in its capacity to support the body's natural ability to fight diabetes, cancer, neurodegenerative disorders, immune disorders, heart disease and more. 
Read on for more information on the remarkable benefits of this unique antioxidant.
1. Astaxanthin can help to treat diabetes
Insulin sensitivity is one of the catalysts that leads to diabetes. As an antioxidant, astaxanthin can target and protect the β-cells in the pancreas, which are needed to produce insulin, thus helping people with diabetes and other blood-sugar related disorders. Lymph node dysfunction, which is common among diabetic patients, has demonstrated improvement after the administration of astaxanthin in rats. [8, 9]
2. Astaxanthin may prevent cardiovascular disease
Astaxanthin is also able to improve blood flow by slowing the speed of blood clotting. It may also reduce LDL (“bad”) cholesterol, which is what gets stuck in our arteries leading to hardening and restriction of blood vessels and arteries. [10, 11]
3. Astaxanthin protects the heart
4. Astaxanthin and cancer
When induced with various types of cancer, animals who receive astaxanthin treatment demonstrate reduced growth and frequency of tumors. [14, 15] Astaxanthin may play a role in activating the body’s anti-cancer immune system, as well as possibly even activating certain genes that are known to inhibit the development of tumors. [16, 17]
5. Astaxanthin boosts the immune system
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6. Astaxanthin helps protect from ulcers
Astaxanthin exerts a number of protective effects on the stomach. In mice who were induced with ulcers, those who were pre-treated with antioxidant were much more resilient to their development. 
7. Astaxanthin protects the skin
Because it’s been shown to stop the skin from thickening and prevent collagen from being damaged from UV rays, astaxanthin could eventually be used as an alternative than sunscreen. Collagen is the primary protein in the body and is responsible for keeping the skin taught and healthy. 
8. Astaxanthin helps the mitochondria
Mitochondria---cell organelles which are crucial to cell functioning and metabolism---produce adenosine triphosphate (ATP), a compound that every cell in our body relies on for energy. Oxidative damage can prevent the mitochondria from functioning properly, leading to fatigue and other problems. Astaxanthin has been shown to enhance the function of the mitochondria by helping prevent oxidative damage. [22, 23]
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9. Astaxanthin protects the brain and nervous system
Rats who were pre-treated with extreme doses of astaxanthin of up to 80 mg/kg were shown to have notable reductions in brain damage from induced strokes. Rats with brain injuries also showed a reduction in swelling when treated with astaxanthin. [24, 25, 26]
By protecting neurons, astaxanthin may prevent neuron damage that has been associated with diseases of cognitive decline, such as Alzheimer’s. 
10. Astaxanthin may help to regulate blood pressure
Studies in rats show that astaxanthin modulates the body’s production of nitric oxide, which relaxes blood vessels. This helps to prevent high blood pressure. 
While some of the above evidence remains inconclusive, it’s worthwhile to note just how far-reaching and promising these research studies are with respect to the incredibly broad range of bodily systems that show positive effects from astaxanthin.
Astaxanthin is one of the most powerful nutrients available today. If you get your astaxanthin from a source like krill oil, then you’re killing two birds with one stone: you’ll reap the benefits of the astaxanthin as well as benefiting from the other nutrients in the oil.
Astaxanthin is generally regarded as safe and doesn’t cause toxic effects at known dosages, but little research has been done on the long-term effects. As with any substance, be sure to do your research before taking it regularly.
Have you had any experience with astaxanthin? Share your stories below!