The pigment that gives salmon, lobster, and flamingoes their pink-red hue may also help protect people with diabetes against development of diabetic kidney disease and other diabetic complications. The new study, published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, is one of the first to report the benefits of astaxanthin for diabetics.
Astaxanthin is a potent antioxidant that has been used widely in Japan and other countries for eye fatigue, skin conditions, and muscle endurance, and it is just recently gaining a foothold in the United States. The supplement astaxanthin is primarily derived from Haematococcus pluvialis, an algae that is typically consumed by crustaceans such as shrimp, lobster, and krill. The reason flamingoes can credit astaxanthin with their pink color is that these birds eat krill and crustaceans, and the pigment is then metabolized by the body.
The new study shows that the antioxidant power of astaxanthin, which reportedly is 500 times stronger than that of vitamin E, ccan protect cells against the oxidative damage caused by high glucose (sugar) levels. High blood sugar levels and oxidative stress are associated with complications common among diabetics, including kidney disease, neuropathy (nerve damage), and diabetic retinopathy (vision problems).
To arrive at their conclusions, the study’s authors treated cells with high levels of glucose, and then exposed the cells to astaxanthin. The researchers noted that astaxanthin suppressed activities that damage cells and lead to complications associated with diabetes. Astaxanthin was able to hinder lipid peroxidation (damage to fats in cell membranes by free radicals) and levels of total reactive species, superoxide, and nitric oxide (molecules that cause extensive cell damage).
The researchers believe the strong antioxidant properties of astaxanthin that allow it to reduce oxidative stress, inflammation, and cell death are the reasons why it could be an effective supplement to help prevent complications associated with elevated glucose levels in diabetics. Additional studies will likely explore the potential for astaxanthin to further benefit people at risk of diabetic complications such as diabetic kidney disease.
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