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Astaxanthin May Help Prevent Dementia

Astaxanthin and Dementia Prevention

The pigment called astaxanthin that makes flamingoes and shrimp pink may also help prevent dementia. A new study finds that daily supplementation with the antioxidant reduces the accumulation of substances associated with dementia.

Astaxanthin offers other benefits as well

Astaxanthin used in supplements is primarily derived from the algae Haematococcus pluvialis, a main food source for crustaceans such as shrimp, lobster, and krill, and many fish. Animals that eat these algae or the water creatures that do (e.g., flamingoes) get their pink hue from astaxanthin, which is a carotenoid pigment.

In the new study, which appears in the British Journal of Nutrition, researchers conducted a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial that included 30 healthy individuals aged 50 to 69. The participants were randomly assigned to take either 0, 6, or 12 mg of astaxanthin daily for 12 weeks.

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Both before and after the 12-week treatment period, researchers took blood samples and evaluated them for levels of phospholipid hydroperoxides (PLOOH), compounds that accumulate abnormally in the red blood cells (erythrocytes) of individuals who have dementia. At the end of the trial, blood levels of PLOOH were 40 and 50 percent lower in the groups who took 6 and 12 mg, respectively, of astaxanthin, while there was no significant change in the placebo group.

Astaxanthin supplements are also used to treat a variety of other health challenges. Research indicates the supplement can be helpful in preventing diabetes and in raising levels of the good high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol. Astaxanthin has also been shown to be beneficial in improving muscle endurance, protecting against eye damage, and preventing aging of the skin.

Based on the results of the new study, the authors noted that “astaxanthin has the potential to act as an important antioxidant in erythrocytes, and thereby may contribute to the prevention of dementia.” They also pointed out that “the testing of astaxanthin in other models of dementia with a realistic prospect of its use as a human therapy” is warranted.

Nakagawa K et al. British Journal of Nutrition 2011 Jan 31: 1-9