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Understanding Antioxidants and Free Radicals

Antioxidants are natural substances found in plants, which help strengthen cells and therefore prevent disease, boost immunity, slow aging and improve overall health. If you are already familiar with the scientific basis of antioxidants, that is impressive. But if you’ve always found free radicals and antioxidants confusing, read on.

Cells, like everything else, are composed of many different types of molecules, and molecules are made up of one or more atoms of one or more basic elements (like carbon, oxygen, etc). They are joined by chemical bonds. As you might know from high school science, atoms have a nucleus (centre), neutrons (electrically neutral particles), protons (positively charged particles) and electrons (negatively charged particles). The number of protons in an atom’s nucleus determines the number of electrons (negatively charged particles) you will find surrounding the atom. Electrons are involved in chemical reactions and they hold atoms together to form molecules. Electrons surround, or “orbit” an atom in one or more “shells”.

The innermost shell is full when it has two electrons. When the first shell is full, electrons begin to fill the second shell. When the second shell has eight electrons, it is full, and so on. The number of electrons in an atom’s outer shell is key to its chemical behavior. If it has a full outer shell, it will not usually react chemically with other substances - it is stable or “inert”. Atoms “want” to be stable and they will try to fill the outer shell with electrons by:
  • gaining or losing electrons to fill or empty the outer shell
  • sharing electrons by bonding together with other atoms (forming new molecules).
The number of electrons gained or lost is unique for each element, and this number determines how many different types of chemical bonds atoms of that element can form.


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How Free Radicals are Formed

Normally, the bonds between electrons don’t split and leave a molecule with an unpaired electron, but when bonds are weak it can happen and they do split. That’s when free radicals are formed. Free radicals are very unstable and react quickly with other compounds, trying to capture the needed electron to gain stability. Generally, free radicals attack the nearest stable molecule, “stealing” an electron from it. When the “attacked” molecule loses its electron, it becomes a free radical, and a chain reaction begins that can damage living cells.

Some free radicals are necessary for life and some are created during normal metabolism. Sometimes our immune system creates free radicals on purpose to neutralize viruses and bacteria. Lifestyle and environmental factors, such as pollution, radiation, smoke, herbicides and pesticides can also cause the formation of free radicals.



Astaxanthin: The Little-Known Miracle Nutrient for Inflammation, Anti-Aging, Athletic Endurance and More

natural newsTuesday, May 06, 2008
by Mike Adams, the Health Ranger
Editor of (See all articles...)


(Natural News) Every once in a very great while, I discover a natural medicine so astonishing that I feel compelled to share it with you. The verb "discover" is actually not to my credit, by the way; Mother Nature created this natural medicine eons ago, and it's been present in trace amounts in aquatic ecosystems for over a billion years. In this article, I'm going to reveal the name of this natural medicine, what health benefits it provides to us, and how to get some right now. But first, before revealing the name, I want to share some of the numerous health benefits with you so you get the full picture of just how significant this substance can be in enhancing your health. As always, I have absolutely no financial ties to this product, and I earn nothing if you choose to purchase it. I do, however, buy and consume this product myself on a regular basis, as you'll see below.

Did you ever notice how the drug companies get excited when they find a drug that just slightly alters the risk of a single disease? I remember hearing all the hype about a particular cancer drug made by Big Pharma. It was called a "miracle" drug that needed to be fast-tracked so it could start saving lives. When I looked at the research, however, it only turned out to prevent cancer in one woman out of two hundred (a 0.5% reduction in the risk of breast cancer). Gee, that's not much get excited about. And yet they called it a "miracle" drug!

Well imagine if there were a natural substance that operated at many different biochemical levels at once, providing all the following health benefits (yes, from a single source!):

• Reduces proliferation of breast cancer tumor cells by 40%
• Protects the brain from dementia and Alzheimer's
• Greatly reduces inflammation and joint pain
• Reduces oxidative damage to your DNA by 40% (even at low doses)
• Greatly increases endurance, muscle recovery and workout performance
• Reduces the risk of cancer
• Reduces blood sugar level in diabetics and pre diabetics
• Improves fertility while decreasing the rate of stillborn births
• Promotes cardiovascular health, reduces C-Reactive Proteins (CRP)
• Reduces or eliminates carpal tunnel syndrome
• Boosts immune function and helps the body resist infections
• Protects the stomach from ulcers and invasive bacteria
• Protects the kidneys from damage due to high blood sugar
• Causes cancer cells to commit suicide (apoptosis)
• Greatly improves sperm quality, motility, and sperm count
• Prevents asthma by normalizing histamine levels
• Protects the body from highly oxidative foods like fried foods

In addition, I've found that this natural medicine:

• Greatly protects eye health, reduces cataracts and prevents UV damage to the eyes

ORAC value

The Oxygen Radical Absorbance Capacity, or ORAC value of foods, is a measurement of antioxidant levels. The higher the ORAC value, the more antioxidant power a food has. Berry ORAC values top those of many other fruits and vegetables, including oranges, grapefruit, cherries, plums, Brussels sprouts, broccoli and spinach. Blueberries, with an ORAC value of 5,486, have one of the highest antioxidant levels. Right behind are blackberries with an ORAC value of 4,654; strawberries at 3,520 and raspberries, 2,789.

Free radical damage accumulates with age and is thought to be a major factor in age-related diseases, conditions and in the speed of aging itself.

Fresh berries, berry extracts and juices are excellent sources of antioxidant nutrients.


Pure natural astaxanthin

  • Antioxidant support for overall health

  • Vegetarian formula; free of gluten, lactose, preservatives and solvents



Just like other anti-oxidants, Astaxanthin protects cells against aging, cellular damage, pre-cancerous changes and other diseases. But Astaxanthin stands out from other antioxidants in several unique ways.

  • Astaxanthin is such a powerful antioxidant that it can actually prevent sunburn.
    Unlike most substances, Astaxanthin can cross the blood-brain barrier. This means that it can exert its beneficial anti-aging effects on the brain and actually improve many cognitive functions, from memory to processing speed.
  • Astaxanthin has immune modulating and anti-inflammatory properties that are helpful against allergies, arthritis and auto-immune diseases.
  • Unlike the closely related Vitamin A, Astaxanthin has no harmful side effects, even at very high doses. No study to date has found undesirable side effects due to Astaxanthin in either humans or animals.
  • Astaxanthin increases the burning of fat as a fuel during exercise.
  • Astaxanthin increases energy levels and physical performance on such parameters such as time and distance running to exhaustion.

Understanding how Astaxanthin works

Oxidative damage is caused by free radicals, extremely reactive molecules produced by UV radiation from sunshine, exposure to pollution and chemicals, and even normal processes in our cells.

Small changes due to oxidative damage accumulate in our cells over time, damaging DNA, cell membranes and proteins. This causes the changes associated with aging and contributes to numerous diseases.

Free radicals, (also known as reactive oxygen species or ROS) are produced by our own cells when they burn carbohydrates or fats as fuel to produce energy.

Free radicals start a chain reaction by turning the next molecule they react with into a free radical too!

Each newly created free radical has the potential to damage protein, DNA and cell membranes, and create even more free radicals. Stopping this chain reaction requires an anti-oxidant.

Anti-oxidants such as Astaxanthin neutralize free radicals, stopping the chain reaction and reducing oxidative damage in the cell.

Some better known anti-oxidants include Vitamin A, beta-carotene, Vitamin C and Vitamin E. Cells also naturally produce their own anti-oxidants, such as glutathione peroxidase and superoxide dismutase.

It has been scientifically established without doubt that a diet high in fruits and vegetables (and thus natural antioxidants) helps prevent cancer and many other diseases. Anti-oxidants such as Vitamin A, C and E have been proven effective against conditions from cancer to aging.


HOW IT WORKS: UV light causes chemical changes in the body that can suppress the body's immune system and stimulate the growth of cancer cells by generating toxic substances known as free radicals. These substances, which attack and damage our DNA, are believed to be one of the factors that cause skin cancer. Certain molecules in some vitamin-rich foods can absorb these free radicals. Astaxanthin is proving to be one of the most effective and efficient free radical 'sponges' found in nature, soaking up the toxic molecules to prevent them from causing further damage. A potent antioxidant, astaxanthin is more than 500 times stronger than vitamin E and 10 times stronger than vitamin A (betacarotene). It can also enhance the immune system, helping to reduce the inflammation that leads to sunburn.


HERE COMES THE SUN: The sun emits three forms of light: infrared (heat), visible light, and ultraviolet (UV) light. It is the latter that is responsible for skin damage: prolonged exposure can damage and kill skin cells, which then release chemicals that activate the body's pain receptors. The reddening of sunburned skin is the result of increased blood flow to the damaged areas in order to remove the dead cells. The energy from UV light also stimulates the production of a pigment known as melanin, which causes the skin to darken, or tan. Melanin actually absorbs the UV radiation in sunlight, protecting skin cells from further damage. Melanin is produced gradually, which is why would-be tanners must build up levels of the protective pigment in their skin cells over the course of several days. It's also why darker-skinned people are less likely to burn or suffer from skin cancer than those of fairer complexion: they possess naturally high levels of melanin. In contrast, albinos don't have any melanin at all in their skin, hair, or irises because they are missing a critical enzyme required for its production.


ABOUT THE UV INDEX: The UV index is a standard measure of the amount of UV radiation striking the Earth's surface, and the most accurate measure of sun exposure risk. In the US, the UV index starts to increase in March and April, peaking every year in June. The ozone layer in the Earth's upper stratosphere absorbs most of the sun's UV radiation, but ongoing damage to that protective layer means that UV-related health risks continue to increase. NASA solar experts report that this year was the strongest and most active sun activity cycle in nearly 50 years, a state they expect to persist for the next 7-10 years. As a result, people will need more UV protection than ever before over the next decade.

  • Cancer and pre-cancerous mutations
  • Rheumatoid arthritis
  • Cardiovascular disease (stroke, heart attack)
  • Alzheimer’s disease
  • Parkinson’s disease
  • Huntington’s disease
  • Chronic fatigue syndrome
  • Diabetic complications
  • Stomach ulcers
  • Lou Gehrig’s disease (ALS)
  • Neurodegenerative diseases

In addition to oxidation, inflammation is another invisible cause of disease and premature aging. AstaXanthin has potent anti-inflammatory activity through inhibition of mast cell degranulation, and inflammatory proteins such as C-reactive protein and COX-2 enzymes. Inflammation is caused by stress and is associated with the progression of diseases such as cancer, arthritis and heart disease, as well as allergies and auto-immune conditions.

New research highlights astaxanthin's incredible cancer fighting properties

The ability of astaxanthin to inhibit the growth of colon cancer cells was studied at Catholic University School of Medicine in Rome, Italy. Astaxanthin inhibited cell growth in a dose and time dependent manner by arresting cell cycle progression and by promoting the death of cancerous cells. Astaxanthin resulted in a 220% increase in the expression of the well known anti-cancer gene p 53, and a 160% and 250% increase respectively in the anti-cancer genes p21 and p27. Astaxanthin strongly upregulated apoptosis through gene modification, and increased phosphoylation of the p38, JNK, and ERK1/2 genes by 160%, 242%, and 280% respectively. Growth inhibitory effects of astaxanthin were also observed in HT-29, LS-174, WiDr, and Sw-480 cells. These results document astaxathin as highly effective against colon cancer. (Cancer Letter, May 5)

Researchers in Japan examined the protective effects of astaxanthin on neuroblastoma cells. Pretreatment of the cells with astaxanthin preserved cellular integrity in a dose dependent manner, and inhibited mitochondrial dysfunctions, including lowered membrane potential, and gene repair. There was a marked abolishment of free radical generation resulting in the blocking of activation of pro-cancer gene p38. They concluded that the mechanism through which astaxanthan protects neuroblastoma cells is its potent antioxidant activity. (Journal of Neurochemistry, December, 2008)

Several other studies have shown the effectiveness of astaxanthin as a preventative and treatment against cancer. In 1994, astaxanthin protected mice from urinary bladder cancer. In 1995, the same research group showed that astaxanthin prevents oral cancer in rats, and inhibits cancer in a manner more pronounced than that of beta carotene. A further study by this group explored the effect of astaxanthin on colon cancer in male rats. They found a significant decrease in the incidence of colon cancer in the animals that were given astaxanthan.

More research has documented the anti-tumor activity of astaxanthin and its mode of action, as well as the contribution of its antioxidant properties to protect against cancer metastasis. Astaxanthin was also shown to inhibit aflatoxin B1 induced DNA damage. Aflatoxins are deadly products of mold that can cause liver damage and cancer. They are widespread in nature and found on peanuts, wheat, corn, beans and rice. (Cancer Letter, March, 1997)

Breast cancer was the subject of researchers in China looking into the effects carotenoids have on proliferation, cell cycle, apoptosis and the expression of the cancer promoting bcl-2 gene. They found that beta-carotene, lycopene, zeaxanthin, and astaxanthin all inhibited cell proliferation. The carotenoids also down regulated bcl-2 gene expression. (Zhonghua Yu FangYi Xue Za Zhi, July, 2002)

Natural News .com

Lycopene (Lycopersicon, and others): This carotenoid is what gives tomatoes their red color. It exhibits strong antioxidant activity, acting as a free-radical scavenger. Scientists have found relatively high concentrations of lycopene in prostatic tissue, and research shows that eating lycopene-rich foods (tomatoes, pink grapefruit, watermelon) decreases prostatic damage and inflammation. In cultures where lycopene is consumed in larger quantities, there is a lower incidence of prostate cancer.

Astaxanthin is Age and Disease Defying Miracle Nutrient from Microalgae

Friday, May 22, 2009 by: Barbara L. Minton, citizen journalist
See all articles by this author


(NaturalNews) Summer is the season for astaxanthin, the carotenoid that blocks ultra violet damage to the skin. Astaxanthin has been referred to as nature's sunscreen, but it does a whole lot more to keep people looking good by promoting beauty and radiant health from the inside out. It improves fine lines and wrinkles, skin elasticity and moisture content while reducing inflammation and cell damage that leads to premature aging. Astaxanthin keeps people feeling good too. Recent research has documented its ability to increase cellular energy, protect against and treat cancer, protect against damage to the brain and nervous system, and halt the progression of complications from diabetes. In fact, astaxanthin may truly be considered a miracle nutrient.

Astaxanthin is a wonder compound from microalgae

Sunscreen in a Pill


October 1, 2007

Dermatologists recognize the benefits of a compound called astaxanthin. Found in red ocean plants and animals such as salmon, astaxanthin is the most effective and efficient free radical sponge in nature, which works to combat the free radicals created by skin exposed to ultraviolet rays. It is a powerful antioxidant that also reduces the pain and inflammation that occurs with sunburn. It is not a substitute for sunscreen, but a supplement provides the benefits of eating one to three pounds of salmon a day.

Astaxanthin exhibits a strong photoprotective effect

Scientists in Rome, Italy compared the abilities of various carotenoids to modulate UVA related injury. Fibroblasts from skin were exposed to moderate doses of UVA, which stimulated cell death, increased levels of free radicals and other reactive substances, decreased antioxidant enzymes activities, and promoted membrane disturbance and enzyme denaturing of hemoglobin. The fibroblasts were treated with carotenoids including astaxanthin 24 hours before exposure to UVA. Of the carotenoids tested, only astaxanthin exhibited a pronounced photoprotective effect and countered all of the UVA induced alterations to a significant extent. (Experimental Dermatology, March)

Science Insider

BACKGROUND: A natural substance found in marine life may help you minimize the sun's damage, if used in combination with sunscreen and limited exposure to sunlight. Patients who already had skin cancer saw a marked improvement after taking the supplement, called Astaxanthin. It is found in marine plants and animals that eat those plants, such as salmon. Any ocean plant or animal with a reddish color contains astaxanthin.



Astaxanthin - Health Benefits

· Reduces inflammation by quenching reactive oxygen species.**

· Protects cell and mitochondrial membranes from oxidative damage.**

· Dramatically decreases DNA damage.*

· Crosses the blood brain barrier,** and may assist in maintaining neurological health.

· Boosts the immune system by increasing the number of antibody-producing cells.*

· Stimulates the immune system by increasing the total number of T-cells.*

· Inhibits lipid peroxidation that may cause plaque formation in the circulatory system.

· Prevents the initiation of tumorigenesis in the tongue, oral cavity, large bowel, bladder, and breast.**

· Protects the eyes and skin from UV A and B damage by quenching singlet and triplet oxygen.**

· Reduces the number of new and abnormal cells in the liver.**

For humans

Currently, the primary use for humans is as a food supplement. Research shows that due to astaxanthin's potent antioxidant activity, it may be beneficial in cardiovascular, immune, inflammatory and neurodegenerative diseases.[9] Some sources have demonstrated its potential as an anti-cancer agent.[20] Research supports the assumption that it protects body tissues from oxidative damage.[21][22] It also crosses the blood-brain barrier, which makes it available to the eye, brain and central nervous system to alleviate oxidative stress that contributes to ocular, and neurodegenerative diseases such as glaucoma and Alzheimer's.[23]

Of the approximately 700 known carotenoids, which include the familiar beta carotene and lutein, Astaxanthin is the king. What sets Astaxanthin apart from all the rest is its molecular structure which confers upon it some very special and unique biological abilities which are unequalled and not observed with other antioxidants and carotenoids. BioAstin Supreme has several health benefits including exercise recovery, joint and tendon health, eye health, cardiovascular health, and immune system support.

Preventing Eye Fatigue and Improving Vision

Astaxanthin is the latest natural supplement found to improve eye health and visual acuity while reducing eye fatigue, dryness, weakness and irritation.

Eye Fatigue

Eye fatigue is a common problem caused by an increasing dependence on computers. Even with proper ergonomics and lighting, time spent in front of a computer terminal takes its toll on our eye muscles. In people with autoimmune eye conditions such as thyroid eye disease (TED), uveitis, and Cogan’s disease, astaxanthin has the potential to reduce inflammation and improve visual acuity.

Symptoms of eye fatigue include poor accommodation (in changes in focus from near to distant vision), poor depth perception, sensitivity to glare, eye dryness and eyestrain. Eye fatigue can exacerbate symptoms in patients with autoimmune eye disorders.

Astaxanthin to the Rescue

Several well-controlled clinical trials suggest that astaxanthin can help prevent eyestrain and reduce its effects. In a study of 26 computer workers receiving 5 mg astaxanthin daily for one month, subjects noted a 54 percent reduction of eye fatigue complaints and objective improvements in accommodation ability. Test subjects also showed a significant reduction in subjective symptoms.

Astaxanthin is shown to reduce inflammation in eye muscles and improve blood flow to the eyes, especially in the capillary vessels that supply blood to the retina. As an antioxidant, astaxanthin protects against free radical damage and oxidative stress. Because it is fat soluble, astaxanthin has a special affinity for cell membranes, particularly the double cell membrane found in eye muscle.

Astaxanthin and other xanthophylls are also known to reduce the risk of cataract formation and age-related macular degeneration. In patients with uveitis, animals studies showed that astaxanthin had the same anti-inflammatory actions as the steroid prednisolone. Effects include reduced inflammatory markers, including nitric oxide synthase, prostaglandin E2, and tumor necrosis factor alpha. Compared to beta-carotenoids, astaxanthin is twice as likely to be absorbed by retinal cells.


Astaxanthin works well in combination with lutein, zeaxanthin, beta-carotene and other phytonutrients that promote eye health. In clinical trials a dose of 4-12 mg daily has been shown to reduce eyestrain with no apparent side effects.


Laurie Barclay, Relieve Your Tired Eyes While Guarding Against Common Eye Diseases, Life Extension, January 2009: 37-43.

W. Aoi, Y. Naito, and T. Ishii, Astaxanthin improves muscle lipid metabolism in exercise via inhibitory effect of oxidative CPT I modification, Biochem Biophys Res Commun. 2008 Feb 22;366(4):892-7.




WOW! I really am a different person......I have been taking red algae for approximately 2 and a half maybe three months and I have exercised everyday without needing an afternoon nap or feeling sluggish.

Both my knees that were consistently sore from arthroscopies 3 years ago have no pain at all any more and I can EVEN jog!!!!!. My neck pain has   diminished to    HALF    .... from a long term injury and I can now finally sleep however and whatever position I like.

As for going through a major hormonal change in my late forties I  haven't experienced the usual mood swings and my period has become light and very manageable. I was sooo excited about the way I felt I had to put three of my very busy friends on the tablets and its been too soon to tell for two of them but the other one is feeling the difference already.....I need to add skin is just glowing and I can handle coffee, chocolate and rum and coke with no migraines....

I have NEVER been able to have even moderate amounts of these things without terrible migraines as a result.

I hope I can help some more friends soon as it seems everyone these days is exhausted and working too hard.

Thank you to Douglas for letting me quietly sneak his Algae stash without me asking and THANK YOU ALAN for being such a wonderful friend to Douglas so I got all the benefits because I know his ANTIOXIDANT red algae was meant for Douglas.

Jacqueline Manger
International model and personal trainer


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