Healthy Eyes for Life

Meet Astaxanthin! Scientists and medical researchers have discovered that this newest antioxidant wonder kid from the huge carotene family protects our eyes from every possible threat.   

Most of us take our eyesight for granted – until we notice it deteriorating. Although a lifetime of good vision and healthy eyes is partly determined by hereditary and environmental factors, scientists have confirmed that the greatest positive influence on our eye health is something we actually have absolute control over – our daily intake of specific dietary antioxidants. The newest of these antioxidants, astaxanthin, has profoundly excited scientists and medical researchers as they continue to uncover its myriad of health benefits for our eyes. 
What is Astaxanthin & what does it do?
Let’s begin with mastering the pronunciation of this challenging word because we are undoubtedly going to be hearing a great deal about this amazing fat-soluble carotenoid with supert antioxidant powers. Astaxanthin, pronounced "asta-ZAN-thin,” is the natural red pigment that colours algae, shrimp, lobster, crab, salmon and even flamingos. 
With over 600 members in the carotenoid “family” – each with their own name and claim to fame – astaxanthin has risen to nutritional stardom thanks to hundreds of studies from researchers around the world who have proven it to be a safe and highly effective antioxidant. From Dr Oz to the famous Mayo clinic, astaxanthin, is being lauded as the antioxidant supplement of choice for healthy eyes and vision.  
Japanese researchers discovered that astaxanthin exhibited the most powerful antioxidant activity when compared to a wide range of popular antioxidants. Their study results published in 2007 in Carotenoid Science were shocking. Astaxanthin’s antioxidant activity was found to be “6,000 times stronger than vitamin C, 800 times stronger than CoQ10, 550 times stronger than green tea catechins and 75 times stronger than alpha lipoic acid.”
What is an antioxidant and what does it do?
We all hear about antioxidants being the good guys when it comes to our health but what are antioxidants and what do they do?  Antioxidants are molecules that neutralize the free radicals created by oxidative stress. Free radicals are over-reactive oxygen-containing molecules that cause damage to cell structure and promote chronic excessive inflammation. Antioxidants protect the body from the negative actions of free radicals while also promoting healthy cellular activity. 
What is oxidative stress?
Andrew Weil, medical doctor, teacher and author of dozens of books on natural health topics defines oxidative stress as: “the total burden placed on organisms by the constant production of free radicals in the normal course of metabolism plus whatever other pressures the environment brings to bear (natural and artificial radiation, toxins in air, food and water; and miscellaneous sources of oxidizing activity, such as tobacco smoke).” He also reminds us that “although we need oxygen to live, high concentrations of it are actually corrosive and toxic.”
What does Astaxanthin have to do with healthy eyes? 
The short answer is: everything! Our eyes, like every other part of our body are susceptible to oxidative stress caused by aging, environmental toxins and medications.  Astaxanthin is able to cross the blood brain barrier and defend our eyes against oxidative stress and free radicals. In particular astaxanthin researchers have found that minimal amounts protect against and reduce the damage caused to eyesight by cataracts and age-related macular degeneration. 
Choose Astaxanthin that is Health Canada-Approved
Astaxanthin with a natural product number (NPN) shows that it has been licensed and approved for sale by Health Canada. Health Canada recognizes astaxanthin “as an antioxidant for the maintenance of good health and eye health.”  This government agency also states that astaxanthin “helps to maintain eyesight in conditions (associated with sunlight damage), such as cataracts and age-related macular degeneration; helps to reduce the risk of developing cataracts and helps to improve macular pigment optical density.”
Natural astaxanthin vs. synthetic. Which is better?
Although synthetic astaxanthin dominates the world market, it is the natural source of this precious pigment from the green microalgae Haematococcus pluvialis that is proving to be most effective and safe. Synthetic sources of astaxanthin are derived from petrochemicals. Natural plant source astaxanthin is produced from green algae cells as a protective mechanism against natural environmental stresses such as sunlight. In other words, the algae plant’s own immune system triggers the natural production of astaxanthin. Choose natural source astaxanthin formulated in a base of organic, extra virgin olive oil to enhance absorption. 
It’s truly amazing to consider that tiny micro algae provide the most powerful phytochemical antioxidant ever discovered! Mother Nature continues to impress. 
by Lucretia Schanfarber 

Author bio:  Lucretia Schanfarber is a professional writer and editor with a special interest in natural health topics. She lives simply and gardens organically on an island in BC.