The potential benefits of astaxanthin on eye health
Vision impairment and eye disease are major global health concerns and have been associated with increased morbidity and mortality, and lower quality of life.
The human eye is an incredibly complex organ comprised of multiple tissue types, layers, and parts. All must work perfectly in synch and be constantly maintained. But the problem with any complex system is that there are far more things that can break down or go wrong.
By the time we reach middle age, our eyes have spent more than one billion seconds bombarded by sunlight, artificial light, computer/smart device screens, pollution, allergens and foreign bodies. Then there are the insults from strain, fatigue, chronic sleep deficit, nutritional deficiencies, and disease.
The human eye is an incredibly complex organ, one of the most damaging assaults to our eyes derives from oxidative stress
Eyes and Oxidative stress
One of the most damaging assaults to our eyes derives from oxidative stress. This includes damage to cellular DNA and cellular bodies that is caused by molecules known as reactive oxygen species (ROS), also called “free radicals.”
The production of free radicals is triggered by light, pollution, and endogenous chemical reactions. This occurs when the antioxidant defence system can’t keep up with the oxidative conditions that lead to the production of free radicals.
The eye is particularly vulnerable to oxidative stress due to its exposure to light, its rich content of mitochondria, and the high metabolic rate of photoreceptors1.
The good news: Antioxidants are a first-line defence against the attack on our eyes.
Among the antioxidant ingredients that are especially effective for protecting our eyes from the damages caused by direct insult and oxidative stress are those called carotenoids. These are lipid-soluble classes of organic compounds that act as pigments (ranging from yellow to red) in the cells of plants and animals. Carotenoids are produced by plants, algae, and fungi, and bacteria.
Astaxanthin is a powerful antioxidant — in fact, it is one of the most powerful natural antioxidants known. It crosses the retinal blood barrier and protect the eyes from oxidative stress.
Astaxanthin’s importance to eye health
Astaxanthin offers unique protection for the eye as one of the more efficient antioxidant compounds it neutralizes the oxygen radical molecules. Astaxanthin works with other vision health-supporting carotenoids, especially lutein and zeaxanthin2.
Astaxanthin has been shown to help trigger natural defence proteins that support other antioxidant compounds and aid in detoxification. It attenuates molecules that signal inflammatory triggers, thus acting as an anti-inflammatory agent, and it increases ocular blood flow velocity, allowing the blood to reoxygenate the tissues of the retina and eyeball and clear out toxins and waste more efficiently.
Astaxanthin offers unique protection for the eye in combination with the other carotenoids, providing stronger light absorption across broader wavelengths than other carotenoids. In fact, a number of studies support astaxanthin’s ability to protect the retinas from light-induced damage and suggest a carotenoid complex that includes astaxanthin could protect the eyes from damage across the entire solar spectrum3.
Astaxanthin and Age-Related Eye Diseases
As people get older, they are more prone to develop some form of the vision-impairing eye condition. The four major age-related eye diseases that affect seniors include glaucoma, cataracts, age macular degeneration (AMD), and diabetic retinopathy.
The anti-oxidants and anti-inflammatory activities of astaxanthin may support the prevention or alleviation of symptoms of age-related eye diseases.
Cataracts are cloudy areas that develop in the lens of the eye leading to a decrease in vision. The condition is highly prevalent in aging populations and includes about 35-50% of people aged 75 years or more.
In a Japanese study of 35 patients undergoing cataract surgery, two weeks of astaxanthin intake at 6mg per day boosted superoxide scavenging activity while suppressing the production of cell-damaging compounds called hydroperoxides in the aqueous humor of the eye. These results suggest that astaxanthin can inhibit the development or onset of multiple oxidative stress-related diseases such as those described above.
Cataracts are a clouding of the lens. Medical illustration of a normal eye and an eye with a cataract, clouded lens
Age macular degeneration (AMD):
Age macular degeneration (AMD) is a progressive disorder affecting the central part of the retina, the macula. AMD caused by oxidative stress, mitochondrial dysfunction and inflammatory processes. The imbalance between the production of damaged cellular components and degradation leads to the accumulation of harmful molecules.
Studies in patients suffering from age-related macular degeneration (AMD) reveal that the vascular layers of the eye, which are thickest at the retina and fovea, are decreased. Clinical studies showed that taking astaxanthin helped improve circulation in the capillaries of these vascular layers of the eyes and so could potentially stave off or slow the course of such vision-destroying diseases of the eye5.
Glaucoma is a progressive condition that damage the eyes’ optic nerve. The cause of glaucoma generally is a failure of the eye to maintain an appropriate balance between the amount of internal fluid produced and the amount that drains away. High eye pressure just keeps building and pushing against the optic nerve until nerve fibers permanently damaged and vision is lost.
In a pre-clinical study the effect of astaxanthin was evaluated on the retina of rats with elevated intraocular pressure. The levels of retinal protein oxidation and cells death (apoptosis) was significantly lower in the high pressure plus astaxanthin treatment group as compared to the high-pressure control group. The study showed that astaxanthin has a protective effect on the retina of eyes with ocular high pressure6 .
Diabetic retinopathy (DR):
Diabetic retinopathy (DR) is one of the major microvascular complications of diabetes and the most frequent cause of acquired blindness in adults. The formation and accumulation glycation end products (AGEs) is a key pathophysiological process involved in diabetic retinopathy .
The protective effect of astaxanthin on DR was shown in several studies. In a study with cultured human retinal pigment epithelial cells Astaxanthin exhibited significant inhibitory effects on the formation of AGEs, ROS, lipid peroxidation and blood vessels formation stimulators9.
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AstaPure is a derived from Haematococcus pluvialis microalgae, the richest known source of natural astaxanthin. Solabia-Algatech Nutrition’s proprietary technology is produced in an completely enclosed, environmentally friendly system, fully controlled and exposed to the natural sunlight of the Israeli Arava desert which stimulates the microalgae to produce high levels of active compounds. It is a non-GMO, clean-label, sustainable, minimally processed ingredient
A preclinical study shows that AstaPure reaches the plasma and crosses both the blood-brain and the blood-retina barriers, hence readily reaches the brain and eyes.
AstaPure natural astaxanthin allows formulators to create and market natural, highly bioavailable products for eyes and cognitive health as well as brain health that will help them differentiate themselves in the better-for-you marketplace.
Top Astaxanthin Questions Related to Vision and Eye Health
What are the benefits of astaxanthin for the eyes?
The eye is particularly vulnerable to oxidative stress due to its exposure to light, its rich content of mitochondria, and the high metabolic rate of photoreceptors. Astaxanthin can reach the eye and as one of nature’s strongest antioxidant it can protect the eyes from the harmful effects of the oxidative stress producers such as UV and blue light.
Can astaxanthin improve eye health?
The ability of Astaxanthin to protect and mitigate the eye from oxidative damage from UV and possibly blue light is a vital part of maintaining long-term vision health. Various studies have shown that the consumption of Astaxanthin had a beneficial effect on reducing eye fatigue, improving accommodation ability, improving blood flow and even reducing long term exacerbation of symptom in subjects with macular degeneration.
Can Astaxanthin protect from harmful effects of long exposure to screens?
Given the rising use of digital technology and energy-saving light sources, our eyes are being exposed to high levels of blue light., Blue light is short wavelength, high-energy light. It is emitted by the sun, but also by light-emitting diodes (LEDs) (found in most digital screens) and compact fluorescent (CFL) bulbs. There is a real risk for oxidative damage to the retina caused by this high-energy light. Studies showed that people that are extensively exposed to screens had less complains of eye strain and eye fatigue symptoms following the consumption of Astaxanthin.
Is astaxanthin safe for the eyes?
Astaxanthin has been in use many years and its safety was evaluated in numerous clinical studies. Studies that evaluated the effect of Astaxanthin on various eye problems did not show any safety concerns specific to the eyes or to any other body system.
Can astaxanthin be used in conjunction with other eye health supplements?
Astaxanthin can be combined with other carotenoids such as Zeaxanthin and lutein. Each of the compounds absorbs slightly different light wave lengths and is distributed in different parts of the eye so the addition of Astaxanthin provides better eye protection.
1- Marc Schmidt et.al. How Does The Eye Breath? Evidence for neuroglobin-mediated oxygen supply in the mammalian retina alia Journal of Biological Chemistry January 17, 2003 278, 1932-1935. (http://www.jbc.org/content/278/3/1932.long).
2-R. Todd Lorenz, Ph.D. BioAstin Technical Bulletin #062;.; October, 2000
3- Sandmann, G. Carotenoids of biotechnological importance. Advances in Biochemical Engineering/ Biotechnology. 2015;148:449-67.
4- Hashimoto H, Arai K, Hayashi S, Okamoto H, Takahashi J, Chikuda M, Obara Y. Effects of astaxanthin on antioxidation in human aqueous humor. J Clin. Biochem. Nutr. 2013 July;53(1):1–7
5- M. Santocono, Influence of astaxanthin, zeaxanthin and lutein on DNA damage and repair in UVA-irradiated cells; Journal of Photochemistry and Photobiology; 2006 Dec 1;85(3):205-15.
6- Harada et al. Oxidative Medicine and Cellular Longevity (2017), https://doi.org/10.1155/2017/1956104
7- J.K.S. Parihar. 2016. Computer and visual display terminals (VDT) vision syndrome (CVDTS)” Medical journal, Armed Forces India; Jul; 72(3): 270–276.
8-Rebecca Landon, Impact of Astaxanthin on Diabetes Pathogenesis and Chronic Complications. Mar Drugs. 2020 Jul; 18(7): 357