We have some good news this month for sufferers of two of the most common and debilitating joint conditions: rheumatoid arthritis and carpal tunnel syndrome. Scientists have found that a powerful antioxidant called astaxanthin (pronounced ‘asta-zan-thin’) provides significant relief from the pain and stiffness associated with both.
Astaxanthin belongs to a nutrient group known as carotenoids. These are highly coloured (red, orange and yellow) fat-soluble plant pigments found in dark-green leafy vegetables, carrots, sweet potatoes, green peppers and apricots.
However, it is marine microalgae that provides one of the richest and most potent sources of astaxanthin. The algae floats just beneath the water’s surface, and astaxanthin helps protect the organism from the harsh, penetrating sunlight by absorbing the most damaging UV rays. Animals and humans are unable to synthesise carotenoids and must obtain them from their diet. Many marine species, including shrimp, crabs, wild salmon and lobster, obtain astaxanthin from the microalgae they feed on.
While your diet can provide you with a good source of astaxanthin, new research suggests that in supplemental form this carotenoid can be used therapeutically to manage rheumatoid arthritis and carpal tunnel syndrome. BioAstin is the name of a new dietary supplement containing astaxanthin, which is extracted from astaxanthin-rich marine microalgae farmed in the clean, clear waters off Hawaii.
Conventional drugs alleviate symptoms but do not treat the underlying cause of many joint conditions
Rheumatoid arthritis affects up to 3% of the population and is three times as common in women than men. About 16% of women over 65 suffer from the disease. Although the cause of rheumatoid arthritis is unknown, the immune system and genetic disposition are known to play a role. Over time, there is progressive deformity of the affected joints – the disease can occur in the joints of your wrists, shoulders, elbows, fingers, knees and hips – accompanied by pain and muscle spasm.
Carpal tunnel syndrome is the result of compression of a nerve in your wrist – called the median nerve. The carpal tunnel is a narrow space at the front of your wrist, which is bound by ligaments. The tendons that control the flexing of the wrist and fingers pass through this space along with the median nerve, one of the two sensory nerves that supply your hand. Any swelling in this region from any cause will compress your median nerve and lead to numbness, tingling and pain in your hand.
The causes of carpal tunnel syndrome are varied and include excessive occupational use of the wrist, rheumatoid arthritis and hormonal imbalances. Women seem to be more vulnerable to this syndrome than men, particularly pregnant women and women on the Pill, which suggests a hormonal link. Conventional drugs used to treat rheumatoid arthritis and carpal tunnel syndrome are only able to offer temporary relief from symptoms and can cause unpleasant side effects.
BioAstin helps prevent free-radical damage implicated in joint problems
Joint pain and joint inflammation can also be caused from an attack of harmful free radicals, which are generated from exposure to toxic pollutants or by your body itself as part of an immune response. It is thought that the potent antioxidant properties of BioAstin may help neutralise free radicals and minimise oxidative damage in your joints – thereby getting to one of the root causes of the problem in a way that conventional drugs cannot.
In two double-blind controlled studies conducted at the Health Research Studies Center in Los Altos, California, carpal tunnel syndrome sufferers who took BioAstin reported decreased wrist pain, while those with rheumatoid arthritis reported less daytime pain 1, 2.
Dr Gene Spiller, who led the study involving carpal tunnel syndrome patients taking BioAstin, says: ‘One of the most exciting results was that the carpal tunnel syndrome sufferers who used BioAstin experienced such improvement that they were able to take part in activities that they had once given up.’ Participants in the rheumatoid arthritis clinical trial also showed significant improvements in their symptoms.
It can make you look and feel younger in as little as four weeks!’
The discovery of astaxanthin as a treatment for rheumatoid arthritis and carpal tunnel syndrome is an undoubted step forward. But astaxanthin has even greater potential for your overall health in the long-term. Laboratory comparisons show that astaxanthin is ten times more potent than beta-carotene in preventing free-radical damage3, and up to 550 times more effective as an antioxidant than vitamin E 4, 5, 6.
Todd Lorenz, a microbiologist in Hawaii, where astaxanthin is extracted from the marine microalgae to produce BioAstin, says: ‘It’s one of the most amazing antioxidants we’ve ever discovered. It can make you look and feel younger in as little as four weeks!’
Astaxanthin can benefit your health in a number of ways. This includes protection against ultraviolet (UV) light, immune support, fending off cancerous cells, heart disease prevention, as an anti-inflammatory agent and for the health of your eyes and nervous system.
Unlike other carotenoids such as beta-carotene, astaxanthin is able to cross the blood-brain barrier and is therefore able to exert its antioxidant properties in your brain. This may make it an important nutrient in the prevention of neuro-degenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s.
In relation to sunburn prevention, scientists believe that astaxanthin creates a natural protective barrier against UV rays 7.
Astaxanthin contains pigments that prevent the sun’s rays from damaging skin cells. ‘That means they can keep you looking younger,’ says biologist Professor Mark Huntley.
What to take for best results
The recommended dose for astaxanthin is 4mg a day as a general antioxidant supplements, or 12mg a day for the specific treatment of joint pain and inflammation. When taken as a protective agent against the sun, BioAstin should be used for two weeks prior to going on holiday. To date, there are no known side effects associated with astaxanthin, although individuals on medication should check with their GP before taking BioAstin.
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Disclaimer: This article is part of the Daily Health's extensive research archive. The research and information contained in this article was accurate at the the time of publication but may have been updated since the date of publication. Consult our most recent articles for the latest research on alternative health and natural breakthroughs.
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1. Nir Y, Spiller G, Multz C. Effect of an Astaxanthin-containing product on rheumatoid arthritis. American College of Nutrition Annual Meeting, San Antonio, Texas, October 2002.
2. Nir Y, Spiller G, Multz C. Effect of an Astaxanthin-containing product on carpal tunnel syndrome. American College of Nutrition Annual Meeting, San Antonio, Texas, October 2002.
3. Miki W. Biological functions and activities of animal carotenoids. Pure and Appl. Chem. 1991; 63:141-146.
4. Di Mascio P et al. Carotenoids, tocopherols and thiols as biological singlet molecular oxygen quenchers. Biochemical Society Transactions. 1990; 18:1054-1056.
5. Di Mascio P, Murphy ME, Sies H. Antioxidant defence systems: the role of carotenoids, tocopherols and thiols. Am. J. Clin. Nutr. 1991; 53:194S-200S.
6. Shimidzu N. Goto M, Miki W. Carotenoids as singlet oxygen quenchers in marine organisms. Fisheries science 1996; 62(1):134-137.
7. Lyons N, O’Brien L. Modulatory effects of an algal extract containing Astaxanthin on UVA-irradiated cells in culture. J. Dermatol. Sci. 2002; 30:73-84.