Astaxanthin: A Powerful Antioxidant For Your DogWhen some algae are stressed they release this powerful antioxidant called astaxanthin.
Astaxanthin belongs to a group of compounds called carotenoids – and it’s actually a red pigment. Carotenoids are pigment colors that occur in nature. For example, beta carotene is an orange pigment and makes foods like orange peppers, well, orange. Astaxanthin is a red pigment and it actually turns animals that eat it pink. Salmon, shrimp, flamingos, crayfish and krill would be an entirely different color if they didn’t get astaxanthin in their diet. In fact, it’s added to many goldfish foods to keep them a nice deep orange color. And flamingos are born with grey feathers … they don’t turn pink until they start eating their natural diet of algae and crustaceans.
But don’t worry … your dog won’t turn pink if he eats it. And there are plenty of good reasons to give your dog astaxanthin.
How Astaxanthin WorksAstaxanthin is an antioxidant – and antioxidants are an important nutrient to fight against free radical damage.
Free radicals are unpaired electrons that can accumulate in cells. They’re the byproduct of metabolism, sometimes the immune system creates them to fight viruses and bacteria, and they’re also formed when your dog is exposed to chemicals, pesticides, processed foods, pollution, radiation and toxins.
Once free radicals form in cells, their single electron makes them very unstable, so they react quickly with other compounds so they can capture a second electron to make them stable again. So they often just attack the closest stable molecule and steal its electron. So the damaged molecule with the missing electron becomes another free radical and a chain reaction is set in motion.
This process is called oxidative stress and it causes damage to the cells, proteins and DNA in your dog’s body. So free radicals are associated with many common diseases including cancer, and premature aging.
Astaxanthin is a powerful antioxidant, which means it fights free radical damage. It’s designed perfectly to protect all parts of the cell and actually positions itself across the entire cell membrane, attaching itself to both the exterior, interior and lipid layer, offering entire protection for each cell.
Astaxanthin is better than most other antioxidants (such as vitamin E) because it controls multiple free radicals at a time. Astaxanthin forms an electron cloud around the molecule, so when free radicals come by to steal electrons they are absorbed into the cloud and neutralized.
It’s a powerful antioxidant, with antioxidant strength up to 6,000 times more potent than vitamin C and 800 times stronger than CoQ10.
And unlike other antioxidants, it never becomes a pro-oxidant in the body. It’s not called the “king of carotenoids” for nits.
So let’s look at some of the more important ways I use astaxanthin in my practice:
1. Dry Eye And Retina HealthKeratoconjuctivitis sicca (KCS) is a condition that is commonly referred to as “dry eye” in dogs and I like to use astaxanthin to treat dry eye. It works as an anti-inflammatory. The medical term means inflammation of the cornea and surrounding tissues from dryness. It’s a common condition resulting from inadequate production of the aqueous portion of the tear film that protects a dog’s eye by the lacrimal gland (a gland of the third eyelid gland)
While conditions such as hypothyroidism and autoimmune disease as well as reactions to sulfa drugs may cause KCS, the gland can rejuvenate with the proper holistic management. Astaxanthin can cross the barrier to reach the retina, a barrier that few make it through.
I would also recommend astanxanthin for retinal detachment and sight in general. While this antioxidant is relatively new on the scene, it’s an important one for eye health, and it’s not hard for me to imagine that it would be very effective in preventing cataracts.
2. Joint HealthAstaxanthin is a serious anti-inflammatory. So it’s great for joint health too. Measure it against any other joint product you use for your dogs. It actually blocks and handles several different chemicals that create pain. It reduces inflammation in the body and inflammation is what, always and eventually, helps create chronic disease.
3. Heart DiseaseAstaxanthin has been proven to reduce C-Reactive Protein (CRP) in the body. CRP is a key indicator of heart disease and lowering CRP can help prevent as well as treat heart problems. I would recommend Astanxanthin before CoQ10 as it is 800 times more powerful.
Other UsesBesides being great for joint health, eye function and heart health, astanxanthin is also great for brain function, cancer prevention, immune system health and slows the aging process. And these health benefits of astaxanthin that we’re currently aware of are likely just the tip of the iceberg.
But not all astaxanthin is the same …
Natural Sources Of AstaxanthinCurrently, the primary industrial source for natural astaxanthin is the microalgae Haematococcus pluvialis, which seems to accumulate the highest levels of astaxanthin in nature. Conveniently, these little folks naturally double their volume every week. Commercially, more than 40 g of astaxanthin can be obtained from one kg of dry biomass. Hemoatococcus pluvialis is used to make high dose human and pet supplements naturally.
A yeast, Phaffia rhodozyma, also generates substantial amounts of astaxanthin and is used to create supplements; however it can be genetically modified, so it’s safest to check that your supplement is made from microalgae.
Beware Synthetic AstaxanthinNearly all commercial astaxanthin for aquaculture is produced synthetically selling at over five thousand dollars a kilo. However, synthetic production of astaxanthin is not so hot because it contains a mixture of stereoisomers. Stereoisomers are molecules that have the same molecular formula and but are arranged differently in three-dimensional space. Some of these stereoisomers affect digestibility and bioavailability. This is a good reason to avoid synthetic astaxanthin as it may be less well absorbed by the body than the naturally-sourced form.
Synthetic astaxanthin is not approved for human use (likely because of petrochemicals used in astaxanthin synthesis) … and you don’t want to give it to your dog either. Synthetic astaxanthin is used in animal feeds, especially in the fish farming industry. So when you buy salmon, whether for you or your dog, make sure you always buy wild, not farmed salmon.
Recommended Astaxanthin DosageAstaxanthin is a great protective antioxidant to add into your dog’s diet. Using the natural supplement, give your dog the following amounts by size:
- Small Dogs (under 20 lbs): 1/2 tsp once daily
- Medium Dogs (21-49 lbs): 1 tsp once daily
- Large Dogs (over 50 lbs): 2 tsp once daily
Food Sources Of AstaxanthinIf you want to feed astanxanthin-rich foods, the best is wild Pacific salmon, which have the highest content ranging from 4 to 40 milligrams per kilogram. Again, don’t use farmed fish as these have likely been fed synthetic astaxanthin.
Like other carotenoids, astaxanthin has self-limited absorption orally and such low toxicity by mouth that no toxic syndrome is known, so it’s very safe for your dog. So you might want to consider adding this super antioxidant to your dog’s diet.
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Astaxanthin: This Super-Antioxidant Improves Mitochondrial Function in Dogs Young and Old
By Dr. Becker
A study conducted at Washington State University and published recently in the Journal of Animal Science1 indicates that supplementation with astaxanthin improves mitochondrial function in dogs. Specifically, the researchers concluded that:
“Dietary astaxanthin improved mitochondrial function in blood leukocytes, most likely by alleviating oxidative damage to cellular DNA and protein.”Astaxanthin is a carotenoid. Carotenoids are colorful plant pigments and astaxanthin is actually responsible for the bright red color of krill oil and the pink flesh of wild caught salmon. Carotenoids have powerful antioxidant properties, and research indicates they are also anti-cancer, anti-diabetic and anti-inflammatory agents.
Mitochondria are present in almost all the cells of the body, and their job is to produce energy. They are sometimes referred to as “tiny power plants.”
Mitochondrial dysfunction or disease means there’s an energy generation problem, with the result that certain functions in the body don’t work properly. In humans, diseases caused by mitochondrial dysfunction include autism, Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, muscular dystrophy, and chronic fatigue syndrome.
Astaxanthin Study with Beagles
The WSU study involved both young and geriatric healthy female Beagles. The dogs were fed 20 mgs of astaxanthin daily for 16 weeks. Fasting blood samples were taken at the start of the study, again at 8 weeks, and again at completion of the trial.
Mitochondrial function improved in both the young and elderly Beagles. In the older dogs, astaxanthin supplementation increased ATP production, mitochondria mass, and cytochrome c oxidoreductase activity. In the young dogs, astaxanthin increased the reduced glutathione to oxidized glutathione ratio. It decreased nitric oxide in all the dogs.
This Study is More Evidence of the Benefits of My Favorite Whole Food Supplement for Pets
Astaxanthin is known as the “king of the carotenoid family.” It’s a naturally occurring, non-toxic source of vitamin A that is hundreds of times more potent than vitamin E, ten times more potent than beta-carotene, and about five times more potent than lutein as a functional antioxidant.
Astaxanthin fights oxidative stress and free radical damage. It has very strong free radical scavenging abilities and helps protect cells, organs and tissues from oxidative damage.
Astaxanthin provides antioxidants to parts of the body that don’t normally receive a lot of antioxidant benefit. It can cross the blood-brain barrier and the blood-retina barrier. This means it can help reduce the potential for diseases of the central nervous system, the spinal cord, and the eye. Astaxanthin also supports immune function thanks to its high levels of beta-carotene.
Studies also show astaxanthin supports joint and muscle recovery after exercise, and cardiovascular health in dogs and cats.