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Heart Disease Helped by Pink Salmon

Astaxanthin, the nutrient that gives salmon,shrimps and flamingos their pink colour, may also have heart health benefits, suggests a new study from Finland.

Astaxanthin, the antioxidant carotenoid most commonly linked to eye health, has been found to be a potent antioxidant, with tests suggesting that it may have a free radical fighting capacity worth 500 times that of vitamin E.

The carotenoid is produced by the Haematacoccus pluvialis algae when water supplies in its habitat dry up to protect itself against the effects of UV radiation. Research has shown it to have a similar structure to lutein and zeaxanthin, but there are indications that it has an even stronger antioxidant activity.

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The new study assigned 40 young, healthy men (average age 24.4, average BMI 23.8 kg per sq m) to receive daily supplements of astaxanthin (8 mg per day, Astaxin, BioReal) or placebo (microcrystalline cellulose) for three months.

At the end of the study, Karppi and co-workers report that blood astaxanthin levels increased in the carotenoid-supplemented group to 0.032 micromoles per litre. Blood levels of 12- and 15-hydroxy fatty acids were also significantly reduced, relative to the placebo group.

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Results from the randomised, double-blind study, published in the International Journal of Vitamin and Nutrition Research, indicated that a daily supplement of the carotenoid, alone or in combination with omega-3, reduced plasma hydroxyl fatty acids levels, indicating that astaxanthin protects sensitive fatty acids from oxidation.

"We propose that astaxanthin supplementation may decrease in vivo lipid peroxidation in healthy men," wrote lead author Jouni Karppi from the University of Kuopio.

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The study also supported the safety of astaxanthin as a dietary supplement, with no gastrointestinal tract distress reported, nor were there any changes in markers of inflammation or blood pressure. "The present study indicates clearly that astaxanthin was absorbed well from capsules and was safe," they concluded.

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The study was co-funded by HBioRealH and the Academy of Finland. SOURCE: J. Karppi et al, Effects of Astaxanthin supplementation on lipid peroxidation. International Journal of
Vitamin and Nutrition
Research, 77 (1): 3-11.

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