By Dr. Mercola
Discovering the fountain of youth has been one of the world's most sought-after but elusive endeavors. New information suggests that enhanced metabolism may be a valuable key for improved health and longevity.
Scientists at the University of Hawaii John A. Burns School of Medicine and the life sciences company Cardax collaborated on a study aimed at evaluating a naturally occurring chemical with promise for anti-aging therapy.
FOXO3 is a gene that's been proven to improve longevity, and the astaxanthin compound CDX-085 was instrumental in this venture.
Dr. Bradley Willcox, director of research at the Department of Geriatric Medicine for the Kuakini Honolulu Heart Program, and Richard Allsopp, Ph.D., associate professor and researcher with the Institute of Biogenesis Research, were principal researchers on the study.
The 'Longevity Gene' and How It's Activated
According to Willcox everyone has the FOXO3 gene, which is associated with aging in humans, but 1 in 3 individuals possesses a version of the gene associated with longevity.
However, by activating the FOXO3 gene common in all humans, scientists can make it behave like the "longevity" gene, and astaxanthin is the mystery component that activates it.
Researchers already knew from a large number of animal studies that astaxanthin lowers inflammation, heart and liver damage and risk of stroke. In humans, astaxanthin goes the extra mile by lowering inflammation and triglycerides. This study was the first of its kind, Allsopp said.
In the context of the study, mice were given regular food, food containing low amounts of the astaxanthin compound CDX-085, or food with a high dose of the same.
As a result, the heart tissue of the mice in the latter group showed a significant spike in activation of the FOXO3 gene. In fact, it was a spike of nearly 90 percent. Biz Journals reported:
"The scientists plan more studies into other tissues where FOX[O]3 is expressed, including in the liver, muscle and brain. Also planned are human clinical trials of whether, for example, astaxanthin supplements could improve cognitive function in people with early dementia."1
Astaxanthin, FOXO3 and Your Mitochondria
There are 700-odd naturally occurring carotenoids which provide the bright colors in many foods, but also act as incredibly powerful antioxidants. Further, scientists believe astaxanthin is the most powerful antioxidant in nature.
Astaxanthin is a naturally occurring compound, existing in nature without any artificial or chemical assistance.
As a supplement to help support your immune system, astaxanthin, which also protects against DNA damage and improves brain function, shows a dramatic effect on your mitochondria. Mitochondria have been described as the powerhouse of your cells, with the primary job of performing cell respiration. Soft Schools explains:
"This means it takes in nutrients from the cell, breaks it down and turns it into energy. This energy is then in turn used by the cell to carry out various functions.
Each cell contains a different number of mitochondria. The number present is dependent upon how much energy the cell requires. The more energy a cell needs the more mitochondria that will be present.
Cells have the ability to produce more mitochondria as needed. They also can combine mitochondria to make larger ones."2
Mitochondria can produce as much as 95 percent of your body's energy, so it makes sense that it's present in your muscle tissue. However, while it's busy producing energy, with subsequent free radical generation your cells can become damaged, leading to tired, achy muscles.
When astaxanthin is ingested, such as in supplement form, those symptoms diminish and your stamina is improved. In comparison with other antioxidants, studies show astaxanthin to be 64 times more potent than vitamin C and 54 times more potent than beta-carotene, plus many other benefits.
One study shows that FOXO3 (from Forkhead box O) may also increase your mitochondrial reactive oxygen species (ROS) levels, but is also instrumental in apoptosis (programmed cell death) and cell cycle arrest. Further:
"In neuronal tumor cells, FOXO3 triggers ROS-accumulation as a consequence of transient mitochondrial outer membrane permeabilization, which is essential for FOXO3-induced apoptosis in these cells …
Cellular ROS levels are affected by the FOXO targets Bim, BclxL and Survivin. All three proteins localize to mitochondria and affect mitochondrial membrane potential, respiration and cellular ROS levels."3
Bim, for example, "mediates mitochondria-regulated particulate matter-induced apoptosis in alveolar epithelial cells,"4 while survivin inhibits apoptosis.5
Astaxanthin and How to Include More of It in Your Diet
While many antioxidants can be obtained by eating plenty of fresh, organic fruits and vegetables, "real" astaxanthin is derived only by microalgae called Haematococcus pluvialis.
When this type of algae's water supply dries up, it has a sort of "survival mechanism" or "force field" to protect itself from intense sunlight, ultraviolet radiation and low nutrition.
That said, that means there are two natural astaxanthin sources: the microalgae that produce it and the sea creatures that consume the algae, such as salmon and krill. The best resources for these foods are wild-caught Alaskan salmon and krill oil supplements, which offer a large number of other nutritional benefits.
As a fish food supplement, synthetic astaxanthin is often used to give farmed salmon a pink or orange-red hue.
However, because synthetic astaxanthin is made from petrochemicals (obtained from petroleum and natural gas), it's best to avoid this version. In referencing food as medicine for longevity, The Huffington Post noted that:
"Certain micronutrients found in Okinawan sweet potatoes, turmeric and marine-based carotenoid-rich foods (e.g., seaweeds and kelp) are particularly potent …
One marine carotenoid in the Okinawan diet that holds particular promise is astaxanthin, a natural product which is available as a supplement, derived mainly from micro-algae.
The compound has powerful, broad-ranging anti-oxidative and anti-inflammatory properties.
Research indicates astaxanthin may benefit those suffering from inflammation-related conditions including arthritis and rheumatoid disorders [and] metabolic disease, as well as cardiovascular, neurological and liver diseases."6
Additionally, astaxanthin is completely safe.
"One of the most intriguing characteristics about astaxanthin is what [it] doesn't do. It doesn't have the nasty side effects that conventional anti-inflammatory therapies such as steroids and aspirin (and related compounds) exhibit. Its safety profile is strong …
Over 1,000 peer-reviewed publications are available on astaxanthin and more than several hundred have been published in just the last three years, reflecting a growing scientific interest."7
Besides the fact that it may increase your muscle capacity and stamina, decrease the time it takes to recover from a workout8 and diminish muscle pain,9 astaxanthin has other multiple and highly impressive health benefits:
✓ Reduces inflammation10
✓ Combats cancer
✓ Boosts your immune system
✓ Balances your blood sugar
✓ Enhances your heart health
✓ Decreases oxidative stress11
✓ Protects against sunburn
The study involved CDX-085, which is a synthetically manufactured form of astaxanthin. Astaxanthin decreased triglycerides by 72 percent, as well as atherosclerosis (also known as hardening of the arteries) and blood clots.
Additionally, there's "extra protection" against the risk of death as you get older for people with the FOXO3 "G" genotype, compared to those without the gene. According to EurekAlert:
"Researchers found that people with this FOXO3 gene have an impressive 10 percent reduced risk of dying overall and a 26 percent reduced risk of death from coronary heart disease over a 17-year period. Data are based on a 17-year prospective cohort study of 3,584 older American men of Japanese ancestry from the Kuakini HHP cohort study and a 17-year prospective replication study of 1,595 white and 1,056 African-American elderly individuals from the Health ABC cohort."12
How Your Mitochondria Affect Your Health — And Your Longevity
Eating for optimal health is one of the best ways to lengthen your life. One of the most important reasons lies within your mitochondria. Understanding how your mitochondria function is also a way to effectively balance your metabolism and fight cancer.
The primary source of energy for your body, mitochondria ensures that your organs function as they should. It stands to reason that the best way to do this is to make sure your body is getting plenty of nutrients and antioxidants, including astaxanthin, which help your body fight disease.