The positive effects of astaxanthin are based in its antioxidative properties. The main cause of oxidative stress is sunlight, which contains UV rays, which in turn create free radicals. All tissue exposed to light is subjected to such photooxidative damage.
The eyes and the skin are the most vulnerable tissue. Furthermore, the retina contains a lot of polyunsaturated fatty acids and therefore it is very quickly damaged by UV rays. UV damage is the main cause of two of the most common diseases leading to impaired vision and blindness – age-related macular degeneration and age-related nuclear cataract. Antioxidants fight these adverse processes. The eye contains only a couple of antioxidants – those that can penetrate the fine blood-retinal barrier, and astaxanthin, due to its fine molecule can easily access the retina. As a result less free radicals are created due to UV glare, and the less free radicals there are, the less inflammation inducers are activated.
Two studies came to the same conclusion – astaxanthin displays anti-inflammatory effects in the iris of the eye – the ciliary muscle. Astaxanthin suppressed free radical induced activation of NF-kB, which causes and amplifies inflammation. The result was a lower pro-inflammatory response9. Another study demonstrated the anti-inflammatory properties of astaxanthin in endotoxin-induced uveitis10. The researchers explained that astaxanthin’s ability to reduce the number of inflamed cells in the iris is one of the reasons why it alleviates symptoms of eye fatigue.
9. Suzuki Y et al. Suppressive effects of astaxanthin against rat endotoxin-induced uveitis by inhibiting the NF-kappaB signaling pathway. Exp Eye Res. 2006 Feb;82(2):275-81.
10. Ohgami K et al. Effects of astaxanthin on lipopolysaccharide-induced inflammation in vitro and in vivo. Invest Ophthalmol Vis Sci. 2003 Jun;44(6):2694-701.