(NaturalHealth365) Could a tiny plant truly help to protect brain cells and guard against memory loss? That’s the conclusion emerging as researchers learn more about the benefits of algae and how it can work as a powerful antioxidant, reaching inner depths of the brain.
The critical component found in algae – a carotenoid known as astaxanthin – has been shown in numerous scientific studies to circumvent a long list of diseases. Cells throughout the body can benefit. But now, a substantial amount of research is showing that astaxanthin benefits could include life-changing protection against neurological diseases, including Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease.
Excess glucose increases the risk of memory loss
Astaxanthin has long been recognized as beneficial to eye health. In addition to being found in algae, this carotenoid is found in yeast, salmon, trout, crustaceans, and even the feathers of certain birds. It gives salmon meat its red color and is also the red color seen in cooked shellfish.
Given the critical connection between vision and the brain, it is not surprising that researchers have now discovered that this carotenoid can also protect against neurodegeneration. Specifically, a growing body of evidence indicates it can protect neuronal memory centers from damage by glucose.
The part of the brain that stores memory, known as the hippocampus, is especially vulnerable to damage from glucose. It is now known that astaxanthin is able to mitigate diabetes-induced neuronal damage in this area of the brain, as well as provide a number of other benefits.
Excess glucose is also known to accelerate the aging of the brain. Unfortunately, for many people as they age, metabolic disorders – like diabetes – make it very difficult to maintain optimal levels of glucose in the body. Astaxanthin is particularly helpful in protecting the brain for those unable to maintain healthy glucose levels.
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Research gives glimpse into how astaxanthin protects vulnerable neurons
In one study of astaxanthin’s effects on glucose, diabetic mice given astaxanthin were found to markedly reduce neuronal loss in the hippocampus compared to mice who didn’t receive astaxanthin.
Additional research has shown that astaxanthin also inhibits overexpression of a protein known as caspase-3, which plays a major role in cellular death. Overexpression of this protein because of diabetes and other diseases can be dangerous because it leads to neuronal cell death.
Studies have also shown that astaxanthin works by promoting the pathways throughout the body that help to regulate cellular function. When these pathways become dysfunctional, unwanted cell death surges. This can lead to a multitude of diseases. Many researchers believe that astaxanthin’s positive health benefits are due primarily to its ability to promote these critical pathways among cells.
In two other separate, but similar, studies on astaxanthin published in the Journal of Clinical Biochemistry and Nutrition, researchers revealed that supplementation with astaxanthin delivered a cognitive boost to elderly study subjects. Further research has also shown that astaxanthin has great potential to reduce brain damage caused by ischemic stroke and may also be useful in the treatment of patients suffering from epilepsy. These studies on humans further validate the significant role astaxanthin can play in improving overall brain health and memory.
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