November 1, 2007 Dermatologists recognize the benefits of a compound called astaxanthin. Found in red ocean plants and animals such as salmon, astaxanthin is the most effective and efficient free radical sponge in nature, which works to combat the free radicals created by skin exposed to ultraviolet rays. It is a powerful antioxidant that also reduces the pain and inflammation that occurs with sunburn. It is not a substitute for sunscreen, but a supplement provides the benefits of eating one to three pounds of salmon a day.
For years you’'ve heard about the dangers of sun exposure. Now, instead of just relying on sunscreen -- more help could soon come from a pill.
Timothy Marr is an extreme athlete -- an Ironman!
“It’s a long day and there’s so many things that can happen out there, that you have to be able to fight through mentally and physically, there’s so many challenges.” Marr told Ivanhoe.
Tim is quickly sprinting to the top of his game -- ready to prove he’s the best in the world. He plans to win the Hawaii Ironman in just four years.
“It’'s a 2.4 mile swim, 112 mile bike ride and 26.2 mile run, it’s a long day. It’s the biggest race in the world,” Marr said.
It’s also a lot of time in the sun. With all the swimming and sweating, wearing sunscreen is nearly impossible. But a pill called Bio Astin along with sunscreen could help protect him from harmful rays.
“We are understanding how tissue damage occurs in the body at the molecular level that’s where the Bio Astin appears to work,” Robert Childs, M.D., anesthesiologist in Honolulu, Hawaii, told Ivanhoe.
UV rays can damage skin's DNA, increasing its risk of developing skin cancer. But dermatologists say that Bio Astin, also know as Astaxanthin, acts like a sponge absorbing UV rays. It also reduces pain and inflammation from sunburn. It's a powerful antioxidant, more than 500 times stronger than vitamin E and 10 times stronger than vitamin A.
"Astaxanthin exists primarily in the oceans," Dr. Childs explained.
It’'s commonly found in red ocean plants and animals, including salmon. But you'’d have to eat one to three pounds of salmon a day to get the same effect. Which for Marr wouldn'’t leave much time for training.
"I want to be as good as I can, we’re given one chance ... right now is the time for me,” Marr said.
The drug is not a cure all. Doctors say to be completely safe from the sun, it should be used with other sun protective measures such as sun glasses, hats, protective clothing, and sunscreen. There are no known side effects and it can be found at local vitamin stores or on the Internet.
BACKGROUND: A natural substance found in marine life may help you minimize the sun’s damage, if used in combination with sunscreen and limited exposure to sunlight. Patients who already had skin cancer saw a marked improvement after taking the supplement, called Astaxanthin. It is found in marine plants and animals that eat those plants, such as salmon. Any ocean plant or animal with a reddish color contains astaxanthin.
HOW IT WORKS: UV light causes chemical changes in the body that can suppress the body’s immune system and stimulate the growth of cancer cells by generating toxic substances known as free radicals. These substances, which attack and damage our DNA, are believed to be one of the factors that cause skin cancer. Certain molecules in some vitamin-rich foods can absorb these free radicals. Astaxanthin is proving to be one of the most effective and efficient free radical “sponges” found in nature, soaking up the toxic molecules to prevent them from causing further damage. A potent antioxidant, astaxanthin is more than 500 times stronger than vitamin E and 10 times stronger than vitamin A (betacarotene). It can also enhance the immune system, helping to reduce the inflammation that leads to sunburn.
HERE COMES THE SUN: The sun emits three forms of light: infrared (heat), visible light, and ultraviolet (UV) light. It is the latter that is responsible for skin damage: prolonged exposure can damage and kill skin cells, which then release chemicals that activate the body’s pain receptors. The reddening of sunburned skin is the result of increased blood flow to the damaged areas in order to remove the dead cells. The energy from UV light also stimulates the production of a pigment known as melanin, which causes the skin to darken, or tan. Melanin actually absorbs the UV radiation in sunlight, protecting skin cells from further damage. Melanin is produced gradually, which is why would-be tanners must build up levels of the protective pigment in their skin cells over the course of several days. It’s also why darker-skinned people are less likely to burn or suffer from skin cancer than those of fairer complexion: they possess naturally high levels of melanin. In contrast, albinos don’t have any melanin at all in their skin, hair, or irises because they are missing a critical enzyme required for its production.
ABOUT THE UV INDEX: The UV index is a standard measure of the amount of UV radiation striking the Earth’s surface, and the most accurate measure of sun exposure risk. In the US, the UV index starts to increase in March and April, peaking every year in June. The ozone layer in the Earth’s upper stratosphere absorbs most of the sun’s UV radiation, but ongoing damage to that protective layer means that UV-related health risks continue to increase. NASA solar experts report that this year was the strongest and most active sun activity cycle in nearly 50 years, a state they expect to persist for the next 7-10 years. As a result, people will need more UV protection than ever before over the next decade.
Editor's Note: This article is not intended to provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.