What are antioxidants and why do we need them?
Imagine biting into an apple, leaving it on your desk and forgetting about it for half an hour. When you look at it again, the white flesh will be oxidized and brown, similar to rust on an old car. This is because there aren’t enough antioxidants in the apple’s flesh to protect it from oxygen in the air – its skin does that job.
Aerobic organisms like us, i.e. animals who need oxygen for growth, are subject to oxygen and not just from the outside. When we breathe, our blood exchanges gases in the lungs and our heart pumps the oxygenated blood to every single cell in the body. Oxygen is then used up in cellular metabolism, i.e. energy production, with carbon dioxide as a by-product. In the process, some oxygen molecules harm the mitochondria where energy is produced. Other cell components like membranes and DNA are also damaged. These damages are what the free-radical theory of aging and disease is based on.
How to protect every single cell of our body from the oxygen? Especially as it’s both a friend, needed for survival, and a foe, causing long-term damage and ageing?
The first important fact is that our bodies produce a number of antioxidants that protect us. The way to increase this endogenous production is to actually increase oxidative stress through physical exercise. The second important source of antioxidants is our diet. Colourful vegetables, fruit and greens boast the highest levels of antioxidants, especially when they’re unprocessed. Any kind of food processing (crushing, cutting, cooking, etc.) entails exposing it to oxygen and hence to oxidation. Have you ever heard anyone say that the skin of fruit and vegetables is the most nutritious part? Assuming that they are organic of course, antioxidants are definitely the reason why.
It’s also worth mentioning that fried foods contain the opposite of antioxidants – pro-oxidants – because their fats have been damaged by heat and oxygen in the process of frying.
What about human skin?
Each and every day our skin is exposed to stress from both the outside (UV rays, pollution, soap and skin-care products, injuries) and the inside (the food we eat, the amount of sleep we get, illnesses). Any of these stressors can lead to the production of highly reactive free radicals, which cause damage to skin cells, causing wrinkles, fine lines, and loss of elasticity.
Did you know that your skin is your body’s largest organ?
So, it makes good sense that it benefits from the same support as your other organs, and even more so, since it’s the only layer that stands between your body and the outside world.
One of the best ways to support your skin is with a powerful antioxidant, such as Astaxanthin. Antioxidants work to neutralise free radicals and reduce the oxidative damage that they cause.
Astaxanthin – what is it?
Astaxanthin, a naturally occurring plant compound that comes from microalgae, is the most powerful antioxidant that we know of. Compared to other antioxidants, astaxanthin has a unique ability to span the entire lipid bilayer of the cell membrane. This means that it’s able to provide protection both to the inside and the outside of the cells of your skin1.
Because of this, astaxanthin is able to provide protection to all three layers of your skin, from the outermost (the epidermis) through the mid layer (dermis) and the deep layers (hypodermis) where the new skin is formed.
Astaxanthin protects your skin from the inside out and slows the effects of aging with its powerful anti-inflammatory properties. It improves elasticity in the skin by strengthening and supporting collagen, which is the most abundant protein in your skin2. Plus, it improves blood flow and the quality of red blood cells, which leads to healthy, glowing skin.
Clinical studies don’t lie
Clinical research on astaxanthin’s ability to protect and support healthy skin has yielded some exciting results! In one study examining the effect of astaxanthin on skin, women who took a natural astaxanthin supplement showed significant improvement in skin moisture and elasticity when compared to placebo group3.
Another study tested the photoprotective effect of astaxanthin, i.e. its ability to protect your skin from the UV rays. Compared to other antioxidants, astaxanthin showed a significantly better ability to protect the skin from UV rays4.
How to recognize foods that contain antioxidants?
The most commonly known antioxidants are vitamins C and E. Vitamin E is a fat-soluble antioxidant and is found in foods with high fat content (avocados, olives, nuts and seeds). Vitamin C is water-soluble and is found in fruits and vegetables. Other antioxidants can be easily recognised from their vibrant colours. Anything that has a purple, red, orange, pink, dark green, dark brown or bright yellow colour, clearly contains one or several pigments, and it is these pigments that have the antioxidant qualities.
So, next time you go grocery shopping, be sure to put beets, peppers, tomatoes, kale and herbs into your basket and make a wonderful raw vegetable salad or a large basket of steamed veggies. Finish off the meal by enjoying a fruit salad or some dark chocolate with coffee - and feel good about it!
Should you supplement antioxidants?
There are two reasons to supplement antioxidants and they’re intertwined. The first one is due to poor dietary habits and the second is due to not exercising enough.
As mentioned above, exercise increases oxidative stress which the body responds to by producing lots of antioxidants. In order to do this, however, it needs selenium – an element found in the soil. Unfortunately, nowadays most soils are depleted and stripped of minerals due to modern agriculture.
Therefore, in order to safeguard yourself, it is beneficial to take a daily vitamin and mineral supplement that contains selenium, vitamins C and E and other antioxidants. The ones most worthy of purchasing are fat-soluble antioxidants as they are harder to find in nature and seem to have superior health benefits. Examples include vitamin E, astaxanthin and, if you are older than 40, coenzyme Q10.
Nature and science combined? It’s possible!
Astaxanthin & Bilberry Extract from Wellness by Oriflame (LINK IT PLEASE) is a high-quality formula from microalgae and bilberries such as those found in Swedish nature, combined with antioxidant vitamins C and E to help further protect your cells. Supporting your well-being and improving your skin has never been easier!
1) Tominaga K et al., Cosmetic effects of astaxanthin for all layers of skin. Food Style. 2009;13(10): 25-9
2) Yamashita E., The effects of a dietary supplement containing astaxanthin on skin condition. Carotenoid Science. 2006; 10:91-5
3) Suganuma K et al., Anti-aging and functional improvement effects for the skin by functional food intake: clinical effects on skin by oral ingestion of preparations containing Astaxanthin and Vitamins C and E. Jichi Medical University Journal. 2012; 35: 25-33.
4) Camera E et al. Astaxanthin, canthaxanthin and b-carotene differently affect UVA-induced oxidative damage and expression of oxidative stress-responsive enzymes. Experimental Dermatology, 18, 222–231.