Algae Nutrient Improves Cognition and May Treat Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s

Astaxanthin and Parkinson's disease

Algae farms at Keahole Point Hawaii – Photo Courtesy of Cyanotech

Several recent studies are suggesting that a nutrient derived from a commercially farmed green algae species may well be part of the solution for cognitive impairment and conditions relating to neuron damage such as Parkinson’s disease and Alzheimer’s disease.

Last month researchers from China’s Fujian Medical University tested a nutrient called Astaxanthin with nerve cells and found that the nutrient blocked the type of oxidative stress that has been identified as the primary cause of neuron damage that result in brain and nerve damage.

The researchers found that Astaxanthin blocked the MPP+ related Heme oxygenase process implicated in nerve and brain cell damage. This type of oxidative damage has been linked to Parkinson’s disease, Huntington’s disease and Alzheimer’s disease.

Other research has found that Astaxanthin comes with antioxidant properties from an estimated one hundred to one thousand times the antioxidant level of vitamin E. One of the richest natural sources of Astaxanthin is the algae Haematococcus pluvialis.

The Fujian Medical University researchers’ conclusion:

“ATX suppresses MPP+-induced oxidative stress in PC12 cells via the HO-1/NOX2 axis. ATX should be strongly considered as a potential neuroprotectant and adjuvant therapy for patients with Parkinson’s disease.”

Clinical research has supported this finding and more. Last year, researchers from the Graduate School of Medicine at Japan’s Juntendo University tested Astaxanthin using 96 elderly adult volunteers. In this randomized, double-blind and placebo-controlled study, the researchers gave the subjects either a capsule with Astaxanthin extract or a placebo for three months.

Before, after and every four weeks during the study, the researchers tested the subjects’ cognition, and found that those who took both dosages of Astaxanthin extract – 12 milligrams or 6 milligrams – scored significantly higher on learning and cognition testing than the placebo group.

The researchers concluded that, “the results suggested that astaxanthin-rich Haematococcus pluvialis extract improves cognitive function in the healthy aged individuals.”

Another study from Japan – this from the Life Science Institute – found among ten healthy adults that 12 milligrams a day of Astaxanthin significantly improves cognitive function and psychomotor functions.

Other clinical studies have found that Astaxanthin treatment significantly raises blood levels of carotene, and improves the health of circulating red blood cells – reducing free radical related damage that can eventually produce nerve and brain cell damage. Even low dosages of one and three milligrams a day have shown a strengthening effect among red blood cells.

Research headed up by Dr. Mark Tso from the University of Illinois determined that the antioxidant Astaxanthin concentrations in the blood stream effectively cross the blood-brain barrier, allowing its protective factors to become available directly to brain cells and central nervous system cells.

Parkinson’s disease has been linked to damage to the brain’s dopaminergic nerve cells located in the motor region of the brain, called the substantia nigra pars compacta. Research has increasingly unfolded the process of oxidative stress related to radical damage.

Research from the Tokyo Metropolitan Institute of Gerontology found that Astaxanthin inhibited this oxidative process, concluding that Astaxanthin “markedly abolished 6-OHDA-induced reactive oxygen species generation.”

This oxidative stress process is related to the same process that damages brain cells in the hypothalamus – causing the beta-amyloid peptide (Abeta) oxidative process linked with the memory loss associated with Alzheimer’s disease.

A 2009 study from Taiwan’s Hungkuang University using brain cells, found that Astaxanthin suppressed about 75% of the reactive oxygen species production along with other parts of the oxidative process involved in the beta-amyloid production process found in Alzheimer’s disease.

Written by Case Adams, Naturopath

REFERENCES:

Katagiri M, Satoh A, Tsuji S, Shirasawa T. Effects of astaxanthin-rich Haematococcus pluvialis extract on cognitive function: a randomised, double-blind, placebo-controlled study. J Clin Biochem Nutr. 2012 Sep;51(2):102-7.

Ikeda Y, Tsuji S, Satoh A, Ishikura M, Shirasawa T, Shimizu T. Protective effects of astaxanthin on 6-hydroxydopamine-induced apoptosis in human neuroblastoma SH-SY5Y cells. J Neurochem. 2008 Dec;107(6):1730-40.

Satoh A, Tsuji S, Okada Y, Murakami N, Urami M, Nakagawa K, Ishikura M, Katagiri M, Koga Y, Shirasawa T. Preliminary Clinical Evaluation of Toxicity and Efficacy of A New Astaxanthin-rich Haematococcus pluvialis Extract. J Clin Biochem Nutr. 2009 May;44(3):280-4.

Miyazawa T, Nakagawa K, Kimura F, Satoh A, Miyazawa T. Plasma carotenoid concentrations before and after supplementation with astaxanthin in middle-aged and senior subjects. Biosci Biotechnol Biochem. 2011;75(9):1856-8.

Ye Q, Huang B, Zhang X, Zhu Y, Chen X. Astaxanthin protects against MPP+-induced oxidative stress in PC12 cells via the HO-1/NOX2 axis. BMC Neurosci. 2012 Dec 29;13:156. doi: 10.1186/1471-2202-13-156.

Liu X, Shibata T, Hisaka S, Osawa T. Astaxanthin inhibits reactive oxygen species-mediated cellular toxicity in dopaminergic SH-SY5Y cells via mitochondria-targeted protective mechanism. Brain Res. 2009;1254:18–27.

Chang CH, Chen CY, Chiou JY, Peng RY, Peng CH. Astaxanthine secured apoptotic death of PC12 cells induced by beta-amyloid peptide 25–35: its molecular action targets. J Med Food. 2010;13:548–556. doi: 10.1089/jmf.2009.1291.

Miyazawa T, Nakagawa K, Kimura F, Satoh A, Miyazawa T. Erythrocytes carotenoids after astaxanthin supplementation in middle-aged and senior Japanese subjects. J Oleo Sci. 2011;60(10):495-9.

Case Adams is a California Naturopath with a PhD in Natural Health Sciences, and Board Certified Alternative Medicine Practitioner. He has authored 26 books on natural healing strategies. “My journey into writing about alternative medicine began about 9:30 one evening after I finished with a patient at the clinic I practiced at over a decade ago. I had just spent the last two hours explaining how diet, sleep and other lifestyle choices create health problems and how changes in these, along with certain herbal medicines and other natural strategies can radically yet safely turn ones health around. As I drove home that night, I realized I needed to get this knowledge out to more people. So I began writing about health with a mission to reach those who desperately need this information. The strategies in my books and articles are backed by scientific evidence along with wisdom handed down through traditional medicines for thousands of years.” Case connects with the elements by surfing, hiking and being a beach bum.

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