An antioxidant, astaxanthin (AX), is found in shellfish and some other fish. This study was to evaluate AX as an antioxidant in the human eye by studying levels of superoxide scavenging activity, hydrogen peroxide and total hydroperoxides (all ways to evaluate antioxidant activity). Testing was done at the time of bilateral cataract surgeries. The levels were tested as the first eye was operated on before AX treatment, and when the second eye was operated on after AX treatment.
Enzymes called superoxide dismutase (SOD), and glutathione, and vitamin C (ascorbic acid) are needed for the antioxidant process. When this process doesn’t work, hydrogen peroxide levels increase resulting in harmful charged particles. These particles can damage proteins, fats and DNA chemicals. The changes in the antioxidant activity of the aqueous humor liquid of the eyes (after AX) are believed to reflect the action of AX in the rest of the body.
Males and females, including some people with diabetes, were studied. Subjects received 6 mg/day of an AX product. After the first cataract surgery, AX was taken for 2 weeks before the second cataract surgery. There was a significant increase in the antioxidant activity in the aqueous humor after the use of AX as compared to before the use of AX. The improvement in superoxide scavenging was greater in males than in females, the females showed higher levels at the time of the first surgery and less improvement after AX. Diabetics showed significant improvement in superoxide scavenging after AX treatment.
Hydrogen peroxide levels were not significantly changed by the use of AX. Hydrogen peroxide is thought to be transferred from the eye to the blood and excreted in the urine efficiently.
Harmful hydroperoxides decreased in the aqueous humor after AX treatment. AX may have a beneficial effect of inhibiting peroxidation in the eye, and this prevents damage to lipids, proteins, amino acids and nucleic acids.
CONCLUSION: Astaxanthin increases antioxidant activity in the aqueous humor liquid of the eye and reduces dangerous hydroperoxide levels. This is evidence of astaxanthin’s ability to reduce oxidative damage to the eye. This could be of benefit in diabetes, aging, cataracts and age-related macular degeneration.
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