Marine ingredient shows diabetes potential: Rat study

By Nathan Gray

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Reactive oxygen species, Oxidative stress, Antioxidant, Inflammation

Supplementation with the marine compound astaxanthin could help to prevent or alleviate complications associated with diabetes, new research in rats has suggested.

The animal study – published in the Journal of Food Science​ – reports that daily supplementation with astaxanthin significantly reduced inflammatory and oxidative stress markers in diabetic rats.
The researchers, led by Mei-chin Yin of China Medical University, Taiwan, found that astaxanthin intake significantly increased its levels in blood plasma, and reduced biomarkers of oxidative stress and inflammation – including lowering production of reactive oxygen species, decreasing plasma levels of C-reactive protein, and reducing anti-inflammatory molecules such as interleukin-6 (IL6) and tumour necrosis factor-alpha (TNF-a).

“Astaxanthin at 0.05% markedly retained GSH, and reduced the formation of inflammatory cytokines, MDA, and reactive oxygen species in circulation and [the] kidney​,” said Yin and his colleagues.

“These findings support that the supplement of this agent or foods rich in this compound might be helpful for the prevention or alleviation of diabetic complications,”​ they confirmed, adding that the results will enhance understanding of “the possible application of this compound against diabetic progression.”

A rosy future?

Astaxanthin is a non-provitamin A carotenoid. The compound has a pink pigment and is naturally found in many marine organisms – including algae, crustaceans, and fish.

The global astaxanthin market is estimated to be worth about $200 million US dollars by 2015, most of which is used as a pigment to enhance the pink coloration of fish like salmon. However, the human use market is growing was estimated to be worth around $35-60 million USD in 2008, according to data from Frost & Sullivan.
The main health benefits of the compound are suggested to be in eye and skin health, though it has also been linked to joint health and central nervous system health and is said to have an antioxidant payload 500 times that of vitamin E.

Most astaxanthin is derived from the algae, Haematococcus pluvialis, which is commonly consumed by fish and crustaceans and is responsible for their pink coloration.

Pink potential

Previous research has suggested that dietary intake of astaxanthin at 0.02% of diet can improve glycemic control in mice, whilst other studies have suggested the compound may help to mop up potentially damaging reactive oxygen species and could provide anti-oxidative protection for diabetic animals.

“Although these previous studies suggest that astaxanthin possesses anti-oxidative and anti-inflammatory activities, it remains unknown whether this compound is able to affect coagulation associated factors,”​ said the researchers.

“The major purpose of our present study was to examine the anti-coagulatory effects of astaxanthin at two doses in diabetic rats,” ​they added.

Study details

Yin and his team investigated the influence of daily consumption of astaxanthin (at 0.05% of daily diet) on oxidative, coagulatory, and inflammatory factors in diabetic rats.

Compared with a diabetic control group, the researchers revealed that astaxanthin supplementation significantly lowered liver and kidney weights in diabetic rats.

Astaxanthin was also found to significantly increase plasma levels of the compound; but failed to affect glucose, insulin levels, said Yin and his team.

“We found astaxanthin supplement increased its deposit in plasma, lowered lipid accumulation in circulation, improved hepatic and renal functions, attenuated renal oxidative and inflammatory stress, as well as exhibited substantially anticoagulatory effects in diabetic rats,”​ reported the research team.

Supplementation was also found to significantly decrease plasma levels of C-reactive protein and von Willebrand factor.
“These results support that astaxanthin could attenuate diabetes associated coagulatory, oxidative, and inflammatory stress,”​ said Yin and his co-workers, noting that as a result the compound may provide “multiple protective actions against diabetic deterioration.”

Source: Journal of Food Science
Published online ahead of print, doi: 10.1111/j.1750-3841.2011.02558.x
“Anticoagulatory and Antiinflammatory Effects of Astaxanthin in Diabetic Rats”
Authors: K.c. Chan, P.J. Pen, M.c. Yin

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