Nutrient - Astaxanthin addition improves human immune cell function
Earlier research on astaxanthin has shown that it can enhance the action of the adaptive immune system by enhancing the number and efficiency of immune cells called lymphocytes. These are the cells that learn to respond to specific threats, killing the invader or making antibodies.
More recently, scientists have discovered that astaxanthin can also help support the innate immune response. This is the non-specific branch of our defences that helps to stop potential threats entering the body. It’s run by families of white blood cells called phagocytes that engulf and digest foreign invaders and help to activate the rest of the immune system.
In the new study, blood samples were taken from 30 healthy people so that their neutrophils – a type of phagocytic cell – could be tested in the lab. Once isolated, the neutrophils were treated with either astaxanthin or a placebo and then exposed to yeast cells. The scientists then monitored how quickly the neutrophils were able to engulf and digest the yeasts.
They found that the neutrophils exposed to astaxanthin were significantly better at clearing the yeasts than those exposed to the placebo. They also noted that the improved function was accompanied by a reduction in the level of free radicals.
The immune system is particularly sensitive to oxidative stress because the cell receptors it uses for communication can easily be damaged by free radicals. The scientists think that the benefits of astaxanthin stem from its ability to protect the immune cell’s receptors, allowing them to perform more efficiently.
Macedo RC et al. Astaxanthin addition improves human neutrohils function: in vitro study. Eur J Nutrition. 2010; 49(8):447-457.