What Happens When You Sleep

What Happens When You Sleep

We spend about one-third of our lives asleep. But far from being wasted time, from the moment we slide into unconsciousness, a whole raft of functions takes place to make sure that we get optimal benefit from our nightly rest.

Sleep is the time the body can undergo repair and detoxification. Poor sleep patterns are linked to poor health – and those who sleep less than six hours a night have a shorter life expectancy than those who sleep for longer. So, sleep has a profound effect on our mental, emotional and physical wellbeing.

The Brain

Sleep may seem to be a passive and dormant state, but even though activity in the cortex – the surface of the brain – drops by about 40 per cent while we are in the first phases of sleep, the brain remains highly active during later stages of the night.

A typical night’s sleep comprises five different sleep cycles, each lasting about 90 minutes. The first four stages of each cycle are regarded as quiet sleep or non-rapid eye movement (NREM). The final stage is denoted by rapid eye movement (REM).

During the first stage of sleep, brain waves are small undulations. During stage two these intersperse with electrical signals called sleep spindles – small bursts of activity lasting a couple of seconds which keep us in a state of quiet readiness.

As stage two merges into stage three, the brain waves continue to deepen into large slow waves. The larger and slower the brain wave, the deeper the sleep. Stage four is reached when 50 per cent of the waves are slow.
At this point, we are not taxed mentally and 40 per cent of the usual blood flow to the brain is diverted to the muscles to restore energy. However, during the REM that follows there is a high level of brain activity.

This is the stage associated with dreaming and is triggered by the pons – the part of the brain stem that relays nerve impulses between the spinal cord and the brain – and neighbouring structures.
The pons sends signals to the thalamus and to the cerebral cortex, which is responsible for most thought processes. It also sends signals to turn off motor neurons in the spinal cord, causing temporary paralysis and so preventing us from acting upon our dreams.

REM sleep is thought to help consolidate memory and emotion, as at this point in sleep blood flow rises sharply in several brain areas linked to processing memories and emotional experiences. In areas involving complex reasoning and language, blood flow declines.

The Eyes

Though covered by lids, the movement of the eyes denotes the different stages of sleep.

On first falling into semi-consciousness, the eyes roll. But as we move into deeper sleep, rapid eye movement (REM) occurs when the eyes twitch and dart about.

This REM occurs within about 90 minutes of falling asleep and recurs about every 90 minutes throughout the night. It denotes a time when most dreaming is done.

Although brain activity is high at this point, the muscles of the body are relaxed to a point of virtual paralysis. Some experts suggest that this is a device to allow the mind to explore the realms of subconscious without acting upon events occurring in dreams.

Hormones

During our waking hours, the body burns oxygen and food to provide energy. This is known as a catabolic state, in which more energy is spent than conserved, using up the body’s resources.

This state is dominated by the work of stimulating hormones such as adrenaline and natural cortisteroids. However, when we sleep we move into an anabolic state – in which energy conservation, repair and growth take over. Levels of adrenaline and corticosteroids drop and the body starts to produce human growth hormone (HGH).

The protein hormone, HGH promotes the growth, maintenance and repair of muscles and bones by facilitating the use of amino acids (the essential building blocks of protein). Every tissue in the body is renewed faster during sleep than at any time when awake.

Melatonin is another hormone produced to help us sleep. Secreted by the pineal gland deep in the brain, it helps control body rhythms and sleep-wake cycles.

Levels of melatonin rise as the body temperature falls, to encourage feelings of sleepiness. The opposite occurs to wake us up.

It is mostly during sleep that the sex hormone testosterone and the fertility hormones, follicle-stimulating hormone and leuteinising hormone, are secreted.

Immune System

Research suggests that sleeping more when fighting infectious illness aids recovery.

This may be due to the immune system’s increased production of certain proteins during sleep, as the levels of certain agents which fight disease rise during sleep and drop when we are awake.

Getting enough sleep can also help resist infection, as some studies of healthy young adults have shown that moderate amounts of sleep deprivation reduce the levels of white blood cells which form part of the body’s defence system.

A cancer killer called TNF – tumour necrosis factor – also pumps through our veins when we are asleep. Research has shown that people who stayed up until 3am had one-third fewer cells containing TNF the next day, and that the effectiveness of those remaining was greatly reduced.

Just as the world is governed by light and dark, human beings also have an inbuilt body clock called the circadian rhythm. Housed in the hypothalamus at the base of the brain, it causes 24 hour fluctuations in many bodily activities. It also governs the body’s daily alternation between sleep and wakefulness, and works on a 24-hour cycle to let the body ‘know’ when sleep is coming.

The circadian rhythm regulates all the processes of the body, from digestion to cell renewal. All these body rhythms are triggered by an action of a network of chemical messengers and nerves which are controlled by the circadian clock.

Ensuring regular periods of sleep at night lets the bodyclock regulate hormone production, so that you feel wakeful and alert during the day and ready to enjoy restorative sleep at night.

Body Temperature

In the evening, body temperature, along with levels of wakeful hormones such as adrenaline, start to drop. Some sweating may occur, as the body is immobile and tries to combat losing heat.

Body temperature continues to fall throughout the night. By about 5am it has dropped to about one degree centigrade below the temperature it was in the evening.

At the same time, our metabolic rate drops too. This is the time of day when you would feel most tired, as the low temperature coincides with adrenaline at its lowest level.

Low body temperatures increase your likelihood of sleeping deeply and so give the body chance to rest and rebuild. As body temperature starts to rise, it remains more difficult to stay in a deep sleep.

The Skin

The top layer of the skin is made of closely packed dead cells which are constantly shed during day. During deep sleep, the skin’s metabolic rate speeds up and many of the body’s cells show increased production and reduced breakdown of proteins.

Since proteins are the building blocks needed for cell growth and for the repair of damage from factors like ultraviolet rays, deep sleep may indeed be beauty sleep.

Daytime sleep will not compensate for loss of nightly ‘beauty sleep’ as the energy needed for tissue repair is not available during daylight because it is being used elsewhere.

Breathing

When we fall asleep, throat muscles relax so that the throat gets narrower each time we inhale.
Snoring occurs when the throat is narrowed to a slit and parts of the airway vibrate because of a resistance to breathing. Air is forced through the narrow air passage, causing the soft palate and uvula to vibrate.

Those who snore are more likely to have poor muscle tone in the tongue and throat, which allows the tongue to fall backwards into the airways. Being overweight or having large tonsils and adenoids also contribute to snoring.
However, impaired breathing during sleep can cause a condition called ‘sleep apnoea’.

Often caused by fat build-up, poor muscle tone or ageing, sleep apnoea causes the windpipe to collapse when the muscles relax during sleep. This blocks the air flow for from ten seconds to a minute while the sleeping person struggles for breath.

When the person’s blood oxygen level falls, the brain responds by making the person tighten the upper airway muscles and open the windpipe. This will result in a snort or gasp before snoring is resumed.

The Mouth

Saliva is needed to lubricate the mouth and for eating, but during sleep salivary flow is reduced, so causing a dry mouth in the morning.

However, the mouth can be very active during sleep, as one in 20 adults unconsciously grinds their teeth at night.
This is known as bruxism and occurs mainly during stages one and two of sleep. It is caused by poor alignment of the teeth within the jaw but is also thought to be nocturnal relief for daytime stresses.

Muscles

Though a person can change their sleeping position about 35 times a night, the muscles of the body remain relaxed. This gives the chance for tissues to be repaired and restored.

However, studies indicate that muscles might receive just as much relaxation and repair during simple rest periods and that a state of unconsciousness is not needed for this to take place.

Blood

The heart rate goes down by between 10 and 30 beats per minute when we sleep. This produces a decline in blood pressure, which occurs in restful sleep.

During rest, blood flows from the brain, distends arteries and makes the limbs bigger.

Some scientists believe that fatigue-induced sleep may be a mild form of blood detoxification.

This is because during the day debris from broken down tissues is thrown into the bloodstream. In the waking state, most of this waste will be eliminated through the lungs, kidneys, bowels and skin.

But there could be a saturation point. So, nature warns us to reduce these waste products to replenish lost energy, and that causes us to get tired and sleep.

During sleep, the cells and tissues that break down to produce toxic waste then become less active. This gives the chance for broken-down tissue to be rebuilt.

Digestive System

The body requires a regular supply of energy and its key source is glucose. This is constantly burned up to release energy for muscle contraction, nerve impulses and regulating body temperature.

When we sleep, our need for these energy reserves is marginal so the digestive system slows down to a sluggish pace. The immobility of our bodies promotes this.

For this reason, eating late at night is not recommended as our inactive state will prevent enzymes and stomach acids from converting it to energy. This causes that tell-tale bloated feeling.

Amazing Astaxanthin

Amazing Astaxanthin

What is Astaxanthin?

Astaxanthin is the main carotenoid pigment found in aquatic animals. It is also found in some birds, such as flamingoes, quails, and other species. This carotenoid is included in many well-known seafoods such as salmon, trout, red seabream, shrimp, lobster, and fish eggs. Astaxanthin, like other carotenoids, cannot be synthesized by animals and must be provided in the diet. Mammals, including humans, lack the ability to synthesize astaxanthin or to convert dietary astaxanthin into vitamin A. Astaxanthin belongs to the xanthophyll class of carotenoids. It is closely related to beta-carotene, lutein, and zeaxanthin, sharing with them many of the general metabolic and physiological functions attributed to carotenoids.
In addition, astaxanthin has unique chemical properties based on its molecular structure. The presence of the hydroxyl (OH) and keto (CdO) moieties on each ionone ring explains some of its unique features, namely, the ability to be esterified and a higher antioxidant activity and a more polar nature than other carotenoids. In its free form, astaxanthin is considerably unstable and particularly susceptible to oxidation. Hence it is found in nature either conjugated with proteins (e.g. salmon muscle or lobster exoskeleton) or esterified with one or two fatty acids (monoester and diester forms), which stabilize the molecule. Various astaxanthin isomers have been characterized based on the configuration of the two hydroxyl groups on the molecule.

Astaxanthin in Nature

Natural astaxanthin, like a miracle of nature, emerges to protect animals in the peak of their struggle against harsh environmental conditions, including UV radiation and attack by reactive oxygen species (free radicals). The microalga Haematococcus pluvialis is an organism that can produce the highest amount of astaxanthin. When the alga experiences harsh conditions, astaxanthin is created and acts like a force field that protects the nuclear DNA and lipids against UV-induced oxidation.

You might think that salmon is a red fish like tuna, but surprisingly enough, it’s actually a white fish. A salmon’s flesh is white from the time that it’s born in a river until it swims downstream to the sea. However, as it swims around in the sea it eats shrimps and other crustaceans, which are rich in astaxanthin, which gradually turn its flesh red. Crustaceans obtain it by eating algae.

So why do salmon need to consume astaxanthin?

Salmon return to rivers from the sea, swimming back upstream to spawn. They swim against the flow, so they need a great deal of power. While in the sea, salmon accumulate reserves of astaxanthin to serve as a source of energy when they set out on their arduous journey. They also need astaxanthin to protect their flesh from damage from the sun’s rays that beat down on the shallow waters at the banks of the rivers that the salmon traverse.

Then, having completed their journey safely, they eventually spawn, the salmon transfer all of their red vitality, astaxanthin, to their roe. This source of energy on a salmon’s arduous journey is passed on to the roe, like a manifestation of a mother’s love for her offspring, becoming a force that protects each and every fish egg and supporting Mother Nature’s mysterious life cycle.

In salmon, astaxanthin provides in vivo protection to omega-3 fatty acids against oxidative damage during their exhaustive upstream marathon. Research suggests that without astaxanthin, salmon would lose their resilience, not survive the oxidative spike, and experience consequent physical burnout during migration.

This is the power of astaxanthin.

What is Astaxanthin’s Chemical Structure?

Both the natural and synthetic forms of astaxanthin have the chemical formula C40H52O2. However, there is significant difference in the stereoisomer configuration, geometric arrangement of atoms, in the two forms. The main stereoisomer of natural astaxanthin, found in fish and Haematococcus pluvialis, is 3S,3’S; this stereoisomer is the most studied form of astaxanthin in terms of research into its potential health promoting benefits. Synthetic astaxanthin in mainly comprised of a mixture of the 3R,3’S and 3R,3’R isomeric forms and has been shown to have only one third of the antioxidant activity of natural astaxanthin.

When was Astaxanthin discovered?

Although the alga Haematococcus pluvialis was discovered in the 18th century, its pigment, astaxanthin, wasn’t identified until two centuries later in 1944. At the time it was named ‘haematochrom’, and only recently has its potent antioxidant action been appreciated. Today astaxanthin and its antioxidant properties are being widely researched around the world throwing new light on the many ways that astaxanthin can contribute to our overall health.
Astaxanthin works at a cellular level.

Cell membranes are not only the gates to cells but also to ageing because they balance intercellular communication, facilitate cell nutrition, and protect DNA from damage. Unfortunately, membranes are also the first target of free radicals.

Natural astaxanthin, with its unique molecular structure, stretches through the bilayer membrane, providing resilient protection against oxidative stress. Astaxanthin can quench free radicals in both the inner and outer layers of the membrane, unlike most antioxidants, which work either in the inner (e.g., vitamin E and beta carotene) or the outer side of the membrane (e.g., vitamin C).

Mitochondria are tiny organelles within the cell that serve as “power plants” because they produce most of the cell’s energy. They are also active generators of free radicals, which are by products of the energy producing process. When mitochondrial membranes are damaged by excessive free radical attack, premature cellular senescence and loss of cellular vitality occur. Research has shown that natural astaxanthin promotes healthy functioning of the mitochondria because it inhibits oxidation by scavenging free radicals along the membrane structure.

Natural Astaxanthin enhances blood antioxidant capacity.

The level of antioxidant capacity in blood can be considered an indicator for assessing the strength of the body to combat degenerative ageing and premature senescence. In fact, long-term disruption of the blood antioxidant balance is associated with cardiovascular and circulatory system diseases, neurodegenerative conditions, early signs of skin deterioration, and renal failure. Clinical studies have shown that natural astaxanthin enhances blood antioxidant capacity by preventing depletion of the body’s inner antioxidant defences, such as catalase, glutathione, and superoxide dismutase.

No Pro-oxidant activity

Pro-oxidants are chemicals that induce oxidative stress, either by generating reactive oxygen species or by inhibiting antioxidant systems. The oxidative stress produced by these chemicals can seriously damage cells and tissues, for example an overdose of the analgesic paracetamol can fatally damage the liver, partly through its production of reactive oxygen species.

Many antioxidant molecules, including vitamin C, can become pro-oxidants especially when under intense free radical attack due to smoking or intense UV radiation. Several studies have shown that natural astaxanthin safely quenches free radicals without any pro-oxidant activity; therefore, astaxanthin is classified as a pure antioxidant.

Potent anti-inflammatory action

Chronic inflammation is believed to be the silent disease at the heart of most degenerative conditions and lifestyle-related diseases. Natural astaxanthin quenches inflammation by inhibiting nuclear translocation of NF-kB, a major inducer of the inflammatory cascade. Clinical studies have shown that astaxanthin lowers inflammation in the gastrointestinal and vascular systems, as well as in muscles after intense exercise. Emerging studies also show that astaxanthin can reduce inflammation in the eyes, kidneys, and brain.

Reduction of DNA Damage

Free radicals cause DNA damage and mutation, which can lead to premature cell death and cancer. Immune cells in particular are highly exposed and vulnerable to free radicals.
A recent clinical trial measured the effects of natural astaxanthin on the damage to one of the nucleotide bases (building blocks) of DNA, called guanine. This molecule is degraded by reactive oxygen species in the body to form a substance 8-oxodG in blood plasma. Ingestion of only 2mg of natural astaxanthin per day for eight weeks showed a significant decrease in the formation of 8-oxodG, indicating that natural astaxanthin can significantly reduce oxidative DNA damage in humans.

Your Skin’s Natural Beauty with Astaxanthin

When wrinkles or skin problems arise, most women reach for cosmetic products, like creams, gels, ointments, and makeup. Applying these products to the surface of the skin may temporarily conceal the problem, but their effect is superficial and doesn’t tackle the underlying causes. The skin is an extremely complex organ, consisting of multiple layers that each have unique and important functions. For a product to truly improve the skin’s health and beauty, it must provide protection and support to all layers of the skin.

Our skin is under constant attack from free radicals produced by UV rays, pollution, stress, and poor nutrition. The damage caused by free radicals is a major cause of skin ageing and problems such as wrinkles and age spots. This free radical damage affects all layers of the skin, from the visible surface to the delicate deep layers where new skin is formed.

Natural astaxanthin is a powerful antioxidant with potent anti-inflammatory effects. Its unique molecular structure allows it to reside in the cell membrane and to protect the inside and outside of cells from free radical attack. Research shows that astaxanthin taken as an oral supplement is active in each of the skin’s layers, providing protection from UV damage, shrinking wrinkles, and making age spots lighter. Natural astaxanthin can help your reveal your skin’s natural beauty from the inside out.

Performance and Muscle Function

During physical activity, we require energy to move our body. All energy we need is generated by mitochondrial cells, often referred to as the “power stations of the cell”, which provide as much as 95% of our body’s pure energy (primarily by the burning of muscle glycogen and fatty acids). Unfortunately, a portion of this energy produces highly reactive and damaging reactive oxygen species (free radicals) which is the one of major factors to deteriorate our body. Free radicals lead the cause of cell damage by peroxidation of the cell membrane components, and oxidation of DNA and proteins.

Regular exercise is widely acknowledged as a good way to stay fit and healthy, providing it continues into later life. But for many people the aches and pains that come with regular exercise are enough to thwart their best intentions. For people of all ages exercising muscles that haven’t been regularly used can take its toll. For example, after a hard day in the garden straightening up and stretching can be an agonising experience, and the next day can be sheer hell.

For the more accomplished and serious athlete, muscle and joint pain is an uncomfortable yet often accepted side effect of heavy training. Without this pain, which leads to a longer recovery time, training could be stepped up, meaning an increase in performance levels. In addition to the constant search for an aid to help reduce this type of pain and discomfort, serious athletes are continuously on the lookout for products to help with their strength and endurance levels. An increase in these levels can mean more efficient training, making the difference between winning and losing.

Natural astaxanthin has been shown to help ease sore muscles and increase both strength and endurance levels, making it an effective training tool.

Astaxanthin and Muscle Loss (Sarcopenia)

Dr Irwin Rosenberg coined the term ‘sarcopenia’ in 1988, which was instrumental in highlighting a pathological condition that has serious consequences to individuals and society.   Sarcopenia is the progressive loss of muscle mass or quality characterized by a decline in muscle strength and/or performance.

Sarcopenia has a significant clinical impact, and affects a patient’s quality of life as a result of a decline in mobility and independence.  Most people begin to lose muscle mass and function after the age of 30.  However, the resulting loss of muscle strength increases exponentially with age.  Recent estimates indicate that approximately 45% of the older population is affected by sarcopenia.

While the causes and mechanisms of sarcopenia are not completely understood, inadequate nutrition and physical inactivity are known to influence the metabolic imbalance of proteins in skeletal muscle.  Moreover, elevated levels of free radicles and chronic inflammation during ageing make it more difficult to meet adequate dietary and nutritional needs.

In addition to diet and exercise, scientific literature suggests that antioxidants may be helpful in the management of sarcopenia.  The use of antioxidants to reduce free radicle levels has been widely advocated. The powerful antioxidant and anti-inflammatory capabilities of natural astaxanthin to reduce free radicle levels and decrease chronic inflammation can have a direct and positive effect on protein synthesis and mitochondrial oxidation. This is especially important in addressing the multifactorial etiology of sarcopenia.

Global Burden of Cardiovascular Disease

Heart disease in its many forms is the leading cause of death in the developed world. According to a recent report by the World Health Organisation, an estimated 17.3 million people died from cardiovascular diseases (CVDs) in 2008 and by 2030 this number is predicted to rise to 23.6 million. In the UK, British Heart Foundation research shows that cardiovascular disease accounts for 28% of premature deaths in men and almost 20% of premature deaths in women. It is one of the main causes of death in people under 75.

Behavioural risk factors such as smoking, unhealthy diet, and alcohol abuse are believed to be responsible for 80% of coronary heart disease and cerebrovascular disease. Moreover, these behaviours result in increased body weight, elevated blood pressure, dyslipidaemia, insulin resistance, and hyperglycaemia. These effects are associated with the development of atherosclerosis, which is the main underlying cause of heart attack, stroke, and peripheral vascular disease.

Oxidative stress and inflammation are widely recognized as contributing factors to atherosclerotic CVDs. The use of antioxidants such vitamin E, C, and beta-carotene as preventive therapies for CVDs has yielded mixed results. This is why natural astaxanthin, which is a much stronger antioxidant that also exhibits anti-inflammatory properties, is now being investigated as a promising compound for protecting against atherosclerotic CVDs.

Studies have shown that natural astaxanthin reduces oxidative stress and inflammation, improves lipid profiles, promotes better blood flow in capillaries, and lowers blood pressure in hypertensive individuals. Importantly, no adverse effects have been reported in these studies.

Keep Your Brain Sharp with Astaxanthin

The brain, which has a volume of only 1,130 cm3 and weighs just 1.5kg on average, contains more than 100 billion neurons, which is more than 14 times the world population. It is interconnected with over 180,000 km of nerve fibres, long enough to encircle the globe four-and-a-half times.

Because the brain has very important role to control the complicated body functions it has an excellent defence system. Firstly, it is well protected by the blood brain barrier, which prevents harmful substances from reaching the brain. Secondly, the brain has a specialized immune system, which monitors the presence of any intruders or the formation of internal injuries. Nevertheless, the brain remains vulnerable to attack and damage by free radicals, especially in people over the age of 50 in whom the brain’s natural antioxidant enzymes progressively lose effectiveness. In fact, excessive and persistent conditions of oxidative stress and chronic inflammation in the brain have been linked to development and progression of neurodegenerative conditions (e.g. Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s disease) and cerebrovascular diseases (e.g. ischemic stroke and vascular dementia). For these reasons, brain specialists have started to pay close attention to the preventive and therapeutic effects of micronutrients on brain health such as natural astaxanthin.

Randomized double-blind, placebo-controlled studies have shown that 3-months supplementation of natural astaxanthin extracted from Haematococcus pluvialis (12 mg/daily) improve mental quickness, multitasking, memory and faster learning in senior subjects complaining of age-related forgetfulness and loss of mental sharpness. Clinical studies also suggest that astaxanthin fight vascular dementia by reducing oxidative by-products in red blood cells and promoting collective improvements of the blood lipid profile, blood antioxidant capacity, capillary blood flow and blood pressure.

Diabetes and Astaxanthin

Diabetes mellitus is a worldwide epidemic that is critically linked to the prevalence of obesity. More than 220 million suffer from diabetes, and by the year 2030 the figures are expected to grow to 360 million. Diabetic complications may lead to heart disease (approximately 65% of death amongst the diabetic patients), blindness, kidney failure and amputations. Even though we cannot evade type I diabetes which is influenced by heredity, fortunately type II diabetes is preventable by, for example, making dietary changes, taking nutritional supplements and exercising.

Type II diabetes is a problem that causes blood glucose level to rise higher than normal, and the body cannot use insulin properly. This is called ‘’insulin resistance’’ which is induced by the increment of intracellular oxidative stress generated by TNF-α (inflammatory cytokine) or palmitate. The study indicated that natural astaxanthin ameliorates insulin resistance by restoring insulin-induced Akt phosphorylation attenuated by TNF-α or palmitate.

Furthermore, natural astaxanthin likewise supports insulin activity by promoting the membrane translocation of GLUT4 in order to reduce blood glucose, and suppressing the phosphorylation of stress kinases to inhibit the negative feedback of the insulin signal.

Healthy Vision and Astaxanthin

There are between 20 and 25 million cases of vision impairment around the world. The two most common causes for Europeans and Americans being age-related macular degeneration (AMD) and age-related cataracts.

As eyes age, decreasing levels of certain antioxidants, carotenoids, are found in them. The main carotenoids present in the macula are lutein and zeaxanthin, which are obtained from food and meso-zeaxanthin, which is made in the retina. Recently astaxanthin was also found present in the macula.

Scientists have acknowledged for many years that carotenoids play a part in protecting the eye from free radicle damage. Several of these findings were published in reputable medical journals such as the American Journal 0f Clinical Nutrition and the Journal of the American Medical Association. The macula is able to absorb and reduce the amount of blue light entering the eye, particularly before the light strikes the retina. In this way, and with the antioxidant protection of caroteniods, the macula buffers the retina against light induced damage, thought to be caused by excess free radicals. There is strong evidence to suggest that low levels of yellow macula pigment in the eye are linked to an increased risk of developing age-related macular degeneration. Women and people with light coloured irises in the eye have less yellow macular pigment than men and people with dark irises. There is also a link between smoking and lower levels of macular pigmentation. Further evidence indicates a relationship between dietary lutein and zeaxanthin and the amount of macular pigment in the retina. The amount of carotenoid in the eye can be increased by eating foods rich in lutein and zeaxanthin, such as green leafy vegetables, or by taking supplements containing these nutrients. The lens of the eye also contains lutein and zeaxanthin.

A study published in 1999 involving 77,466 female nurses reported that dietary intake of lutein and zeaxanthin was linked to a reduced risk of cataract. Researchers Krinsky and Landrum question whether long term supplementation of lutein might prevent the loss of vision that accompanies the irreversible eye disease ‘retinitis pigmentosa’ and ‘choroideremia’ both of which lead to blindness. In October 2001 the American Academy of Ophthalmology reported the results of a placebo controlled, double blind clinical trial involving 364 people. It assessed the role of the antioxidants vitamin E, vitamin C, beta-carotene and zinc. The results showed a 25% reduction in the risk of AMD advancing when supplementing with these antioxidants.

In order to be of any use to the eye, carotenoids need two special properties that only a few possess. They must be able to cross not only the blood-brain barrier but also the blood-retinal barrier to gain access into the eye. Both of these barriers are in place to protect these areas from potentially harmful substances present in the blood.

Leading research scientist Dr Mark Tso was the first researcher to establish the presence of astaxanthin within the eye, proving that it has the ability to cross not only the blood-brain barrier but also the blood-retinal barrier. Dr Tso proposed how astaxanthin could protect the macula from damage.

Since then, astaxanthin has been established as an important antioxidant for helping to defend against the damaging free radical effects associated with age-related macular degeneration and age-related cataracts. In a 2008 study carried out in Italy, twenty-seven patients with non-advanced AMD were enrolled and randomly divided into two age similar groups: 15 patients were given a daily oral supplement containing vitamin C, vitamin E, zinc, copper, lutein and zeaxanthin plus 4mg of astaxanthin for 12 months, while the other 12 patients had no dietary supplementation during the same period. Multifocal electroretinograms were taken before and after treatment to assess how well the participants’ retinal cells responded to light. Prior to supplementation all the participants had significant reduced retinal function compared to healthy controls, whereas 6 and 12 months after the treatment, the electroretinogram readings for those in the supplement group had significantly improved.

A more recent study has taken these findings one-step further, by testing the effects of a combination of astaxanthin, lutein and zeaxanthin on visual acuity and visual function in patients with AMD. The results showed that patients in the treatment group showed significantly better visual acuity scores at 24 months compared to the non-treated group. Improvements in contrast sensitivity and measures of overall visual function were also higher in the treated group at 12 and 24 months.

There is also research showing that astaxanthin helps reduce eye fatigue. With people spending more and more time in front of computers, eyestrain, irritation, dry eyes, headaches and difficulty focusing on objects at different distances is becoming an increasing problem. In the study, 84 people that frequently experienced symptoms of eye fatigue were given 9mg of astaxanthin or a dummy pill for 4 weeks. To test the effects of the astaxanthin, researchers monitored the participants’ eye accommodation (the ability of the eye to adapt its focus on objects at different distances) and asked them to complete an eye fatigue symptom questionnaire.

When the results were analysed it was found that the astaxanthin group had significantly improved accommodation ability compared to those who were just given dummy pills. What’s more the participants taking the astaxanthin also reported significantly reduced symptoms of eye fatigue. Accommodation relies on the ability of a small muscle in the eye, the ciliary body, to adjust the shape of the eye’s lens. The beneficial effects of astaxanthin on eye fatigue are thought to stem from its ability to protect the ciliary body from damage, improving its ability to regulate the lens.

In addition to these antioxidant benefits emerging research also suggests that astaxanthin can help to improve blood flow to the macula, reduce ocular inflammation and help to protect the eyes against the damaging effects of glaucoma.

The Ingenious Hyaluronan

The Ingenious Hyaluronan

What is a Hyaluronan?

Hyaluronic acid (abbreviated most commonly as HA, sometimes as HY) is a carbohydrate, more specifically a simple glycosaminoglycan (a class of negatively charged polysaccharides) that provides compression strength, lubrication and hydration within the extracellular matrix (ECM) – the tissue that provides structural support to cells. It also regulates cell adhesion and motility and mediates cell proliferation and differentiation making it not only a structural component of tissues, but also an active signalling molecule.

Hyaluronan refers to all physiological forms of HA, the most common of which is the sodium salt. Hyaluronan is a scaffold secreted by cells that surrounds them in vivo.

HA can be several thousands of sugars (carbohydrates) long. When not bound to other molecules, it binds to water giving it a stiff viscous quality like jelly. This viscous gel is one of the most heavily researched substances in medicine today with thousands of trials mostly in the fields of orthopaedics and eye surgery. Its function in the body is, amongst other things, to bind water and to lubricate movable parts of the body, such as joints and muscles. Its consistency and tissue friendliness allows it to be beneficial in skin-care products as an excellent moisturizer. Because HA is one of the most hydrophilic (water-loving) molecules in nature, one molecule can bind to 400 water molecules, with numerous benefits for the human body it can be described as “nature’s moisturizer.

What is Hyaluronic Acid’s Chemical Structure?

HA, C28H44N2O23, is chemically classified as a glycosaminoglycan and presents as a large high molecular weight molecule. The molecule is made up of a repetitive sequence of two modified simple sugars, one called glucuronic acid and the other N acetyl glucosamine. These compounds are both negatively charged and when put together, they repel, producing an exceptionally long stretched out molecule. HA molecules, which are long and large, produce a high viscosity (lubrication) effect which resists compression and allows our joints and skin to bear weight.

When was Hyaluronic Acid discovered?

HA was first used commercially in 1942 when Endre Balazs applied for a patent to use it as a substitute for egg white in bakery products. Its discovery was very unique. No other molecule had ever been discovered that has such unique properties to the human body. Balazs went on to become the leading expert on HA, and made most of discoveries concerning hyaluronic acid benefits.

Is Hyaluronic Acid Natural?

HA is a natural glycosaminoglycan (polysaccharides that are an important component of connective tissue) and can be derived from multiple resources, foods, supplements and HA powders. HA is distributed widely throughout connective, neural, and epithelial tissue. It is one of the chief components of the extracellular matrix. In short, HA supports many important areas of the body, with notable benefit to joints and skin. So, the answer is, yes, hyaluronic acid is completely natural.

Where is Hyaluronic Acid located in the body?

HA is found naturally in most every cell in the body and occurs in high concentrations in the connective, epithelial, and neural tissues. In each body location, it serves a different function. Unfortunately, HA also has a half-life (the time it takes for the molecule to get broken down and excreted from the body) of less than 3 days and possibly even as little as one day in the skin. For this reason, it is imperative that the body continually replenish itself with HA. Unfortunately, as we age, we lose the ability to replace HA at the rate required which in part explains why age related symptoms appear.

ECM

The extracellular matrix (ECM) is a gelatinous (gel-like) fluid that surrounds almost all living cells and is essential to life. It gives structure and support to the body and without it, we would just be a trillion cells without a shape or function. It is essentially the mortar between the bricks. The skin, bones, cartilage, tendons and ligaments are examples where the ECM is located in the body. The ECM is composed of material (fibrous elements) called elastin and collagen surrounded by a gelatinous substance (Hyaluronic Acid). HA’s roles in the ECM is to help the stretchy fibres in the body from overstretching and drying out by continually bathing them in this nutritious water base gelatinous fluid. It also serves as a wonderful medium through which nutrients and waste are transported to and from the cells of these structures. This fluid would not exist if it was not for the ability of the HA molecule to bind up to 1000 times its weight in water.

Hyaluronic Acid in Skin

The skin is the largest organ in the body comprising about 15% of the body weight. Roughly 50% of the HA in our body is found in the skin. HA and Collagen are vital to maintaining the skin’s layers and structure. It is the collagen that gives the skin its firmness but it is the HA that nourishes and hydrates the collagen. Imagine the collagen as the stretchy fibres that restore the skin back to shape when stretched. Collagen is like a rubber band but stretch that rubber band a million times, as we do with our skin, without any moisture and eventually that rubber band gets overstretched (saggy) and dried out and will most likely break. This is much the same way the collagen in our skin reacts leaving our skin in need of moisture. Now imagine that same rubber band stretched a million times while under water the whole time. Chances of that rubber band drying out and breaking are minimal. Consider the HA as the water that keeps the collagen moist and elastic. Collagen is continuously surrounded and nourished by the gelatinous HA substance. Young skin is smooth and highly elastic because it contains high concentrations of HA, which helps skin stay healthy. As we grow older, the body loses its ability to maintain this same concentration in the skin. With decreasing levels of HA in the skin, so goes the ability of the skin to hold water; the result, the skin becomes drier and loses its ability to maintain its hydration.

The surface layers of the skin are supported from below by columns made up mostly of collagen and elastin. This fibrous network forms a ‘molecular sponge’ known as connective tissue and comprises water, protein complexes (e.g. collagen) and HA. This jelly-like complex transports essential nutrients from the blood stream via the capillaries in your skin. HA also acts as a space filler by binding to water and thus keeping the skin wrinkle-free.

HA contributes to skin’s barrier function, slowing down transepidermal water loss (TEWL). HA is utterly hydrophilic (water loving): one molecule can bind to 400 water molecules making its anti-TEWL, hydration and plumping effects truly remarkable.

Hyaluronic Acid in Lips

The lips are a core of skeletal muscle covered by skin tissue. The dermal layer of the lips is composed primarily of connective tissue and its components HA and collagen that give the structure (shape) to the lips. The HA binds to water creating a gelatinous fluid that hydrates the surrounding tissue and keeps the collagen, responsible for keeping the skin tight, nourished and healthy. The result is healthy well hydrated and plump lips that are well protected from the environment.

Hyaluronic Acid in Eyes

HA is highly concentrated inside the eyeball. The fluid inside the eye called the vitreous humor is composed almost completely of HA which gives the fluid inside the eye a viscous gel like property. This gel acts as a shock absorber for the eye and serves to transport nutrients into the eye.

Hyaluronic Acid in Scalp Tissue and Hair Follicles

Structurally the scalp is identical to the skin tissue except it also contains about 100,000 hair follicles that give rise to hair. The hair and the hair follicle are a derivative of skin tissue. There are two distinctive skin layers, one, the epidermis (outer layer) which gives rise to the protective shield of the body and the other, the dermal layer (deep layer) which makes up the bulk of the skin and is where the hair follicle is located. This dermal layer is composed of connective tissue and the connective tissue, with its gelatinous fluid like characteristics provides support, nourishes and hydrates the deep layers of the scalp. The result is healthy lustrous hair and a moisturized scalp. Again, all of this is made possible because of the presence of HA in the scalp.

Hyaluronic Acid in Bones and Cartilage

HA is found in all bones and cartilage structures throughout the body; both structures provide a resilient rigidity to the human body. HA is especially found in various forms of cartilage but none more than the hyaline cartilage. As you’ve probably guessed, hyaline is short for hyaluronic acid. Hyaline cartilage covers the ends of the long bones where articulation (bending) occurs and provides a cushioning effect for the bones. The hyaline cartilage has been called the “gristle cartilage” because its resistance to wear and tear. Hyaline cartilage also supports the tip of the nose, connects the ribs to the sternum and forms most of the larynx and supporting cartilage of the trachea and bronchial tubes in the lungs.

Hyaluronic Acid in Synovial Fluid

Our joints (like the elbows and knees) are surrounded by a membrane called the synovial membrane which forms a capsule around the ends of the two articulating bones. This membrane secretes a liquid called the synovial fluid. Synovial fluid is a viscous fluid with the consistency of motor oil. It has many functions, but none more than providing the elastic shock absorbing properties of the joint. Its second most important function in the joint is to carry nutrients to the cartilage and to also remove waste from the joint capsule.

Hyaluronic Acid in Tendons and Ligaments

Connective tissue is found everywhere in the body. It does much more than connect body parts; it has many forms and functions. Its major functions include binding, support, protection, and insulation. One such example of connective tissue is the cordlike structures that connect muscle to bone (tendons) and bone to bone (ligaments). In all connective tissue there are three structural elements; they are: ground substance (HA), stretchy fibres (collagen and elastin), and a fundamental cell type. Whereas all other primary tissues in the body are composed mainly of living cells, connective tissues are composed largely of a non-living ground substance the hyaluronic acid, which separates and cushions the living cells of the connective tissue. The separation and cushioning allow the tissue to bear weight, withstand great tension and endure abuse that no other body tissue could. All of this is made possible because of the presence of the HA and its ability to form the gelatinous ground substance fluid.

Skin

Skin

The body’s largest organ

It’s your body’s largest organ! The skin of the average woman weighs 3 kilos, while that of the average man weighs 5 kilos.

The care we devote to our skin is often evident in its appearance. Some lavish an inordinate amount of time to nourish and improve it; however, more often than not it’s neglected by most.

Think of skin as the protective layer that shields you from external elements (weather, pollutants, etc.) and it also represents how your body experiences and communicates with its environment by interacting with various stimuli throughout the day. In its protective capacity, the outermost layer (epidermis) can be thought of as the waterproof barrier that’s resistant to staining and is easily cleaned. Here lie stem cells that constantly produce and replace new skin cells and melanocytes (pigment-producing skin cells) that protect against UV radiation, which can be especially harmful to the next layer, the dermis. The collagen and fat located at or near the dermis is what gives your skin the plumping effect; depletion of these tissues causes the formation of wrinkles and looser appearance. As we age the amount of collagen in our skin decreases, contributing to the formation of wrinkles and other changes that make us look older; also women have less collagen than men to begin with.

Within the complex environment of the skin, blood vessels, hair follicles and sweat and oil glands, an intricate system of neural, vascular, immune and chemical pathways also interdependently coexist.

With this new understanding, give your skin the care and attention that it gives you!

Enteric capsule – ‘the ingenious difference’

Enteric capsule – ‘the ingenious difference’

What makes Ingenious Beauty’s Ultimate Collagen+ so special? The key is the incredible, bespoke designed enteric capsule. Well, what does that have to with collagen? You may ask.

The pivotal point is knowing what happens to collagen when it is ingested and throughout its digestive journey. Collagen is one of the most important proteins in our bodies. It essentially forms the meshwork that all our cells and tissue are attached to and is extremely important in maintaining skin health and integrity. As we age, we are not able to maintain forming collagen at the same rate and hence we see the signs of ageing, such as wrinkles, less hydrated skin and so on.

If we ingest collagen in any form, be it a steak, tablet, capsule or liquid supplement. The digestive action of the stomach will break down the collagen protein into amino acids. These amino acids will then travel down the digestive tract to the small intestine, where they will be absorbed and enter the blood stream. Beyond the age of 25 years, our bodies find it more difficult to utilise these amino acids to produce collagen. Therefore, taking any collagen supplement that is not somehow protected from the action of the stomach will result in that tablet or liquid being broken down into amino acids that the body just cannot utilise like it used to, in order to make more collagen.

If you can protect the collagen, then there is a chance it will reach the small intestine and be properly absorbed. The small intestine is the body’s site of maximum nutrient absorption, so if you have any protein arriving here, it is much more likely to be absorbed.

Even then, this is not the complete picture. Collagen itself is a huge molecule and cannot be absorbed as is. Ingenious Beauty uses collagen peptides, these are essentially small pieces of the complete collagen molecule that are the right molecular size to be absorbed almost instantly. Now there is a solution to overcoming the action of the stomach on a collagen supplement. The ingenious way, if you will.

By enveloping our highest quality marine collagen peptide in a completely natural (vegetable cellulose), hand-filled, enteric capsule shell, we have developed a way of delivering collagen peptide to the small intestine intact and therefore providing the highest chance of absorption to take place. There is no other collagen supplement or liquid in the World that uses this patented technique.

Our capsule shell is designed to be acid resistant, so it remains intact in the stomach. As it travels down the digestive tract, the pH levels increase, and this triggers a reaction that causes the capsule to break down very quickly and release the collagen peptide payload to the small intestine. A simply ingenious solution to a complex problem.

Once the collagen peptide reaches the blood stream, the body senses these fragments and stimulates cells called chondrocytes to produce more collagen, which leads to the incredible effects seen on your skin, hair and nails.

You can clearly see; the collagen peptide must be able to bypass the stomach and reach the small intestine to give the greatest results. Otherwise, you may as well just eat a nice steak and enjoy a glass of wine.

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