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The New Antioxidants

Alongside standbys such as vitamin C, these lesser-known-but powerful-free-radical fighters deserve a place in any health regimen

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Q. I keep hearing about astaxanthin, resveratrol, Pycnogenol, and curcumin as powerful antioxidants. Could you tell me a little about each one?

Funny you should mention these four, as I’ve added all of them to my personal regimen recently. Here’s why:


A patented extract of French pine bark, Pycnogenol is packed with proanthocyanidins-members of the bioflavonoid family that are also extracted from grape seeds. These proanthocyanidins are powerful stuff. In tree bark or grape seeds their job is to essentially provide protection from damage. Pycnogenol has phenomenal anti-inflammatory properties and is a powerful antioxidant as well. Studies show that it helps keep blood vessels healthy by opening them up, and animal studies show that Pycnogenol helps strengthen capillaries. It’s also been shown to lower blood pressure and inhibit the ability of blood platelets to stick together and form clots.

“Pycnogenol will be one of my top 10 nutrients I take for the rest of my life,” says Susanne Bennett, DC, author of The 7 Day Allergy Makeover.


Resveratrol is a compound found in red wine and the skin of dark grapes. It has been shown in studies to inhibit the growth of several cancer cell lines and tumors. It’s a powerful antioxidant and anti-inflammatory. It ramps up detoxification enzymes in the liver and protects the heart. Recent research has even shown that it may reduce insulin resistance, a factor in type II diabetes.

Note that every product labeled “resveratrol” is not created equal. The total amount of resveratrol in a capsule isn’t as important as the amount of trans-resveratrol, the particularly potent and bioactive form that has all the benefit.


Like its better known relative beta-carotene, astaxanthin is a member of the carotenoid family. It’s found in microalgae and seafood, and it’s what gives wild salmon their color. It’s a powerful antioxidant and anti-inflammatory. Most of the research so far has been on animals, but scientists suggest that astaxanthin may be a potent therapeutic agent against cardiovascular disease. Animal studies have shown that astaxanthin can lower blood pressure, protect the brain, and reduce inflammation. It’s even been shown to have a significant protective effect against sunburn.

Taking astaxanthin as a supplement right now is a little like betting on a really hot stock-chances are it’s going to turn out to be great, but there aren’t a lot of human studies to hang our hats on just yet. It’s worth noting that there have been at least 8 clinical studies conducted in more than 180 humans using astaxanthin to assess its safety and bioavailability, and there have been no adverse effects reported, so the downside of taking astaxanthin appears to be minimal.


Curcumin is the general name for a group of compounds found in the spice turmeric, which gives curry its yellow color. Curcumin has anticancer activity, it supports liver health, and it’s a powerful antioxidant. But the one property that stands out is its enormous power as an anti-inflammatory. In India, where 94 percent of the turmeric in the world originates, curcumin is used to relieve arthritis. It’s good for muscle pain as well as joint inflammation.

There are at least 30 studies indicating that curcumin has an antitumor effect. One study, published in 2006 in the journal Oncogene, showed that curcumin inhibited the growth of human colon cancer cells.

Curcumin has powerful antioxidant properties as well, making it a great adjunct to a heart-healthy diet. And it has significant liver protection abilities. Mark Stengler, ND, author of The Natural Physician’s Healing Therapies, also recommends it for hepatitis.

In a study published in July 2012 in Diabetes Care. Researchers assigned 240 adults with prediabetes to take either curcumin or a placebo. After 9 months, 19 of the 116 patients on placebo had developed type II diabetes, but none of those taking curcumin did.

There downside of many curcumin supplements is that they aren’t very well absorbed. But EuroPharma has fixed that problem by coming up with a patented blend of curcumin known as BCM-95 that uses micronized curcumin mixed with turmeric essential oils.

Astavita AstaREAL
Astaxanthin-V is a vegetarian formula harvested from deep red microalgae that naturally produce this potent antioxidant.

Trans-Resveratrol timed-released tablets deliver trans-resveratrol over 12 hours for superior bioavailability and absorption.

MasQuelier’s USA
French Pine Bark is a new product that features “Complex Phytonutrient Authentication,” which guarantees an extract with consistent quality and potency.